Love One Another Deeply

7996-wb_1peter4_8_NIV above all love deeply multitude sins design

I have recently learned that it is not okay to withdraw from relationships… not just not okay, it’s a sin! Go figure! It makes us feel terrible to withdraw anyway, regardless of us withdrawing for emotional safety. 1 Peter commands us to love one another deeply, and Proverbs 17:17 says that a friend loves at all times. Withdrawal is a form of self-protection, which is meeting our needs through our own  means. Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is not a sin in and of itself, it is our brain’s natural response to dealing with extreme stress. PTSD does, however, make certain sins feel safe, including withdrawal, minimizing our own and others’ sins, avoiding conflict, controlling, manipulating, anger, or being judgmental and condemning… They are all in the name of self-protection from further pain, but not what God would have for us.

I am learning that my perceived needs, which include security and love, are not needs according to God. God has already freely provided them for us through Christ, but they are not needs… they are privileges. For the longest time, I have thought that if I could simply find someone, completely unassociated with my trauma, to love me, I would be well on my way to healing. I desired unconditional love that does not trigger. Guess what! That does not exist!

I would find someone to mentor me but I’d panic and push them away as soon as I began to feel vulnerable. I have even begun to push away the most important people in my life: my husband and children, because they make me feel most vulnerable. It’s the feeling of vulnerability that scares me. I am finding that I cannot run from feelings.

I have tried time and again to even push God away… Maybe because He was there during my trauma and allowed it; maybe because I feel debilitated in my PTSD at times; maybe because He isn’t healing me as quickly as I desire. But try as I might, He will not leave. He chose me before the foundation of the world, and determined every step I would make before I was born (Psalm 139). He knows when I will choose to make my bed in hell, and when I will choose to look to Him. He knows my self-preoccupation and He knows my desire to glorify Him. I can be as angry at Him as I want, and yet it does nothing but hurt me those around me. It’s miserable.

What’s my alternative to self-protection? Accept what God has for me, and look to Him for contentment and peace. In therapy, it’s called radical acceptance. And it is radical! But it also requires the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit to be okay with what God has given me, including my trauma. My training tells me to explain to my clients that they must find their own way into radical acceptance and healing, but I do not know anyone who has healed from complex trauma in their own means. I believe walking with the Lord is the only way. As I seek to glorify God in my thoughts and actions, He will soften and transform my heart. It is the most difficult task I have ever undertaken, because it includes a complete change in mindset, but “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Galatians 4:13, NKJV).

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.
 -1 Peter 4:8

Image credit: http://www.ibelieve.com/inspirations/love-each-other-deeply.html

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Spiritual Warfare

This is every bit a spiritual battle as it is physical and emotional. Sometimes I can feel the darkness trying to pull me in, and today I needed this verse as encouragement to continue to fight the good fight. How will I resist the devil today? A 6 mile run with prayer (and potentially tears this morning), and then a family day with my husband and children.

Some days are harder than others. Today is one of those days. I refuse to let my body freeze in the corner. I will fight today.

My Marathon To Mental Health

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I seem to have this notion that once I’ve completed this marathon, my PTSD symptoms will disappear (or be very manageable) and my marriage and parenting will be on track. It seems like quite an unrealistic notion, as running does not improve marriages or parenting, and while it is a healthy outlet, it will not magically remove my PTSD diagnosis. However great I feel after running, I still have to walk back in the door to a needy family; I will still have severe attachment issues; I will still be triggered by the little things.

If my problems will not magically disappear, what will be the benefits?

Faith: There is no way I will be able to complete this training or the race without God giving me energy and stamina. My daughter is nearly nine months old and is still waking several times a night, and my PTSD symptoms have wreaked havoc on my body. I also feel like my mind has been clearer and as a result, I’ve been able to do more devotions over the past month. I have not self-harmed since I’ve been running.

Fitness: Before last month, I had not run farther than 4.5 miles, and honestly I had no desire for more! That particular mud run (in 2012) was 95 degrees, I had taken 2 ibuprofen so I could run through a knee injury, and then I was given a 5-Hour Energy drink (and I rarely have caffeine!); by the middle of the race I was dizzy and I very nearly threw up at the top of the 20 foot wall! However, each time I go out now, it seems I am improving my distance and my pace. My biggest goals are 1- not be the last person to cross the finish line (or be in the top two-thirds), and 2- put a 26.2 sticker on the back of my car!

Nutrition: It is very hard to run any distance when you’ve eaten a giant buffalo chicken cheesesteak or an enormous burrito (with queso) from Moe’s. My husband and I are slowly working to improve our diets so that our bodies can manage our respective training programs (because my husband is also doing the marathon).

Marriage: My husband and I finally have something in common! We have something to talk about, besides the kids, that we both care about equally. That’s big! We’ve been married nearly five years and my conversation falls short on the topic of sports, much like his conversation falls short with psychology.

All of the above will contribute to improving my mental health; I am already seeing the mental benefits of exercise and am looking forward to seeing where I’ll be in September. If I can conquer a marathon, I feel conquering my past will be cake… or I’ll be too distracted to be bothered by it! While I know this endeavor will not magically remove my PTSD diagnosis, it is a big step towards healing (well, 26.2 miles worth of steps, plus 18 weeks of training, towards healing!).

Photo credit: http://www.canstockphoto.com/vector-clipart/marathon.html

Gifts

When my daughter was first born, when I put her in her crib alone in her room, I would pray for God to keep her safe. Then I would proceed to check on her every few minutes until she woke up for a feeding. I have done this for months, continued to pray for her safety. I pray for my son’s safety too. Last week, something very sobering hit me… my children might not be safe their whole lives. Something could happen to them tonight, tomorrow, or anytime before they are grown. I must have discernment and use wisdom in being their mother, but I cannot protect them from everything. There is a 1 in 3 chance my daughter will be sexually abused before she is 18, and there is a 1 in 7 (maybe even higher at this point) chance my son will be sexually abused before he is 18. Those statistics are very frightening. In a way, this realization brought me a sense of peace. After I prayed for God to protect my children as I tucked them each into bed (for God does answer prayers), I also thanked God for the time I spent with them today. They are true gifts from God. This day (however difficult it was for me) was a gift from God. It is a gift to breastfeed my daughter and watch her discover the taste of new food. It is a gift to watch her blow raspberries when she is excited, and it brings me great joy to watch her as she is army crawling and scooting on her hiney to get where she wants to go. It is a gift to teach my son how to read, and a joy to listen to him read most letter combinations- he is not even 4! It is a gift to hear someone call my son “polite” and to hear his giggles as his daddy tickles him. It is a gift to watch a video on the computer with my husband today, and it is a gift to watch my grandma bond with each of my children. Through my trials of dissociation and flashbacks (which were quite strong today if you read my last post), I must also recognize the gifts God has given me today.

Every good and perfect gift is from above, and comes from the Father of Lights – James 1:17

Photo credit: http://blog.pgi.com/2013/12/on-the-seventh-day-of-telework-my-coworkers-gave-to-me-gifts-and-a-sense-of-camaraderie/

Liebster Awards!

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I was nominated for the Liebster Award twice in the past few days, so instead of writing two separate posts, I’m going to combine them. Ellie Sofia at http://elliethompson.wordpress.com/ and ptsdfrozen at http://ptsdfromtheinsideout.wordpress.com/ nominated me. I am so blessed to be Ellie’s blogging friend; her writing is powerful, her story is painfully and beautifully sincere, and she has a heart of gold. Thank you, Ellie!! I am also immensely enjoying getting to know ptsdfrozen because I feel like I very much connect with this woman (including her screenname!). Thank you, ladies!!! 🙂 🙂 🙂
These awards often feel more like chain letters than awards. These are hard questions for me to answer, and the only reason I am doing this is because I want to recognize some of my favorite blogs for their posts and support. Through these blogs (and many others I am following), I feel slightly more normalized for the trials I am going through.
I Was Given These Questions
1.  Who do you write for? I write to give myself a voice and an outlet.
2. What type of blogs do you like?  I enjoy reading blogs written by people who are working hard to heal from mental illness, as well as people who are sweetly encouraging in their walk with Jesus.
3.  What do you wish the world understood about PTSD?
A friend just asked me what PTSD was like. I answered something like, “It’s like I’m completely fine one second and then the next second I’m spiraling into a deep hole because of a stupid trigger. Then I’m fine, and then I’m triggered and I’m dizzy for days, I can’t breathe, and I am caught in visual, auditory, and body flashbacks of my past. It is completely unpredictable and leaves immense devastation in its wake. Sometimes I have to pull over while driving because I can’t trust that I won’t make an impulsive decision in the midst of the most random and uncalled for spiral.”
4.  What would you say is the biggest passion in your life? I looked up “passion” to help me answer this question. “Strong and uncontrollable emotion.” Right now I have many strong and uncontrollable emotions but none are the result of passion. If I strip down every goal, behavior, and task, my underlying desire is to teach my children to trust in Jesus.
5.  What are you most proud of? My children.
6.  What activity makes you feel like yourself the most? Anything related to my job. During session, I am calm and easy to converse with. I feel normal.
7.  If you could have a dinner party with 10 famous figures dead or alive, who would they be? I am changing this, because I couldn’t care less about famous people. I would choose to have a dinner party with finallyspeakingmytruth, Ellie Sofia, ptsdfrozen, 66amazon, pinneyl, teddylee01, mandy, Mariann Martland, ideationsms, and afraidtotell (amongst others, but these are the first that popped into my head)
8.  If you could choose a different profession for this life what would it  be? I want to be: a professor, therapist, and an author. I am already a therapist; in the future, I may still earn my PhD and become a professor; and I have written one book and am working on another, so I still may be published at some point! I don’t want to change professions, I just want to add to my career!
9.  Describe your personality in 3 words. labile, caring, introspective
10.  Name a person who has made a significant impact on your life. Truly, my husband. We constantly battle over both stupid and serious things, but at the end of the day we are still holding hands. We still touch feet while we sleep (because any other cuddling may or may not send me into a spiral). We still kiss each other goodbye. We still say we love each other. We still say goodnight. We still feel safe knowing the other person is in the other room, even if we are in a monumental argument over making our own toothpaste vs. buying toothpaste.
~
1.What is the best thing about you?  My empathy
2.What time of day do you blog?
Whenever I can catch a chance with my busy life. Usually first thing in the morning or right before I go to bed.
3.How many revisions does it take before you finally publish?
8-ish (this one is 14 and counting because it’s taking so long to write this post!)
4.Who is/was the most influential person in your life?
See above
5.In one word describe yourself.
Labile
6.Where do you see yourself one year from now?
A year closer to feeling whole and calm.
7.What is your favourite social media?
WordPress
8.What type of blogs do you follow?
Those who struggle with PTSD and people with a strong faith in Jesus. I need connection to both worlds.
9.What is the motivating factor for you to blog?
I NEED an outlet for this crap inside my head
10.How would you describe your blog content to someone who has not read it.
See above PTSD question
11.What have you learned about yourself from blogging?
I have realized that I felt so desperately alone in my symptoms before. I did not know a part of me needed this community of people who struggle with the same things I do.
10 Random Facts About Myself
I do not have the energy for this…
10 Questions For My Nominees
Pick any 10 questions above
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Nominees
Feel free to use either of the graphics for your post
She was the first person to follow my blog and has become an amazing friend and support. Her blog is full of beautiful insights, amazing writing, and thoughtful words.
I very much enjoy reading his blog! It seems rare to have a male perspective in the mental health world, and he’s a great writer.
Beautiful art therapy!
A favorite because her posts are very uplifting

http://discussingdissociation.com/

http://singledadventures.com/

http://lisapinney.wordpress.com/This is quickly becoming a favorite because she writes about her recovery from trauma as well as her relationship with Jesus. I greatly  benefit from her encouraging words and her posts.

http://beautyfromtheashes613.wordpress.com/

http://cherished79.wordpress.com/

http://ihurtericabelle.wordpress.com/

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The Official Rules Of The Liebster Award 

If you have been nominated for The Liebster Award AND YOU CHOOSE TO ACCEPT IT, write a blog post about the Liebster award in which you:

1. thank the person who nominated you, and post a link to their blog on your blog.

2. display the award on your blog — by including it in your post and/or displaying it using a “widget” or a “gadget”. 

3. answer 10 questions about yourself, which will be provided to you by the person who nominated you.

4. provide 10 random facts about yourself.

5. nominate up to 10 blogs that you feel deserve the award, who have a less than 1000 followers.

6. create a new list of questions for the blogger to answer.

7. list these rules in your post . Once you have written and published it, you then have to:

8. Inform the people/blogs that you nominated that they have been nominated for the Liebster award and provide a link for them to your post so that they can learn about it

Desperate For Change

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Perhaps your typical pattern is that, when you start to think about what happened, you wallow in despair for two hours and cap that off with wolfing down a whole bag of potato chips and drinking a two-liter cola. A small step… might be that in half an hour… maybe you decide to say “hello” to someone instead of avoiding them; or you snap out of your self-preoccupation, and give your child a hug and ask how her day went. These little things are huge, radical steps…

I am desperate for change. I read this from a ‘Recovering From Child Abuse’ pamphlet written by the CCEF in Philadelphia. This small steps concept is what I’m desperately trying to do. This morning, instead of going back to bed after my daughter went down for her morning nap, I got up and made my husband breakfast and took a shower. Instead of going back to bed after my shower, I read this pamphlet that has remained unread on my dresser for at least a year. I read my Bible. I’m not saying I sought God, because that’s not my style. My style is to run from Him as fast as my legs will carry me. But I found comfort in Isaiah 43. I found answers. I found, “You are Mine.” If I can learn to trust God, I have found a new identity in Him. I am His daughter. I am His. Other portions of this passage say, “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are Mine,” “I have loved you,” and….

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you.” I believe God’s promises for myself, yet I also believe I am being overflowed by the rivers and I feel the fire is scorching my skin and soul. This passage does not say God will rescue me from trial, but He will be with me in it and He will not leave me. If I can bring myself to trust God, it sounds like I have found a potential best friend. I know He is my Savior. I desire a best friend.

Ashes On My Heart

Ash Wednesday Symbol

I have previously fought our attendance at a reformed church, and a church that uses the church calendar. However, today is the start of Lent. Today is Ash Wednesday. Tonight, we will go to church where we will listen to a sermon on our sins and the darkness that led Christ to the cross. Tonight, the four of us will have crosses of ash placed on our foreheads in reminder that we are all in need of Christ’s grace. This is entrance into a grieving and humbling period in which we prepare to observe Christ’s death on the cross, and three days later celebrate His resurrection.

Over the next 40 days, I have resolved to seek Christ with all my heart. I am tired of this in-between faith I have been taking part of over the last year and a half. I am not the type to forgo material things for lent, because as I said, I have fought the church calendar. However, for the next 40 days I have resolved to give up fighting God with every ounce of my being. I will seek Him for healing of my trauma. I will grieve for my sins and the sins that have been committed against me, and I will pray to forgive. I have resolved to humble myself and listen to what He has to say to me. For the next 40 days, I will make sure my family is ready to leave for church on time, I will not complain about the church I attend or its distance from my home. I will listen to the pastor’s words to the best of my ability (with 4 year old and 6 month old in tow) and I will sing with all my heart. I will not fight my husband or speak poorly of him for any reason. I will not yell at my son and I will take the time to meet his emotional needs. I will seek God and fill the role He has for me with my whole heart. I can do anything for 40 days. For 40 days, I resolve to give myself to God. This may start as an endeavor in the flesh, but I pray God would enable me to follow Him once again through His grace.

Someone said to me that Matthew 27:27-31 is a picture of where Christ meets us in our physical suffering; of our past trauma. So I leave you with the verses:

Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole garrison around Him. And they stripped Him and put a scarlet robe around Him. When they had twisted a crown of thorns, they put it on His head, and a reed in His right hand. And they bowed the knee and mocked Him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” Then they spat on Him, and took the reed and struck Him on the head. And when they had mocked Him, they took the robe off Him, put His own clothes on Him, and led Him away to be crucified.

Double-Minded

Here is the first poem I ever wrote on 9-17-12, and it also happens to be my favorite. This was when my anxiety was first really climaxing and then I had my first flashback on 10-5-12. My faith was still strong at this point, but around this time I began to struggle greatly with my relationship with God. In order to understand the poem, you have to read the non-italics together (all Bible verses), and then read the italics together (my own thoughts). It’s two poems.

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Your Word says toward me, how precious are Your thoughts

My soul will not be comforted day or night

While I was a sinner, Christ died on the cross

And my aching flesh puts up an endless fight

The desire of my soul is for Your name

We are commanded to not quench the Spirit

It was for Your love for me that Jesus came

But Lord, I feel so deaf and cannot hear it

You promised to help just at the break of dawn

The still small voice I am told to listen for

So I will sing to You, I sing a new song

But the waves crash too loud on the distant shore

I love You, my Rock, my Fortress, and my Strength

If my tears are in Your bottle and Your book

So I will stand and take up my shield of faith

Why do I feel You don’t take a second look?

I must wait patiently and trust in You, Lord

One who doubts is an uncontrollable wave

Your comforting Word is sharper than a sword

I’m double-minded, unstable in my ways

I fear not, I am Yours and You call my name

Lord, I do believe; please help my unbelief

You promised to wipe tears and relieve my pain

Comfort my soul, I am begging for relief

I trust that You will forever be the same.

It’s Sunday

It’s Sunday
It’s time for my biggest facade of all
I will go to church and pretend I’m fine
Few will notice when I decline
Yet another lunch invitation
Kids are a great excuse
But really it’s me

My husband is relieved
he is depleted too
No wonder we fight
When this battle is fought
there is nothing left

The Bible says if I make my bed in the depths of hell, God is there
But what if my bed was made for me?
People say faith is like a tea bag
You can tell what you’re made of in boiling water
But what if I’m being burned alive?
I’ve failed the tea bag test

It’s time to accept and work through my son being a major trigger
It makes sense
That’s how old I was when…
Never mind.
I have a facade with you too.