We have been having mini-discussions on our private mama page regarding PTSD and C-PTSD, including their similarities and differences. We also touch on General Anxiety Disorder, as most of us experience a form of anxiety in one way or another. One of the most striking differences and helpful delineations between GAD and PTSD (from my understanding) is that when a person gets anxious, they are often anxious over what might happen. But people with PTSD and C-PTSD are not afraid of what might happen. It has already happened and they know it is possible and can happen again. That is the fear. It’s occurred — the worst nightmares — and we know it is possible for it to occur again.
I have a lot of fear over my loved ones dying in a car accident because both of my parents were instantly killed in a car accident over 20 years ago. If one of my family members is late, I panic until I hear something from someone. Early on in our marriage, David wanted to comfort me by telling me that his dying in a car accident would never happen. I mean, what are the odds? And I would say, “But, it DID happen. What were the odds that both my parents would die?” I could not shake that feeling that the odds were surely against me that my parents would both die in an accident and yet it happened. It could happen again. My fear is over something that I know can happen because it already did. That is PTSD.
And, as Christians, we spend a lot of time counter-acting general anxiety, trusting in God each day and reminding ourselves of the verses that bring us peace and comfort. However, I believe we still short-change ourselves. I think Jesus went even deeper than that. I think there is help for people with PTSD in Scripture, as well. Because He knew and knows that our trauma is not just instantly fixed by an encouraging word. How do I know this? Because Jesus faced extreme betrayal, physical and psychological trauma and abandonment. We can identity with His suffering, which is stronger than just words. He gets it. And we can go to Him. And I hope that you do, knowing that He can sympathize with our psychological pain.
In the meantime, I feel compelled to remind those of our readers who suffer from repeated injury to the mind, body and soul and who are now free that things have changed. If you have left abuse behind you and still suffer the effects of abuse, there is no shame in that. But, because it is so easy to follow those old pathways of behavior and thinking, I would love for you to start to let these words sink in:
- You are no longer on trial. Yes, I know that you were . . . some of you still are in battles over divorce and custody. I understand that. For some of us, we felt like we were on trial for years, as people investigated our stories and held smear campaigns against us. But, in all other areas of life, you are not on trial. If someone accuses you of something, you are not on trial. That is simply their accusation. If you have a job interview, you are not on trial. It is just a job interview and they would be lucky to have you (and they probably know that). When going to a new church, you are not on trial. You are the one deciding whether or not to attend there. Sister, you have so much more power than you might think.
- Everyone is NOT your authority figure. I know that, forever and a day, it felt like every man in the world was your authority because of faulty theology and controlling churches. That is not actually the case. You are equal to every man out there. I mean, you might have a boss in the workplace who is male. In that case, he is your boss. But he is also blessed to have the likes of you (and he hopefully know that — if not, look for something where you feel appreciated). So, strong child of God, hold your head up high and look those men in the eye and do your gifted thing.
- You have choices. You don’t have to stay with the first therapist you visit. He/she is not your authority. You can choose your child’s therapist. You can choose an attorney. If someone makes you feel uncomfortable, move on. You do not have to stay with them. I know that you felt you had to stay with your abuser but not so, anymore. You can walk away. You can remove that person from social media. You can change friend groups or switch churches if you feel unsafe. You do not have to return that email and you no longer have to defend yourself. Sometimes, that is a distraction from the plan God has for you.
Beautiful child of God, Jesus paid a very high price for your freedom. We hold ourselves back because that is what we are used to. We don’t have to hold ourselves back. It is a brave, new world out there that is very different from the oppressive situations in which you had found yourself. In fact, that oppressive situation is a teeny, tiny speck on a very large map. Normal, healthy people don’t accuse at every turn, they don’t crazy-make, they aren’t passive-aggressive and they do not make you feel like you are being questioned all the time. And, if they are and do, leave!
You’ve got this. God has given you wisdom and a sound mind. You can have your sanity back — I promise you that! Claim that. You are powerful within because of Jesus in you. Go with that. And put that old stuff behind, as best as you can. You are so worth making that effort. And there are so many people who need your healthy love and advocacy. El Roi, the God who sees, adores you. He loves you and He has a plan that involved your strength and His. Trust Him in this.
Megan Cox is a Pastoral Counselor and Executive Director of Give Her Wings. She holds an MAR and is certified in crisis response with the AACC. She has also recently completed her CPE Unit 1 training.