Our brains are so intricate and fascinating. When looking at the brain as an organ, it doesn’t look like much. A dense ball of squiggly tube-like matter that doesn’t even move. Oh, but how incredible is its capacity!! Both wonderful and terrifying at the same time. It’s capable of creating captivating beauty as well as torturous horror. It can free you, or it can trap you. It can grow you, and it can stifle you. Because of your brain, you can die within yourself while still breathing and alive. You can live in the past and the present at the exact same time. How do I know this? Because I have PTSD from emotional abuse and sexual abuse.
Never did I ever think I would be in the position that I am in today – communicating from a place of experience with this condition. But here I am. Because of multiple forms of domestic abuse during a 10 year marriage, I now have this stress disorder that follows me around and threatens to attack me when I’m not expecting it. However it has also made me stronger. I have learned so much about resilience and stress management and trusting the Lord completely.
In 2017 after praying “Lord, I’ll stay if I have to, but please let me go,” I was given new eyes to see everything for what it really was and I was given clarity and wisdom. I began walking completely blindly in a minefield of emotional triggers as I walked out the door, never looking back. I had no idea the amount of damage that had been done that was going to be surfacing as soon as I started learning how to live again. One wrong move and my brain took over into a spiraling chaotic whirlwind like something out of a movie. The first PTSD episode I remember having was when I filed for litigation since he refused to sign a private separation agreement. The day he was to receive it I was terrified. I panicked. I went to the store to buy new locks for the house. You see, I had just endured 10 years of emotional abuse intertwined with other abuse. He had brainwashed me to believe that all men are always undressing women with their eyes and that you can never trust men because they are always thinking about having sex with you. As such, I was forbidden from talking to men without him, let alone ask for help from one. So as I am at the store, it was my first time independently talking to men and receiving help without him around me since I-don’t-know-when. One man asked if I needed help, and because I was getting something else I actually did need help. As he started helping me and was being very nice, my heart started pounding, my ears started hurting, my face went numb, and my thoughts became noise. I could hardly breathe and I’m not sure exactly everything I said but I just remember he had to ask another man a question about one of the items I was getting and that’s when it kicked into high gear. I shut down. Consumed by fear. I couldn’t even look at them. I needed to get out. RIGHT THEN. I was shaking and panicky. They asked what it was for and I said “I just need to make sure no one can get in. I’m in a hurry. I don’t have much time.” I was holding myself very guarded and they could tell something was up. I remember noticing that they looked very concerned for me. I thanked them and peeled out. This was only the beginning of the war I was about to face. The tip of the iceberg.
As things grew more intense with the fight to get out of his stronghold these episodes grew stronger and stronger. One time I smelled a familiar smell that sent me back to a particular instance when that smell was very strong in the air and I was being forced into something I didn’t want to do. When I smelled it in the present, I literally experienced the past on top of the moment. It’s like when this happens my brain cannot distinguish between the past and the present and they are happening at the same time along with a host of symptoms that painfully take over my body and there is no escape — or is there?
I realized very early on that something serious was going on. I already had a counselor helping me through all of this to begin with, but when I started telling her what was going on she explained that this was a PTSD response. My counselor at the time was an amazing woman, a Christian, and very compassionate. She gave me some “tools,” as I call them, to exercise leaning on the Lord through this, and I share these same tools in my freedom project. She taught me how to manage stress when it and anxiety consumed me.
I knew I had to rely solely on the Lord in order to keep from losing my mind when the PTSD was rearing its ugly head. So I turned my eyes to Him and fixed my gaze on Him alone. In my post Praising God Amidst the Storm, I explain some examples of how to do this.
As the PTSD episodes started getting closer and closer and more intense, I learned to lean in closer and closer to the Lord again. (See The Light Inside the Tunnel, as I describe how the Lord rescued me from depression as well.) It’s just like how a child runs to their mommy or daddy when things get scary. God is my Abba. I started seeing him more and more in the role of my good good Father during this time. Then when I suddenly lost my earthly Daddy just 4.5 months after the separation, I needed God’s fatherly love and protection even more. I pulled out a stack of Bible verses that I had used during my natural child birth to get me through the pain and fear. They’re on little flash cards and I used them as quick notes from the Lord to remind me that He’s got me. I knew that I wasn’t going to be okay without making Him my focus point. With my history of depression and anxiety, I knew I couldn’t let PTSD win. This became a battle and God was on my side. This was about being God’s warrior princess now. Through prayer, meditation, mental imagery, journaling, and just pure resilience I’ve been able to keep PTSD from crippling me on a daily basis. During the marriage, my faith was used to pin me to the wall and oppress me. I actually was beginning to NOT trust God because of the spiritual abuse. Now, I was given a new faith and God was showing me that He really will fight for us. (Isaiah 41:10, 2 Chronicles 20:17, Psalm 34:17, James 4:7, Luke 10:19, 2 Thessalonians 3:3, Ephesians 6:10).
I knew that I could trust the Lord for this because there is a promise in Philippians 4:6-7 that says “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” This promise is like ground zero for learning to truly trust Him with your battles and embracing His peace.
My faith was completely rocked by unraveling spiritual abuse and the effects of PTSD, but through the storm and God’s unwavering powerful love He never let me go. He has never moved and is always right there for me to reach out and grab when I can’t see anything but darkness around me. My PTSD has all but forced me to get closer to Him because without Him, I’d be jacked up on meds and my relationships with others would be in jeopardy. Instead, I’m able to put into practice several ways of how to overcome PTSD with my faith, and applying it for stress management. While I still have triggers, and I still have an episode every now and then, when they happen I turn to the Lord for my strength and recovery. I am stronger in my faith today because of everything I’ve been through. God truly does use for good what Satan intends for evil! (Genesis 50:20)