The Fruit of Tribulation

Famous-Fruit-Paintings-Fruit-300x232

I had a rough week. I think it was a spin-off from Thanksgiving… or maybe it was just a bad week. My husband and I fought ALL. WEEK. LONG. My son struggled with listening. My daughter was refusing food and waking up more than once in the night (she later cut two teeth). My house was turned upside-down with chores left undone and take-out bags overflowing the trash can. My self-harm picked up a notch. I was refusing to pray and refusing to read my Bible, which are often the very things that pull me out of a spiral like this. I realized that I am still dissociating and losing time, I am just not recognizing it, and it spiraled me further still. And then, all of a sudden, the storm cleared and I was at peace.

That is often what I go through. I feel I have no control over my emotions. I can have a really good day or a really bad day, and I have no say in the matter. I was previously seeing a trauma therapist who was helping me recognize the very early signs of dissociation and spiraling, and helping me develop the skills to pull out of it before it becomes an issue. She was helping… I think. I had to stop seeing her because of finances and lack of time. One thing she taught me was that when I am doing well, I need to build up my resources so I have them at hand when I start to spiral.

A trusted friend is taking me through a discipleship book, where I read, pray, and apply, while simultaneously communicating with her regarding my thoughts on the material. Shortly after I quit therapy, I reached out to her for something trivial and she saw beyond it, and offered the discipleship. That’s how she became my trusted friend. The discipleship book (link here) explains that there are two ways to face emotional pain: 1. Avoidance and self-protection (using our own unhealthy coping techniques), which turns the issue right back to yourself, often exacerbating the issue; and 2. Accepting the circumstance and passing through it with Christ. This would include prayer, building yourself up in the Bible, and reaching out to others for godly support.

The better we are able to be built up before the spiral hits, I believe the better off we will be during the spiral, as my previous therapist explained. According to the discipleship book (and the Bible), the best resources are from the Bible.

Here are some of my best resources that I’ll share with you:

In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, maybe found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ. -1 Peter 1:6,7

We are hard pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed. -2 Corinthians 4:8,9

Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are Mine. 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. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior… since you were precious in My sight, you have been honored, and I have loved you… Fear not, for I am with you. -Isaiah 43:1-5

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you. Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand. -Isaiah 41:10

Do not remember the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing, now it shall spring forth; shall you not know it? -Isaiah 43:18,19

Count it all joy when you fall into various trials -James 1:2

After I read these treasures, I am able to be sincerely thankful for this past week.

-My son began reading easy readers fluently, where he had previously been reading only phonics books.

-My daughter cut two new teeth and is saying new words (including “amen” at the end of any conversation or song).

-My husband and I are reading the Bible together in the morning and at night, where previously we had not (except for brief stints); we do not get a lot of non-stress time together, as we run two businesses together. Progress. That’s godly progress.

-I have made progress in learning about the unconditional love of my Savior; nothing I do will make my Savior walk away. Also, when others are also walking in the unconditional love of the Savior, nothing I do will cause them to walk away from me either. Progress. That’s major progress. Towards healing and secure attachment.

Doesn’t the Bible say that trials cause us to make progress? I already quoted 1 Peter above, but what about this one:

And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us. -Romans 5:3,4

While it is difficult to take joy in my tribulation, I am thankful for the fruit that has come from it. I’ll take that little nugget into the next series of spirals, knowing that when I come out I will have an even greater understanding of my Savior, and I know I have a husband who will not walk away despite the trials of having a wife with PTSD and a lifetime of baggage. I also know that I have a trusted friend who will help me to lift my arms in prayer when I am too weak (as Moses did in Exodus 17:12).

May you also see the fruit of your tribulation as you look to your Savior.

Image credit: http://www.daydaypaint.com/blog/tag/fruit-paintings-by-famous-artists

Advertisements

Sharing Toothbrushes

CIMG2983.JPG-1

I have suspected for about a week now that my husband and I are using the same toothbrush. We share a bed, a car, children, and at times we share the same food and drink. But, while I am only slightly bothered by it, I have a feeling my husband would be horrified. I think I’ll keep it to myself and try to quietly find a way to differentiate the toothbrushes. I think I’ll also keep to myself that my son likes to flip the toothbrushes upside down, because no matter how well and how often I clean the cup, the water at the bottom always seems to reek. That’s worse than sharing toothbrushes any day.

Speaking of children, my 4 year old is finally adjusting to being a big brother… finally. He had his sister laughing so hard last night that when it was time for bed, she started tantruming. Usually, she settles right into my arms. My son is also reading very well and enjoys doing math everyday. Right now, he’s putting together a 300 piece puzzle by pulling the pieces out of the box one at a time. He’s only put it together once before, and he’s memorized each piece so he knows what to look for as he’s digging through the box. He is so much like his daddy, with his humor, his intelligence, and his quick wit.

My dear 14 month old prefers to eat paper over food, and is more stubborn than my firstborn… by far. She can thrown a tantrum to bring down the house and will refuse to eat for days before she’ll go into a full day of eating like a grown man. She knows many signs but refuses to use them. However, she is the best snuggler in the whole world, and her laugh fills my heart with joy.

Right now, my life consists of taking care of these two characters at home most of the day, while answering phone calls for my husband’s business. I am over halfway through my pregnancy, and have started waking up for snacks in the middle of the night. We have a very small apartment and have been busy rearranging furniture to make room for the new baby, and I think we’ve finally started to get used to the idea of having three children.

I am also busy going through a discipleship book with someone I reached out to for something trivial, and she sensed I needed more. Through the unconditional love of the Lord, my husband, my son, my daughter, and my trusted friend, I feel I am moving forward. I will probably have PTSD for my entire life, and will probably fight with many of its symptoms for life, but I have a new outlook most days. My attacks do not last as long, and although it seems they are just as debilitating, I only completely freeze or lose time every couple of weeks. I’m able to endure the overwhelming feelings without dissociating most times, very much because I am able to cry when I need to. My feelings have been manifesting themselves through anger, and I am working as hard as I can to control it.

I have been on a major blogging hiatus, but I am beginning to feel creative and well again. I pray each and every one of you are doing well and I look forward to starting to read your blogs again regularly.

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

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

Why I dropped to the half marathon- I’M PREGNANT!

I’m pregnant!

CIMG9999edited

I have been very quiet on here lately because we’ve been keeping the pregnancy quiet- and that’s all I want to blog about! I am 12 weeks 5 days pregnant, and due at the end of March 2015. We were able to see the baby on ultrasound yesterday, and he (or she) was hanging upside down kicking his legs, completely oblivious to the outside world.

We are a little overwhelmed at the prospect of having three babies to take care of, but excited- both at the very same time! I have quit therapy because of the new baby, though. I’m still not sure how I feel about it. My therapist is a trauma therapist, and I do not want to process my trauma while I am pregnant. It’s hard enough to keep my emotions in check with ginormous hormones and a big fat belly, so I think I’ll spend the next year focusing on what she has taught me. We will keep in contact, and perhaps in the future, if I need it, I will return to finish what we started.

Right now, I am focusing on meeting my children’s needs and trying to get food on the table regularly- meals is my Achilles heel. We are also now the proud owners of TWO businesses, one of which has been running for the past two generations. My husband is the third generation to take it over. We are excited but again, overwhelmed! 🙂

I am also strongly considering changing my blog url and my username. I am ready to move on from being identified with my mental illness. I still want to bring awareness to it, but I am not a victim. I am a survivor. I want my blog to reflect this. I am tired of dwelling on my struggles. I am ready to move forward and focus on my health, not my past.

I will post on my half marathon next. It was quite an experience!!!

 

A year of healing

I thought today would be a fairly significant day for me. A year ago today, I lost friendship and fellowship with someone I continue to deeply admire. Someone who saw my brokenness and tried desperately to come alongside and mentor me, at my initial request.

But I have changed. Changed immensely and entirely. Today was rather insignificant. I changed diapers, laughed with my son, cheered my husband on with his marathon training (for I have dropped to the half-marathon, but that’s a post for another day), and easily kept my mind on things present. If I had not changed this year… If I were the same broken woman I was the day my dear friend stepped away from me, I would be an emotional heap on the floor, unable to contain my fear of abandonment, my self-harm, and my anxiety attacks. But I am put together and smiling after a long day of serving my family.

In honor of my Christian sister (for that is still what she is, if no longer a friend), I will share what I learned from her.

-All life is a gift of God and is to be celebrated.

-There is healing after trauma.

…In Christ.

-If you make excuses or believe you cannot heal, you won’t. If you stand upright and just do it, you will heal.

-If you put your deep shame and fears into any relationship, it will crumble.

…Only God can withstand the intensity of the emotions that deep trauma provokes.

-Husbands are worthy and in need of attention, love, servanthood, and respect.

-Friendship ought to be lovingly cultivated and kept, thinking of the other before yourself.

It seems that a person I speak so highly of ought to have taught me more than six lessons, but these are profound life truths. These are things she tried to teach me while we were in fellowship, but they are things I did not learn until I was left to myself. To learn that I could heal. To learn that I am strong enough to stand.

I wish this hadn’t been the case, but it was her stepping away that tore open the remainder of my deep, dark wound that had festered since childhood. Only once I was torn open and oxygen hit the wound could I begin to find my way towards healing and wholeness.

Am I healed? No. Do I still have PTSD? Yes.

Am I healing? Yes. Am I walking forward, no matter how bruised and bloody my soul feels at times? Yes. Do I have the desire to self-harm? Sometimes. Do I? NO. It’s been so many months, I’ve lost count. Do I have the desire to sabotage relationships? Yes. Do I? NO (well, I do still try to push my husband away, but at this point we both start laughing through my angry outbursts because we recognize the ridiculous pattern).

Thank you to my dear Christian sister for stepping away, for through it, you have mentored me one thousand times over what you could have done if you were still alongside me. I still pray sometimes that our fellowship would be restored, but I know I still have a long way to go before He will answer; it’s not yet time.

I know many who read have lost relationships for which they care deeply. I hope that one day you will see how God has used both the presence of, and absence of, the relationship to mold you into who He wants you to be.

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. -Romans 12:2

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

canstock3453376

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

Fixing Our Form

Yesterday when I was running, I saw my shadow and realized I quite resemble Phoebe when I run. Embarrassing. So today, I fixed my form. By fixing my form alone, I shaved off 25 seconds per mile from my pace!

In regard to healing from our trauma, maybe all we need is to adjust our form. Pull our elbows in, straighten our backs, and lengthen our strides. Do the coping skills our therapists tell us, choose to make changes that will lead to a recovery. Open our mouths and move our limbs when our brains say our bodies should be frozen. Eat healthy foods to nourish our bodies.

Some days I do not want to make the effort. Change is hard. But it took almost no effort for me to fix my running form. My breathing was nearly the same and my bad knee doesn’t hurt like it usually does! Maybe, just maybe it doesn’t take much effort to start making healthy strides towards healing. And if we make the smallest of changes, perhaps we will see that all of a sudden our bum knee isn’t bum anymore; our breathing is regulated; and we have reached the finish line without realizing.

And let us run with endurance the race that is set before us. -Hebrews 12:1

Photo credit: hungryrunnergirl.com