As I work on my computer, putting together the lesson plans for my son’s homeschool assignments, a dear sweet friend texted me. Why was her text so important? It’s because like her and so many others, she works in the healthcare field and knows in the next few days she will be coming face-to-face with the coronavirus.
As we chatted, she shared an article The Washington Post posted on March 18, 2020 titled “Doctors and Nurses are Already Feeling the Psychic Shock of Treating the Coronavirus.” As I read the article, I came face-to-face with some of my own struggles as the article went on to discuss pre-PTSD experiences and symptoms. I may not be familiar with the healthcare industry and all the medical jargon, but one thing I am familiar with is PTSD due to childhood trauma.
You would think I wouldn't be and I don’t have NEAR the experiences and traumatic events our veterans had to endure in order to protect and secure our freedoms and liberties from other opposing countries and forces. I don’t even dare try to make the comparison of someone, male or female, who was sold into sexual trafficking only to come out battered and bruised and still trying to make heads and tales of what they’ve been through. However, there is one form of PTSD that doesn’t get near the attention that it deserves and that is from abuse and neglect in our homes due to domestic violence.
Now, I’m not saying everyone is perfect. The healthiest family in the world will still fall short and neglect their children at times. The kind of abuse and neglect I’m talking about is physical, mental, emotional and verbal trauma. The kind that leaves scars on your soul and vow to never put your trust in any human being again. The kind of abuse that can be associated with domestic terrorism because of the traumas the entire family goes through on a day-in and day-out basis. Having lived through that as a child, I know what that is and so many others do too. It may not be diagnosed or completely comprehended, and can even be in our churches, but it’s there and it fights to keep you paralyzed in fear.
When I was a teenager, in the early stages of my walk with Christ, and wanted to break free from the dysfunctional patterns I was so accustomed to, I began to notice some things in my life that I didn’t want there, but didn’t know how to change them. In my quiet time with the Lord, he showed me how “His ways are higher than my ways and His thoughts are higher than my thoughts.” As I began to hash out scenarios with the Lord, so I could grasp and comprehend what he was showing me, he began to show me how I needed to embrace what was difficult and uncomfortable when it was our natural human inclination to fight or flee. Little did I know how handy that lesson would be some 30 years later when my PTSD symptoms began to manifest after an extended family crisis and altercation. God literally transported me back to that moment to remind me how to respond.
So, how does this help anyone today, much less those who are dealing with some major life-altering issues in the healthcare industry while there’s a worldwide pandemic on the loose? Some people may think this is trivial and just a bunch of nonsense, but from someone who has experienced the anxiety that overwhelms you when a memory or thought is triggered and tells the body it’s in harms way, I can tell you from experience how God can use His Word to LITERALLY be your lamp and your guide and transform those moments into spiritual catapults.
So how does this work? When someone has PTSD or pre-PTSD symptoms, the challenge is to not panic. Recognize what is happening and that the symptoms can be different for every person. Take a deep breath and begin to take an internal inventory and ask yourself these questions: What was it that triggered that thought or emotion? Where did it come from? Then take those answers and line them up with the Word of God, so you can discern what is truth and what is a lie and read or remind yourself of what God’s Word says to counteract the lie. That’s how you’ll be able to stand when everything inside is wanting to run away in fear. There will be times when you’ll be overwhelmed and can take a break so your body can rest and process what it's going through, but most of the time you have to embrace what you’re feeling in order to get to the other side. It’s not a push that causes you to disregard and ignore what you’re dealing with, but a balanced approach knowing that this is part of the process of healing. Your body may shake and tremble, but your mind can be at peace knowing you’re not in harms way or the Lord will give you a verse you need to know that he will protect you.
There are so many examples in the bible we can look at to help give us a visual image of what this looks like. God shows us Moses and how he had to go before Pharaoh more than once to confront him, even though the Pharaoh wanted to make a laughing stock out of him. Imagine what he had to embrace in order to be obedient to what God called him to do! We read about Joshua and how his brothers mistreated him and sold him into slavery. We see how he was imprisoned, freed and imprisoned again only to come out later and not only be the 2nd most powerful person in Egypt, but God used him to save an entire nation during a time of famine. We see how Paul was mistreated for mentioning the name of Jesus, yet he had to embrace every difficulty and make his entire body obedient to Christ. But the most powerful example is when Christ died on the cross for our sins. How many of us would willing walk up Golgotha knowing what our fate would be? Again, the pain had to be embraced and the spiritual representations of our sins had to be endured in order for something beautiful and magnificent to be born.
If we have not suffered to the point of shedding blood, then we (you) can do this. It’s because of who Christ is IN you that you can do this! If you’ve surrendered your life to him and he has called you to walk this path, it can be a beautiful one! You will see the authority and majesty of our Lord Jesus Christ like you’ve never seen before. You will see Christ help you demolish strongholds the enemy wants to keep you hostage to in your life. You will see the sovereignty of our Lord and when you see his sovereignty, you realize how petty and minuscule the enemy is with all his strategies and tactics. You will see miracles happen right before your eyes; yet only you will be able to see how powerful and divine they truly are because they were meant for you and only you to see. Then as you get stronger with each chain being broken and every mountain that is climbed, God will use you to be an inspiration to so many others because if you can survive PTSD, everything else is a walk-in-the-park. Take it from someone who knows. . .