Tag: covid-19

Thanksgiving in a Desperate World

Giving Thanks When Your Heart is Breaking

Today in the United States, we celebrate Thanksgiving. For so many, this year has been nothing but heartbreak, disappointment, pain, and fear. Many people have chosen not to travel. They have decided not to be with family. Untold numbers are forced to be alone, isolated. Because of the fear of a virus. Numerous states have even decided to attempt to fine or jail those who choose differently. Choosing to embrace life and gather to give thanks anyway.

Regardless of where you find yourself on the spectrum of fear and life there will be those who are alone and hurting. The holiday season tends to remind us of everything that we have lost. We see commercials, social media, and others tell us that we should all ignore the pain and be happy. Yet they remind us that we have lost loved ones. That we have lost our identities. That we have lost our freedom.

External reminders are nothing, however, compared to what we do to ourselves. Our minds are constantly looking to remind us of the pain. This is its desperate attempt to keep us from feeling that trauma again. We mourn and grieve the life we should have had, the life we were meant to live. And this year, many people will again navigate those emotional, physical, and spiritual reminders of what’s been lost or taken from them. They may also have to navigate the mental game of “well someone else has it worse…” A game that has devastating consequences.

This is a year when we have seen a sharp increase in suicides and additions. One with untold numbers of children and women being battered and abused. A year when it’s hard to even think about trying to find things to be thankful for. It seems that for so many, the demons of despair and fear are taking their toll. After all, you can only be exposed to despair and fear for so long before it starts to eat away at you.

Finding the Way

So how do we step forward today and for every day after that, choosing to turn away from the darkness that threatens to engulf us? We look at truth rather than lies. Choosing to hold onto evidence and hope, rather than give into panic and paranoia. Leaning into God, holding tight to His word. Which will always guide us home.

Truth is not fluid. Evidence is not subjective. These are two things which have absolutes and are irrefutable. It doesn’t matter what others think or believe if they are in contradiction to truth and evidence. This is where you find the hope to keep moving forward. The strength to offer us thanksgiving.

Evidence is only valid in one way. When coming from a source that does not have a vested interest in swaying your mind one way or the other. This kind of evidence is hard to come by this year. Everyone seems to want you to believe only one train of thought. The one that leads to compliance. One that silences the unafraid.

You cannot have a thankful perspective when you are unable to find truth and evidence. If all you hear are words of despair, then thankfulness cannot exist. Choosing to close your eyes to truth will not allow you to experience true thankfulness and life.

Truth

We are conditioned to think that we should be thankful for things as they are. That if we lament or grieve, then we are not “real” Christians. This often coming from people who wouldn’t know Christ if he was right in front of their faces, btw. But if that is true, why is there an ENTIRE chapter of the Bible called Lamentations? Oh and have you ever heard of the Prophet Jeremiah? Yeah, he’s called the weeping prophet for a reason!

No. We are allowed to lament, to grieve. What we are called to do, however, is follow that with thanksgiving. Not for how miserable our circumstances are, but for how good and faithful God is. We are not offering thanks for the pain, but for the promises and truth of who God says we are and who He is. Yes, you can find joy even in sorrow. In fact, you can both cry and laugh at the same times. When you seek to understand what in your world you can even begin to be thankful for this year, realize that you’re not supposed to necessarily be thankful for anything but God.

Those who tell us to thank God we’re alive today because so many people didn’t wake up, or to be thankful that it was ONLY one child we lost because so-and-so lost their whole family, or that your trauma ended long ago and so many people are still suffering so be thankful you’re out of it…yeah, those people have no idea what being thankful means. When you are still grieving the demons and ghosts in your life, sometimes the only thing you can cling to is the truth of God.

The Heartcry of Pain

And if you’re like me, and your traumas’ consequences involve a disconnect and anger with God at times, then you can be thankful that you have a God who can handle your anger and pain. Because I promise you, He can. If you ever doubt whether God can handle your heart cries of pain, then read the Psalms. David was a “man after God’s own heart,” yet the entire book of Psalms is filled with his heart cries. Just don’t stay there. Yes, we can cry out, but like David, we also need to speak out the truth of who God is.

Because God doesn’t change. He is the same, regardless of what our lives are like. His promises are good today like they were yesterday. So today when you are feeling alone, afraid, broken, and hurt, when you are trying desperately to find a single moment to be thankful for, remember who God is. Speak out the truth of God’s word and give thanks for the fact that, even when it doesn’t feel like it, God has and will always be by your side. That He will never leave you alone. That God will always remain, even when everything else fades away.

And remember. That truth of who God is, was the whole reason the pilgrims left England and came to what became the United States. They knew who God was, what He promised, and they refused to allow any government to tell them they couldn’t worship and give thanks to the true God who saves.

2020: The Year We Can’t Escape

Feeling trapped is never a good thing. As a trauma survivor, feeling trapped, backed into a corner, or being forced to do something against your will, wrecks your carefully built protections. This year has been a haven of chaos, orchestrated and naturally occurring, pain, and uncertainty. We’ve lived every day of our lives, at least since March, with a constant barrage of others telling us that we have to be afraid. We’ve been told that survival is not guaranteed, and unless we do exactly as they say, we, our children, our parents and grandparents, are probably going to die. We’ve been told that every part of the life we’ve been living, is now unsafe. All without the benefit of evidence from an uncompromised source that does not change every day on the whims of another.

We have been forced to comply in ways many of us would never choose and which are unproven to be helpful (and usually shown to be worse). Many of us have lost loved ones, our careers, our businesses, our sense of safety, and our ability to defend ourselves. We are forever in limbo, waiting and praying that nothing else will be taken from us.

Yet, now we are forced to wait to find out the fate of our country. Those who were supposed to protect our right to vote, whom we tasked to faithfully, and with integrity, count and deliver the results of our vote, have been repeatedly shown to fail at this. The evidence showing they have been choosing lies, manipulation, and blatant cheating, because they didn’t like how things were going, is astounding.

People often struggle to understand how someone could be traumatized by the events of this year. Many do not understand how a trauma survivor could be struggling with maintaining their level of healing and why survivors seem to be falling back into the thinking and behavior responses of their early healing journey. In fact, many of you, are wondering this same thing. Questions such as, Was I actually healing and getting better, or was it all in my head? And, If I was actually healthy, I wouldn’t be responding to these events in this way? You may be thinking such destructive thoughts as: I knew I wouldn’t get better. None of what has happened is even close to what I’ve gone through. This shouldn’t be bothering me.

2020: The year the world lived in a state of trauma

Trauma. This often misused, misunderstood, and dismissed experience, takes many forms. The definition of trauma from the Oxford Dictionary is: A deeply distressing or disturbing experience and/or emotional shock following a stressful event or a physical injury, which may be associated with physical shock and sometimes leads to long-term neurosis.

When you look back over your own personal experiences with everything 2020 has forced upon you, using that definition of trauma, it becomes easier to see how you and others have experienced trauma. This means that your body, mind, and soul have instinctual protective mechanisms in place to respond to the trauma. You don’t have to experience a massive horrific trauma in order to be traumatized.

Trauma responses take numerous forms. Being “on edge” all the time, being overly cautious and sensitive to the changes in others behavior or your environment, feelings of sadness, fear, and anger that seem out of proportion with the moment. These are all instinctual trauma responses that are out of our control. When our mind has been alerted that something is very wrong, we respond from that animal instinct place in our brain. It’s automatic, and NOT something that you can control just because you “shouldn’t” feel “this” way.

Healing and Trauma

When you are already a trauma survivor, the trauma of this year, can reactivate or worsen symptoms of PTSD. It can worsen your already activated trauma responses. This does not mean that the healing you’ve experienced isn’t real. This is something that I’ve struggled with all year. The reality that I can be healthy and relatively healed from previous traumas and still react to new traumas like I’m stuck in the past. The “I shouldn’t react like this anymore” feelings and thoughts can overwhelm you.

What we need to realize is that when we experience another trauma, the reactions that we are so familiar with, come again. Not because there’s something wrong with you, but because trauma automatically activates those fight/flight/freeze/comply reactions. That part of our mind doesn’t care that we’ve “worked on this” already. It doesn’t understand that we don’t need to react with that same intensity we did before we began healing. That part of our brain is only focused on protecting us from the immediate threat.

Responding to this new Trauma

Healing from your past trauma doesn’t mean that you won’t respond to further trauma in your life. For some with Complex PTSD, the reactions feel and are stronger than before. This is because the more trauma reactions to pile on top of each other, the more power they have. However, these reactions don’t have to control us. We can’t stop our brains from having a trauma response when we feel threatened, but we can learn and practice ways to retrain our brains, calm our vagus nerve (which runs from the base of your skull throughout your torso) which calms our central nervous system down. We can practice mindfulness tools that bring our minds and bodies in line with each other. When our minds and bodies are connected, we are more able to notice our body beginning to ramp up, even before we’re conscious of the trigger. This allows us to intervene before our thinking brain goes offline into a fight/flight/freeze/comply response.

Numerous resources exist for us to learn to practice tools to address our anxious feelings, trauma responses, and mindfulness. These tools allow us to address current and past trauma responses, working on healing while we’re in the middle of the trauma of 2020. The tools liked above are only a sample of what’s available. I personally use The Tapping Solution regularly myself. In my newsletter this week, I will link additional resources for you to explore.

Regardless of how you feel about 2020, chances are you are or have struggled through it. You might feel lost, scared, angry, dissociated, or any combination of things. This is the normal reaction we all have when we have to endure a seemingly never-ending series of traumas. Give yourself permission to feel what you need to feel, have compassion and grace for yourself, and give yourself space to walk through the nightmare that is this year.

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