Each Victory Will Help You Some Other To Win

Hymnal 4

Yesterday during our Thanksgiving meal, one of our family members asked my 4 year old son, “Do you know what the two steps to a perfect life are?” He shook his head “no,” and the family member continued on with an answer that was self-serving and borderline manipulative. After a moment of watching my son’s slightly confused expression, I took the initiative and responded to my son. I told him, “The two steps to a perfect life are to love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind, and to love your neighbor as yourself.” Apparently, my husband wanted to use this as a lesson too, and added the importance of always telling the truth.

Humans are self-serving by nature. For those of us who live with a PTSD diagnosis, it seems that self-serving qualities run rampant in our lives. We may seek to control others in our relationships (perhaps pushing them away and desperately trying to pull them back, both at the same time). We are inwardly focused and many times think only of how great or how poorly we are feeling in the moment. We may even become angry when someone else takes the control from us. It seems most, if not all of our symptoms were developed for self-preservation… they are self-serving. However, that is not how God would have us live.

In Luke 10:27, Jesus says that the most important commandments are, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and [you shall love] your neighbor as yourself.”

Will these commandments magically cure our PTSD? No, but they take the focus off of ourselves. A few days ago, I was texting with a trusted friend as I was being thrown into a wave of very strong flashbacks that usually make me dissociate entirely. I was very afraid and she told me to pray, but I can’t seem to do that when I’m struggling. So, she sent me verses to pray. That, I could do. I read the verses over and over for several minutes, and then all of a sudden the attack was gone. I was fully present. Through forcing myself to look to God instead of focusing on where my mind was trying to take me, I prevented a dissociation with the help of the Lord. I think that was my very first time ever of successfully fighting it. It gives me hope for future inward battles. The same friend always says, “Each victory will help you some other to win.” She’s quoting a hymn (link here). She also says, “Rejoice in small victories!”

Focusing on the Lord will not cure our PTSD, but it does help. It takes the focus off of ourselves- and don’t we spiral most when we are most self-focused? God does not promise to heal us, but He promises to strengthen us through the trial. Each victory, no matter how big or small, will help you some other to win.

That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. -2 Corinthians 12:10

Image credit: http://www.presbyterianhymnal.org/resources.html

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Stranded

car

Two weeks ago Thursday, I went to an intake (for Therapist #3) at a nationally recognized Christian counseling center. This was the first time I’ve ever shared my trauma out loud in one lump.

On my way back to my car after session, my heart was broken because of all I had talked about. Therapist #1 called me in the parking lot and I cried on the phone with her as I quickly processed the session. I had called her in the morning because I could not stop dissociating, and she was just returning my call.

I drove for about 10 minutes and felt a great need to pull over because I was dissociating. I floated in and out for 2.5 hours, barely remembering to reschedule my clients for the day. There was no way I was going to make it into work. I called my husband, but only because he left a voicemail telling me he was calling around to find out where I was.

When I was finally coherent enough to drive home, I saw that the car was off but out of gear. Was I really so incoherent that I couldn’t even park correctly? I somehow made it home with just enough time to pump (7 hours is a long time to go without nursing or pumping!) before heading out to my emergency session with Therapist #2.

It took nearly the entire session to ground me, but finally, a combination of a containment exercise and stomping my feet and hitting my hands on the sofa did the trick. That night, I emailed Therapist #1 to fill her in.

I do not understand why the Christian place struck such a sharp nerve for me, but nearly the same thing happened the following week when I attended my first session. It seems to me that I am in the depths of spiritual warfare, because I don’t dissociate like that with Therapist #1… but we rarely talk about faith, and she is not Christian. We have done a lot of work together, and I consider her to be safe. I love sessions with her, and always leave in a great mood, despite the difficult things we discuss in session.

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age,against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. – Ephesians 6:12

photo credit: http://www.travelblog.org/Photos/6426542

Undesired Effect of Forgiveness

dissociation 3

Dear (Abuser),

I forgive you. You are so wounded that I truly believe you don’t recall what you did to me. I forgive you for … I forgive you for … I forgive you because Jesus forgave my sins. I forgive you because

… and then I completely dissociated. I came to on my bed curled up shivering and tingling. The last thing I remember, I was in the rocking chair watching a video with my husband at his computer.

My husband suggested I start writing letters like this everyday, and forgiving my abusers everyday. He said I may not mean it at first but that eventually I would, because God would help heal my heart. I am trying this because I am desperate. My EMDR therapist said I am the only person she’s ever spoken to with complex trauma who wants to dive in head first and process trauma. I am trying anything and everything. My husband told me to try his way. This also includes an intake tomorrow at a nationally recognized Christian counseling center. I will continue to go to my regular therapist, but I will try this place for at least three sessions. My husband’s way is through talking openly about my faith, and bringing Christ into the therapy room… bringing Christ into my healing. I guess it’s time but talking forgiveness is the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

This is the second time I dissociated today, but the first that rendered me completely without memory. The first time, I ended up curled up on the floor, and then I ate over half a can of this:

nutellaI have a terrible stomach ache

First photo credit: http://www.downwardspiralintothevortex.com/2010_12_12_archive.html

Too damaged

I spoke with my EMDR therapist last night for the first time in a couple of months. I described the problems I’ve had since the initial session, including significantly increased periods of dissociation and complete loss of memory; two onslaughts of 20-50 long-forgotten memories each; and physical pain. She told me these were major red flags because “We weren’t even digging, we were doing safety stuff. It was supposed to enhance your safety!” She told me she didn’t think EMDR would be a good idea because of the red flags. She explained (as I had found in research recently) that EMDR is most helpful for one-time traumas occurring in adulthood. With complex trauma, the brain has spent years learning to protect itself- EMDR reverses the protections and can easily send a complex trauma survivor into a tailspin. She said case studies she’s read show that complex trauma survivors have needed EMDR for upwards of 3 years before improvement is evident. She said that before EMDR, complex trauma survivors would learn to manage the feelings and memories as it slowly comes back, and would often be in therapy for years and years.

So those are my two options. Be in therapy for years upon years and feel like I do now… Or dive in head-first and break my neck because flooding is a reckless idea in my situation. Receiving real EMDR would cause my brain to break down its protections and I’d basically fall apart. She said that to help me manage my physical pain she could refer me to a chiropractor for massages and pressure point therapy, but that this could trigger stronger body memories than I’m currently having.

It is discouraging to be told I’m too damaged for a type of therapy. It’s also discouraging that I have a long long road to recovery. I am already exhausted. How much more can I endure?

The damage is done

my mind

It took a lot of courage to start a blog about my struggle (and as a result, my family’s struggle) with PTSD, and I’m not sure what I was thinking when I promptly told my real world that the blog existed… and as a bi-product, I told my world about my diagnosis. Not long after I posted the link, I began to deeply regret sharing; it’s that feeling of shame eating away at me. I’ve quickly become a part of this beautiful community of bloggers with a PTSD diagnosis; they all write under pseudonyms and if their family knows the blog exists, they have never read it. After nearly three weeks of my blogging, I can see why. I set out to make mental illness easier to talk about, but my posts on this blog have been careful; I cannot share so much of myself or I will just make myself more vulnerable than I already am.

But, the damage has been done so I may as well share. I am sharing because it has wreaked havoc on my family. I keep telling myself that we will come out stronger on the other side… but what if there is no other side? My therapist keeps telling me I need to learn to live with it, and learn to accept that I will always have these, at times, debilitating symptoms. Once I accept, then I can move forward with learning to manage.

It is embarrassing to admit to people I see every day that when my son runs and jumps on me from behind, instead of playing with him, I curl into a ball, cover my ears, close my eyes and cry. Or when my husband uses a certain tone, I hide- again, in a ball with my ears covered and eyes closed. I close my eyes so I don’t see the flashbacks, but they’re in my mind so I see it more readily. I cover my ears so I don’t hear my flashbacks, but they’re in my mind so I hear them more readily. I curl up so I don’t feel my flashbacks, but it makes no difference. My husband is afraid to listen to music in the car because he never knows when he’ll look over to see me dissociated because of a certain song. I never know when I will be triggered, and I may end up in my car in the parking lot at Target in tears because something as simple as the way someone was walking triggered me.

I am so busy surviving that it is a struggle to socialize or clean the house. It takes everything I have to meet my children’s needs.