A lot of us have gone through something traumatic in life whether that be the loss of a loved one, abuse, combat exposure, natural disasters, assault, mass violence, rape, and other situations. Often times after a traumatic event, most people are left feeling hopeless, depressed, anxious, angry, irritable, in fear, unconfident, numb, and there is a strong possibility of having sleep issues as well as a change of appetite and more...
There is no sugar coating it, recovery from trauma is no walk in the park, meaning it isn't easy to bounce back from something that impacted you so severely. While some people recover from their trauma within a few weeks or months, a high percentage of people who have been experiencing these post traumatic stress symptoms for any duration longer than this may have developed the mental health condition known as PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder). This is especially seen in people who have experienced repeated abuse, sexual abuse, and those in combat.
As someone who has had PTSD for 16 years now, I am here to tell you (or write to you) that recovery is possible. But before I get to explaining HOW it is possible and what has helped me specifically, I want to first briefly share with you my journey having had untreated PTSD for the duration of time that I did...
It started when I was in first grade, the awful flashbacks, anxiety attacks, bouts of anger, depression, confusion, and fear and what triggered it were smells, colors, mannerisms of other people, men, noises, and other things... but the problem was, on top of all of these intense emotions, I was still being abused and put in the same or similar situations daily as I was as a young girl, hence, I wasn't able to heal. I felt like I was constantly being put into a corner where I had no other option but to just take the abuse ultimately resulting in a warped idea of how life really should look outside of the trauma...
Now, I don't write this for sympathy nor empathy for that matter, rather I expose such truths to those who can relate and/or need to read something that poses solutions to their similar struggles. But, to get to the core of my story, I wanted to share with you this last bit...
Throughout the 16 years of having full blown PTSD, I was a very discouraged, hopeless, insecure, broken kid/young adult who was dying to have answers to my pain... unfortunately, I took the harder route (numbing myself with substances and partaking in other poor coping mechanisms) and chose to walk the path to destruction... and I walked that path for so long until I one day hit a rock bottom. The weird thing was, this rock bottom didn't look like the others where I was either in jail or in another very scary situation, rather it was that I had simply come to a point where I was just tired and once again, hopeless to the point of wanting to take my life. The difference between this time to the other times? I had my baby daughter- a new life, a life that I was responsible for! Had I not had my daughter, I firmly believe that I would have ran my life to the ground by now... seriously!
You see, I had exerted all of my energy into everything BUT seeking God- The one who had me the whole time, yet I chose to walk away from as the devil had me in a choke-hold in which I personally refer to as my mental health condition(s), PTSD, depression, anxiety, etc. I have asked myself several times why I resorted to seeking out God last and I believe the answer was shame... I felt that if He was anything like the way I was raised, I would be severely punished for coming to Him with my truths (all the wrong things I was doing)... in fact, I felt that I was already being punished by Him as I had been in pain all throughout my childhood and could hardly see a way out, although in time, I found this to be a delusion once again coming from Satan himself.
So, yes, I have officially been in recovery from PTSD for about a year now. Up until this last year of truly starting recovery, I believe I was incapable of healing as I was still associated with the person who committed the traumatic acts towards me as well as I was feeding my mind with all things related to the traumatic events unknowingly (some things in which I could control and others I could not). Truthfully, I was afraid of developing relationships and therefore pushed a lot of people away, I was ashamed of myself as I felt that the trauma was always my fault, I felt deeply depressed and hopeless, hence, I was reckless, and last, I felt so out of control that I needed to control those around me to believe the false facades that I was trying so hard to maintain in order to not be seen as broken or weak and when my mask was removed, it all came crumbling on top of me through more shame, more guilt, remorse, anger, fear... my demons.
I think for everyone, healing from a traumatic event looks different, and we all feel different things, yet it is all similar in the sense that we all have been impacted in a very drastic way. However, like I said, there is hope and I would like to share with you some specific things that began to help me heal from my dark past that I KNOW will help you too... I mean come on, why would I take time out of my day to write out this essay to you if I didn't want you to experience the same healing and freedom from the past that I have? I believe in you!
1.) As you know, when you are starting the recovery process (from anything at all), you are starting it broken and vulnerable, but that doesn't mean that you are not strong enough to recover because YOU ARE.
You were strong enough to go through the trauma, and you are strong enough to get out of it!… Are you kidding?! Of course you are! Don't doubt that for a second! I really want you to repeat this to yourself daily (or something similar)...
"I AM STRONG and capable of recovering"
"I AM STRONG and resilient"
"I AM STRONG and courageous"
"I can do ALL things through Christ who strengthens me" (Philippians 4:13)
... things like this. Positive affirmations go a long ways when you are trying to recover from something and/or have low self esteem. If it helps, write out some verses and other positive affirmations that help you to 1.) be reminded of Gods unending love and hope for you 2.) Instantly lifts your spirits. You will find that the more you feed your mind with hope, love, and peace- the easier it will be to bounce back from your troubles.
2.) Identify your triggers and make an action plan for where you can go mentally when your head starts filling up with worry, fear, anger, shame, and doubt.
For me, I do my absolute best to go to my "happy place" which is actually the dreams I have for my future (although everyone's happy places could look different).
When I think of God's promises for my (our) life, I begin to grow at peace with myself and with my situations. Trust me, I have been in some very scary places both mentally and physically where I was unsure if I would ever get out of them but the more I focused my eyes on God, praying, reading the word and learning about people in the Bible who have experienced similar situations or worse and how God always came through, I could part the clouds in my mind and discern between the truth of my mental health condition from the lies being fed to me from the devil (shame, hopelessness, fear, anger).
Isaiah 43:1 “Don't fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine.” Did you know that the phrase “fear not” is used at least 80 times in the Bible? The reason most likely being is because He knows the enemy uses fear to destroy our hope and limits our victories.
3.) You are alive today... which means that there is STILL hope, still life, still happiness to be had!
Sure you went through some hard things, nothing can dismiss your feelings towards the trauma as they are totally valid, however, you deserve to have a good life. You deserve to find freedom from this mess but... you can't find freedom if you are not willing to let it go.
This might sound a bit extreme, but from my personal experience, I could compare the aftermath from trauma to sitting in a burning house. The longer you sit in it and take no action to 'getting out of the fire', the more damage it will do and before you know it, it will most likely take you too.
I know how it is... it's what's comfortable to hold onto what happened in the past as it could be your motivator, your "go-to" thing to blame when you are in a dark place, or the trauma could be so ingrained in your mind that you aren't even aware of how much you think about it because you have thought about it so much (this was me)... but my one, most important piece of advice to you of all things is to give it to God. He will repair you in ways you aren't even able to see right now if you just take the leap of faith. I made the mistake of seeking God last before all other things in which always lead me down a dark path in some way or another- I hope you can take these words if you are in a space of desperation and choose God before seeking instant gratification. Instant gratification < God's will. Not easy, but He really will never steer you down a wrong path.
“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland." (Isaiah 43:18-19)
Allow God to do a new thing in you! You will be amazed with the changes in not only your life but also in your mind when you believe this very truth.
Anyways, these are the three main points that I wanted to write out to you for you or anyone you know who struggles with PTSD. There is hope. There is a way out. And last, God isn't done with you yet!
I appreciate you reading this essay ;),