Category: Battle

The Pain that Lasts

Living with Complex Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD)

One trauma should be enough. In anyone’s lifetime, if all was as it should be, no one would experience the pain of trauma. But in this fallen and broken world, many people experience continuous or multiple traumas beginning in childhood. This world of surviving multiple traumas, of always having to adapt and change in order to continue on, creates a world of chaos and pain that never seems to end.

Often what happens when you have gone through multiple traumatic events, is that you begin to feel a constant weight of “the next shoe dropping.” You wonder when you will have to dive back into survival mode again. Expecting that trauma is a part of your life and there will always be another trauma coming at you. Viewing the world through this lens of when, not if, is something not everyone will be able to understand. It’s a consequence of what happened to us, not a deficit we can readily just choose to overcome.

Complex PTSD

PTSD can develop when a person does not have access to adequate resources to heal from their trauma. They are unable to move through the grief and healing process in order to reclaim their life. The journey to heal from one trauma is complicated, inexpressibly hard at times, and exhausting. Living with C-PTSD is a completely different beast. Every step towards healing brings with it wounds from the past that you may not even know are there. It is always at the ready to react when those deep and hidden wounds are poked. C-PTSD begs for constant attention to healing and continuing on your journey.

Regardless of where you are in your healing journey, C-PTSD will bring challenges to your everyday life. The invisible wounds of trauma, even when walking in your healing, are never fully healed. Depending on the depth, complexity, and pain intertwined in your earlier traumas, you can and will be caught off guard. You will be shaken again when you are faced with another traumatic experience. Traveling the path of C-PTSD means that you will be good some days, then suddenly struggle. This journey is full of deep holes and booby traps you didn’t set and struggle to see until you are in them.

You can be at your absolute healthiest, living your best life, and you can be taken down to the point you begin to question if you ever really healed at all.

Navigating Trauma after Healing

To be real for a minute, this is where I find myself now. I poured myself into healing from the Columbine shootings and earlier childhood traumas. Knowing I was at a point in my life where my healing journey wasn’t complete, I navigated life in health. I loved the life I was living, who I was, and I was pursuing a life I wanted. I thought I was aware, of my triggers and how they impacted me. I thought I knew my limitations and how far I could push myself before I overstepped my own boundaries. Though I had gained an enormous number of tools and techniques to manage and heal those residual parts of my past, I didn’t understand how I’d use them now.

What I didn’t know was how my deepest wounds had not yet been touched by healing. I did not know how painfully those wounds would react when they were attacked instead of protected. I am able to handle a lot of traumas, mine and others. I am resilient and strong. But I am also human. I have areas of my soul that are wounded so deeply they stayed more or less hidden. Until they could no longer remain hidden.

The last few years I have been walking a new path. A path I never knew or imagined I’d have to walk. I had no idea what I was going to have to do. The trauma from the last few years was progressive, subtle at first. The trauma of suffering with severe Peripartum Onset depression, anxiety, OCD, and rage. Losing our home in a fire at 3 months postpartum. Multiple additional challenges and pain beyond what I thought I’d ever have to deal with in this phase of my life. But it all snuck up on me. I didn’t realize I was not OK anymore until I was REALLY not OK. It wasn’t until I realized that the things I was feeling and thinking were similar to right after the Columbine shootings, that I figured out I was suffering through another battle with active PTSD.

Having C-PTSD has complicated this new healing journey in profound ways. I am able to see the healing that I achieved before, but I also struggle in ways I thought I’d dealt with already. A resurgence of an addiction, desperately trying to stay present and not continue to dissociate and check out, and an internal struggle so fierce, you’d think I was battling for my very life. Which, of course, I am.

The New Battle Ground

This is how I am beginning to understand the profoundly devastating consequences of surviving multiple traumas. Because I am not only fighting for myself now, but I am fighting for my son. I am fighting to protect him from the worst days. To show him how to be resilient and healthy. Fighting to teach him that no matter what, you still have to get up and move forward. Teaching him to honor himself, his emotions, and wherever he is at that moment without shame. Knowing when to fight and when to rest and take care of yourself.

The healing journey that I am on now, is harder than anything I’ve ever done before. There are so many times that I want to give up. To just stop fighting and let the pain overtake me. But that is not who God created me to be. I did not fight like hell to claw my way out of the grave I was in after Columbine, just to go back to that same grave (metaphorically). C-PTSD complicates everything. The things I’ve learned so far in my healing journey seem hard to utilize in this journey. I am having to relearn so much, and to be intentional about self-care in a way I never had to before.

In the hardest moments, when the light seems impossible to see, it is almost impossible to think of who I will be after I am through this leg of my life journey. Truthfully, I don’t want this leg, I don’t want this journey. I want to be on a path where I can have a reprieve from trauma for a while. I can’t change where I’m at or what I am going through. No matter how much I want to.

But I can do the hard work. I know that I can get through this, because I’ve done this before. And so can you. The strength and resilience that compels you to keep going is what will keep you hanging on wherever you find yourself. You’ve done this before. You’ve survived the worst, often more times than you can remember. You are not only a survivor, you are a warrior. The battle scars we carry weigh us down, but we can continue to fight.

Living with C-PTSD, even if you never have to survive another trauma, brings challenges that others can’t even conceive. Choosing to not let the past dictate how you live your life, changes how we step into the fight. Yes, things may be harder than they should be. Life may feel like it’s a never ending war and that you are drowning in defeat. But you have already survived some of the worst in this life.

Whatever life has for you next, you can and will overcome it. If you choose to. We can get bitter and live in anger at the injustices we’ve had to deal with, or we can focus on getting healthy (again). Struggling to handle new traumas when you’ve healed so many earlier traumas, does not mean the healing isn’t real. It can move you to greater levels of healing and freedom if you can embrace a new journey to healing.

Flee the Darkness

Trauma creates darkness. We step into our lives full of light. The lifeblood of hope and God flowing through our being. Looking into the future with eyes full of wonder and excitement, we begin to tentatively explore our world. Our senses come alive with the experience of newness, of discovery. Instinctively, we know that life is meant to be beautiful. That it’s meant to be full of light.

However, for many of us, this light and hopeful expectation of life, is quickly snuffed out. When we enter the world, and until we can reasonably take care of ourselves, we are wholly dependent on another human being to sustain our life. We trust that our needs will be met, that we will be safe. Until we’re not. The darkness slowly creeps into our lives or is ushered into it suddenly and with force.

Trauma. Pain. Hurt.

The Darkness Happens to Us, It Is Not Us

Depending on when we first experience the dark evil of this world, we can begin to believe the lie that we are the cause of our suffering. Children, until around age 8, believe that everything that happens to them or their loved ones, is because of them. That they are the cause of theirs and others suffering. What a horrible lie to internalize as a child! Slowly that light and hope begins to fade and the poison of the darkness seeps into our very beings. If we are not given adequate help in overcoming this darkness, we are left in the pain of what happened to us.

It takes many years and intentional healing for most people to overcome this basic, yet profound lie of the enemy. If the initial trauma we survived is compounded by further traumas, the darkness and the lie become ingrained in our cells, down to the DNA. Many times, people choose to decide that they ARE the darkness. They ARE the problem. That it’s easier and safer to embrace this lie then to fight it. We can grow up believing that we are worthless, broken, and that we deserve the bad that happens to us. Making the evil of another person replace our God given identities. Giving up on the life we were created to live.

Expose the Darkness, Don’t Embrace it

Ephesians 5:8-21, states, in paraphrase, that we used to belong to darkness, but now, as believers in Christ, we belong to the light. We are to have nothing to do with the deeds produced by darkness. That everything done in secret, will be exposed by the light. We are called to pay careful attention to how we choose to live our lives. Despite what we have suffered at the hands of others. If we are called to expose the darkness instead of becoming the darkness, then it must be possible to do it!

Many times, when we have embraced the trauma that was done to us, when it becomes our identity, we do anything we can to make that pain go away. Our intuition screams at us that we are not the thing we think we are, but we are beloved children of God. The fight between the identity of a victim or of what was done to you, and who you truly are, causes many to seek out ways to escape the conflict. Trauma survivors choose many ways to escape including addictions and becoming like the person who hurt them.

Life Come With the Light

Friends, this is NOT who we are supposed to be! It’s not how we are supposed to respond to the evil that is done to us! No! We are called and equipped to overcome the darkness and step into the light. Just because you have lived in darkness, either by your own choice to embrace it or due to other’s actions, doesn’t mean you have to stay there.

Jesus did not die for us and rise from the grave so that we could stay in the tombs created for us by trauma!

He has called us out of the darkness, out of the trauma, out of the false identity placed on us by trauma! We are meant to expose those evil men/women and behaviors that continue to perpetrate the darkness against the innocent!

This is part of the reason the enemy wants us to stay locked in the darkness he created in our lives. If we do not step out of the trauma and into the light of Christ, we won’t speak against the evil happening in our world. When we are so stuck in the hurt caused by what we never asked for nor deserve, we can’t speak the truth. Step out of your darkness today. What happened to you, is not your fault. However, choosing to embrace the darkness and live in that darkness rather than a life that is full and whole, is your fault. The battle to fight back the darkness is hard. But it’s a battle that we’ve already won in Jesus.

Be the one that speaks light into the dark. Expose the deeds and persons who are intentionally hurting innocents. Do not let anyone force your silence when you shine that spotlight. Make it harder for the dark to hide. Save your own and someone else’s life! Be the voice for those who don’t have one yet. Speak up. Speak out.

Take A Stand

Defiantly facing the threats in your life

Threats seem to be a constant presence in our everyday lives. Everything from the threat of failing to achieve your goals to the threat of violence and loss of freedom. The onslaught of these daily threats can overwhelm our internal system, and we no longer know how to face them. When we are afraid and overwhelmed, the survival brain overtakes our ability to think, rationalize, and make the right decisions beyond what we need to do for survival. This can keep us from moving. From standing against the things that threaten us. It can stop us from living our lives. But we can change that. We can choose to acknowledge the fear and the threats and learn how to stand.

Preparing for Battle

In the book of Nehemiah, chapter 4 the Israelites were facing similar threats and opposition to what we see today. Those in charge in neighboring towns were jealous and afraid of them rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. They wanted to control this group of autonomous people who submitted to God’s authority and not theirs. They conspired together to intimidate, threaten, and plan violence and destruction against them. Solely because of their selfishness and pride. The response of the Israelites is what inspired me to write about the idea of defiantly facing down the threats in our lives.

The Israelites had a leader, Nehemiah, who encouraged them to not be afraid and continue to do as God commanded them. Despite the opposition and threats. But he did not stop there. He acknowledged the threats, he accepted the truth that the individuals threatening them were not just “talking” but would carry them out given the chance. In light of the veracity of these threats, Nehemiah took half his men, stationed them around the city, armed them, and charged them with protecting the workers and the women and children living there. Additionally, he armed every male in the town, and they “worked with one hand, while carry their sword in the other.”

Instead of stopping in fear or for the sake of “compliance with authority,” they continued to do what God told them to do. They did so while being armed and ready for battle, should it come. They took a stand against these domestic enemies, readied themselves for battle, and continued to live their life as they were meant to.

Acknowledge and Identify the Enemies

When I see everything that is happening in our country and in the world right now, I see so many people kneeling in fear. People are willingly giving in to tyranny and evil. They are choosing to try and “comply” with unreasonable and dangerous demands from unstable and immoral people, instead of standing in our authority in Christ. Even believers, the elect and chosen, are falling into this trap and choosing to believe Satan’s lies and manipulation instead of believing in God’s word.

How can we stand, if we don’t acknowledge who the enemy is? How can we defend our families, our freedoms, and our authority in Christ, if we refuse to believe that we need to do that? Society screams “tolerance,” “for the greater good,” and calls evil by many names. The enemy has convinced so many people that to disagree, to present unbiased facts and evidence, and to not join in the panic, fear, and “righteous anger” is selfish, racists, dangerous, and must be stopped. Nothing in scripture agrees with this. There is no scriptural basis for tolerance, ignoring God’s commands for the “greater good” and evil is identified only as evil. There are direct contradictions to living this way throughout scripture, yet people are unwilling to stand out.

The enemy that threatens us are these lies that manipulate and create fear and those who act on them. Horrible things happen in this fallen and broken world. Selfishness, genuine entitlement, and pride, cause evil to reign in men’s hearts. However, we don’t have to be afraid of these threats. God commands us repeatedly in scripture to “fear not, be courageous, stand against the enemy, stand tall.” We are not meant to stop living our lives, to blindly comply with tyranny and immorality, or to “take a knee and bow” before ANYONE but God.

The threats and opposition against people who choose to go against society are real, and they can be intimidating. That does not mean we have to stop living our lives, pursuing our callings, or following God’s commands (to gather in worship, to stand against the enemy, for example). In fact, God tells us to take up arms and fight. We are commanded to stand and face these enemies. We are told directly and through illustration, to arm ourselves, physically and spiritually.

We are not told to blindly submit to authority. Submission to authority in scripture is consistent, as long as it does not violate God’s word. We are given numerous examples in scripture of the Israelites and Jesus defying the “authorities” in order to do what is right and honoring to God, however.

Stand Up and Stand Out

The modern church is so focused on not standing out. Leadership speaks about submission, compassion, and love (all of which are good), but fails to speak about God’s wrath, the need to and how to prepare for and wage battle, and how to stand against those people and things that dishonor God. We are a weak church, and the events of this year have illuminated that lukewarm faith and fear that has spread like yeast in God’s people. The churches in China, Iran, North Korea, and other communist countries, would never do what the American church has. Their people know oppression. They know violence. They believe in the threats leveled against them. But they believe in their God more. They know that they must defiantly stand against the immoral and tyrannical mandates to follow God, or they won’t stand at all.

It is time for us, as believers, and as Americans, to stop taking a knee, bowing, and blindly complying with what is happening in our culture. We must take a stand against ALL enemies and threats while living our lives and following God’s purpose for us. We cannot let evil of any kind, be it racism, violence, abortion, sexual immorality, abuse, or pride, continue unopposed. We have to choose to acknowledge the reality of these threats and stand to face them. We rely on God to fight our battles, but that doesn’t mean we sit back and just wait for him to work.

The Israelites knew this. They armed themselves, prepared for the battle, and trusted God to avenge them. They didn’t stop their work. They didn’t stop doing what they were meant to do. They didn’t stop living because of fear.

It’s time for us to do the same. Arm yourself, physically and spiritually, prepare to enter the battle that is already coming against us, and trust God to go ahead of you. Stop living in fear. Stop blindly complying and apologizing for things you’re not responsible for. Stand in our identity and authority in Christ and live your life as you were meant to.

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