Tag: ptsd (Page 1 of 3)

Sex Trafficking and Child Exploitation

The Normalization of Child Abuse

As a “civilized” society, the idea that the brutality of sex trafficking and child sexual abuse becoming normalized, is abhorrent. Yet this is where we are as a country and throughout the world today. The movement to normalize deviant sexual behavior and to in fact, celebrate such as “freedom,” has created the environment where the most effective predators no longer have to hide but are free to perpetrate these atrocities in plain sight.

The trauma and pain suffered by these innocent victims is so destructive that many are unable to fully recover if they are ever rescued. These children, whom we as adults are ordered to protect, have been intentionally handed over to people whose only purpose is to use them for their own evil desires.

The Consequences of a Pandemic

The consequences of this year and the overly restrictive “lock down” and isolation procedures enacted by governments has created a vacuum for predation. The closure of schools, increases in online schooling and education forums, and an increase in unrestricted access to the internet, has forced victims or potential victims into close contact with predators. This, as well as the shelter in place orders, have forced victims into the constant presence of their perpetrators. This has drastically increased the number of victims, as well as the anonymity of their predators.

children lying on sofa and using gadgets
Photo by Jessica Lewis on Pexels.com

Perpetrators have also had an extraordinary amount of free time to increase their grooming tactics to lure victims online or to force compliance with their deviance. Technologically savvy predators have been able to spend an inexorable amount of time creating and consuming images and videos of child sexual abuse on the dark net. The recent arrest of hundreds of perpetrators and the rescue of hundreds of child victims, reinforces this truth.

Netflix and What?

Last month, Netflix released a movie poster for their new movie, Cuties. The backlash to this poster was immediate and brutal. Why? Because the poster showed young girls dancing in sexually suggestive poses. But this did not stop the streaming giant from releasing this movie. Instead, they apologized for the “grossly inappropriate” poster for the upcoming movie and replaced it, and the description of the show (Amy, 11, becomes fascinated with a twerking dance crew. Hoping to join them, she starts to explore her femininity, defying her family’s traditions), with something mild and seemingly innocent.

siblings sitting on a couch and looking at a laptop
Photo by August de Richelieu on Pexels.com

When in fact the movie was release, it became immediately apparent that the original poster and movie description was accurate. They even go so far as to claim pedophilia is religion and therefore they are supportive of “creative freedom.” This movie is about a group of young girls who join a sexually suggestive dance troupe and learn to twerk, show their breasts, and grind. The movie is nothing short of soft-core pornography for pedophiles. And Netflix is proud of that. In fact the movie’s producer, outraged at the “accusations” of exploitation defends this disgusting main stream movie as a “feminist voice” that illuminates child exploitation. Crying that she just wanted to show people what girls go through and especially, what minority girls go through (her words, not mine).

Netflix has often been the go to for families to have a library of movies and shows that are appropriate for their children to watch alone. Turn on Netflix and just keep it on, not really monitoring the ads or what shows follow the initial selection. Because “Cuties” is marketed as a show meant to decry sexual exploitation, but in fact is the exact thing they claim to be railing against. This platform has become a haven for pornographic and sexually gratuitous shows marketed to a young audience and interspersed within seemingly kid friendly shows. This serves to groom kids into normalizing adult/child sexual behavior. It’s what predators do.

2020. The Year of Predation and Exploitation

While child exploitation and abuse has been a constant in the underbelly culture of this world, 2020 has seen it normalized and defended by the media and high ranking politicians. The rest of us who are guided by God, morals, and common human decency, are being shown, many for the first time, what the real consequences are when society excuses and ignores deviant sexual behavior. What happens when the same, protect and defend the perpetrators of such heinous behavior.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) has seen a 106% increase for global reports of online exploitation. In India, for example, there has been a 95% increase in online searches for child sexual abuse content. Other countries have also seen this increase in predatory behavior. This real pandemic has been receiving more attention over the last few years as a result of the arrest of Jeffrey Epstein, a prominent and well-connected pedophile who regularly flew high ranking entertainers and government officials, to a private island where hundreds of innocent children were brutalized by these men and women.

woman dark eye spooky
Photo by Rene Asmussen on Pexels.com

While Epstein died awaiting his trial, his former partner was arrested and hundreds of documents listing other perpetrators has been released. The torrent of identified perpetrators and what they had been doing began the end of July, when numerous government officials had explained to us would be the end of the constant lock-downs and restrictions from COVID. Yet he we are, 2 months after that, with never-ending extensions in Democratic run states, and what seems to be an enormous effort to ignore this damning evidence.

This is what these innocent victims are facing. Not just the devastating consequences to themselves and their lives from this trauma, but the reality that the people who are supposed to protect them, are in fact, protecting their perpetrators.

The COVID-19 restrictions have reduced the workforce available to identify and rescue these victims as well. The number of children identified and freed, has consistently been lower, with the exceptions of the large raids that have taken place, than in previous years. This means more victims are being brutalized and are unable to escape, than in the past.

Our Response

As adults, it is our duty to protect children. This does not matter if they are your children or not. We are ordered to protect children and scripture paints the picture of what happens to those who hurt children. Many, if not most, adults, are more than willing to protect children but are unsure how to do so. I would like to lay out some steps that we as parents, teachers, coaches, and family members, should be doing to ensure our children are safe.

family of four walking at the street
Photo by Emma Bauso on Pexels.com

1. We should all be paying attention and be present. When something feels or seems off, it probably is. We need to stop rationalizing away those checks in our soul, our instincts, and start listening to what we are sensing.

2. Children do not need us to be their best friend, they need us to be the adults. Children have do not need unsupervised online time, nor do they need privacy in their social media. Children are not fully capable of understanding the consequences of what they are doing. This is why they need us. This goes beyond keeping electronics in common areas and refusing to allow unchecked phones and computers. It requires us to have the hard conversations much earlier than we think we should. By age 8, almost all children have been exposed to pornography. Waiting for the school to talk about sex, etc. isn’t going to protect them, and will not communicate your love and values to them. Talk to you kids about sex.

3. Children do not need to be treated like little adults. They do not need to be able to watch whatever they want, play whichever games they want, spend the night at whomever’s house they want, etc. Children need to be loved, respected, and guided. Take the time to know your child’s friends, and their families. Know your neighbors. Be engaged in their schools, with their teachers, and the after school activities. Lead their troops. Coach their teams. Go to parent-teacher conferences and ask questions. Our children need us to help them learn how to protect themselves, but they also need to know we will protect them from themselves as well.

4. Be present in every aspect of your child’s life. Listen to their stories, play with them, put your damn phone down and do life with them. If you are not in their life, they become easy targets and someone else WILL fill that void.

5. Stop forcing your children to hug/kiss/spend time with people they do not want to. A child should ALWAYS be able to say no. Even to family members. No child (or adult for that matter) should be forced to sit on someone’s lap, give someone a hug or kiss, when they don’t want to. This teaches them that they do not matter and that they have to do what they’re told, even when they are uncomfortable. This is how children learn to be compliant victims. They learn that what they feel and think doesn’t get to protect them. That they cannot set boundaries and say no to adults.

5. Finally, stop going with the flow. Stop complying with everything your told. Teach your children that just because an adult or someone in authority tells you to do something, doesn’t mean they have to do it. Children are not often victimized by strangers. Most often it’s the adults in their lives, older children in their lives, who are abusing them. Teach them that it is acceptable to disagree with an adult. That it is ok to tell an adult ‘no’ if that adult is demanding they do something that goes against their beliefs, what you have told them, or that causes them to be unsafe.

Children do not need to shut up and do what they are told. They need to understand that their body is theirs, and that no one gets to decide what they have to do. Adults are often wrong. Predatory adults and older children will ALWAYS make their targeted victims feel uncomfortable. ALWAYS. Children haven’t learned to ignore their instincts. They will tell you something is wrong if you take the time to listen to what they are saying.

Protecting children is not a suggestion. It’s compulsory. If you are not willing to change some parts of your life so that you can raise healthy and safe children, then don’t have children. Selfishness and parenting do not work together. It’s up to us to stop this downward spiral into normalizing and decriminalizing child exploitation and abuse. Take a stand for those who cannot speak for themselves. Fight for those who are still prisoners to their perpetrators. In doing so, you may save your own children as well. Show up, be present, and do life with your children. You will never regret that time. But you will live your life regretting what could happen if you don’t.

Resources

The Dirty Dozen 2020-List produced annually by NCMEC for companies that facilitate the exploitation of children

https://www.unicef.org/coronavirus/keep-your-child-safe-online-at-home-covid-19

NCMEC: https://www.missingkids.org/home

Protecting Kids: https://brightside.me/inspiration-family-and-kids/10-essential-pieces-of-advice-for-how-to-protect-your-child-331810/

Protecting Kids Online: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/topics/protecting-kids-online

The Heart’s Cry

Releasing Yourself From the Burden of Silence

We Have Permission to Lose Control

Lamentations 2:19 tells us to “Arise, cry out in the night…pour out our hearts like water before the presence of the Lord.”

We are literally told to cry out in anguish, to scream and shout as if an intruder is invading our camp in the night. There is such power and truth in those moments of raw pain and anger. Releasing all the barriers we’ve put up to keep those emotions hidden, releases us. Yet we resist. We allow society, religion, and others around us, to tell us how to handle our grief and suffering, instead of seeking God’s truth.

How many of us have been told that we can’t be angry with God? That we can’t scream and question and yell at the one who created us? That we should be content and have joy in our suffering, every time? Often the scripture that talks about the clay challenging the potter is a favorite quote. I’ve repeatedly been told, or it’s been insinuated, that my anger, my grief, my pain, is wrong. That expressing grief and hurt like I do is too much. That if I just “gain perspective” about my suffering I will be able to just move on. In reality, the deepest pain that we can endure, the brokenness that shatters our soul, can’t be kept silent without causing us harm.

The people who say these things, often, do not mean to hurt us. People who are regurgitating what they’ve been told or are genuinely afraid of their own extreme emotions, are rarely trying to hurt us. When someone is afraid of dealing with their own pain, they tend to shame those who aren’t and attempt to shut down others’ expressions of pain as well. These are people we love, or that we look to for guidance and help. Reaching out for help and being are shut down and shamed for our pain stops the grieving process that sets us free!

No, we are not meant to hold in and silence our pain. The Bible literally gives us permission to come before God in anguish. With screams and hurt that can only be verbalized in groans. We have God’s permission to come before Him no matter where we are in our mind, body, soul, and spirit. So why would anyone else’s opinions on this matter? If God says come, shouldn’t we come? Ask yourself if you are free to cry out to God. If not, ask yourself why.

Why Should I Stay Silent When All I Want Is to Scream?

I don’t know about you, but when I’ve been hurt beyond my ability to “handle it,” it’s almost as if the pain takes on a life of its own. Being still and quiet is not the way my mind, body, and soul express pain. I was created to be animated, passionate, and unwavering in how I pursue my life. In my pain and suffering, that doesn’t change. The idea that I am required to go against my nature, to violate the way God created me to express myself, is actually an invitation into sin. When we go against who we are meant to be, we are saying God made a mistake, and we “shouldn’t” be this way. And usually, if I’ve gone silent, it’s not a good thing for anyone, especially if you’re the one who has caused the pain…

Why, if we are supposed to be silent in our pain, does God tell us that “when we don’t know what to pray for, the Spirit cries out in groans that we cannot understand?” If the Holy Spirit cries out in groans, I’m pretty sure that we should be able to do the same thing. We are, after all, made in the image of the Triune God. The Bible is full of examples of individuals (Jeremiah the weeping prophet and King David anyone?), including Christ Himself, pouring out their tears before the altar of God’s throne.

Beyond that, why would anyone demand that we not express our pain and hurt before God? We are supposed to bring our anxieties, cares, and hurts before the loving God who is the only One who will ever truly know us. Relationships require us to interact with God, it’s one of the reasons we exist in the first place. How will we ever allow God to meet our needs and bring us comfort and peace beyond our ability, if we never release all the hurt and pain that is creating the walls around our heart? As believers, we have to begin questioning the intention and scriptural validity of what we are being told to do. We have the Holy Spirit for a reason. Part of the reason is so that we can hear that “still small voice” telling us something isn’t in line with God.

What is Really Happening When Silence is Demanded

Forcing someone to stay silent when their physical body cannot hold in the sounds of pain, is a form of torture and control. It’s what predators do to their victims…force them to stay silent. If we look at the way pain and suffering is handled within this society and within the churches, we see this same systematic silencing of victims, especially women and children. Women and children who take a chance to go to church leadership, law enforcement, or anyone who is in a position to help them, are often left shamed and re-victimized. And men are rarely allowed to experience suffering beyond expressions of anger. No wonder our society is full of suffering and pain! Imagine what would happen if everyone was able to feel what they need to feel without shame?

When you are not allowed to speak about and confess your pain and hurt, when you are forced to stay silent, the pain of that makes whatever you are going through exponentially worse. While not everyone tries to silence you out of a desire to hurt you, the end purpose is always to control you. To change what you need, to match what they want or believe. All the more why we should allow ourselves permission to come before the throne of God and be as loud as needed to release the pain inside us.

God did not create us to remain silent in our pain. There are numerous examples in scripture where Holy men and women, the disciples, and Jesus Himself, cry out in anguish over what is happening. When we learn that Jesus is in such anguish over what He has to do that He is literally sweating blood, how can anyone tell us that we can’t feel the same intense pain? Christ was called a “man of sorrows” for a reason. While He did not STAY crying out in pain and suffering, He absolutely grieved when it was needed to cleanse and refocus. He regularly withdrew to pray and commune with God. It is ridiculous to believe that Jesus did not include cries of His heart in his communion with His Father.

Freedom Comes When We Honor That Part of Us Hurting and Needing Release

Often times we get stuck in a cycle of grieving because we don’t allow ourselves to grieve as we need to. We look to the advice of others because we do not believe what we know we need to do. Many times, we are so afraid that if we open the door to truly pour out every ounce of anguish and bitterness in our soul, we will stay there. When in truth, refusing to release the pain you are feeling, internalizing it and silencing your heart’s cry, is the thing that keeps you where you don’t want to be. Repeating lessons and pain in different areas of your life, is God’s call to you to fully open yourself up to Him. God is calling to you from the depths of your pain and hurt, waiting for you to turn to Him and let Him comfort and redeem your pain.

Jesus is the Great Comforter and our Healer. He redeems what has been taken from our lives in ways we can’t possibly imagine. But we have to let Him in so that He can move in our lives. Trying to control your pain, to “stay strong” or comparing your suffering to others, prevents God from being able to move. God will never force Himself or His will upon us. He offers what He has promised, and we get to choose to let Him in.

If you are in physical, emotional, and spiritual pain as a result of trauma and the things of this broken world, why are you holding on to it? Instead of begging God to change whatever it is or getting angry when He doesn’t do want you want Him to, why not try a true heart cry? Give yourself permission to say whatever you need to, in whatever way you want, to the God who sees you. Give God everything that hurts then be still and let Him fill you and comfort you!

Some of the biggest turning points in my own healing have come from these gut-wrenching, guttural cries from the depths of my wounded heart. God is waiting for you to let Him in. Cry out to Him today, and release the “control” you have created to not feel the pain. When you pour yourself out before God, I promise you He won’t let you stay there, and He will fill you up in ways you never knew you needed.

Safety, Hope, and the Onsite Foundation

What does hope look like? What does it mean to feel safe for the first time in your life? How can these things create an environment where you can truly begin to heal from the traumas that have shaped the landscape of your life?

An Unforseen Opportunity

At the beginning of March, I had a unique and unparalleled opportunity to attend a workshop addressing the trauma of being a mass shooting survivor. This was an opportunity I never had after surviving the Columbine Massacre in 1999. Another survivor spoke to me about the program, and I will admit, my first instinct was to see how I could help. I am a trauma specialist after all, it made sense for me to want to come alongside a program specifically aimed at mass shooting survivors. I inquired into coming on board with the program and then thought nothing more about it.

Funny how the things we avoid tend to assert themselves even stronger. The phrase “what we resist, persists” is very fitting. Being someone who has consistently avoided many things surrounding the Columbine Massacre even to this day, the idea of opening up that wound again was not appealing. I’ve always done the work, but also held a lot at arms length. I did not “want to go there” so many times that I convinced myself that I didn’t need to.

When my friend got back to me about joining the foundation, they were excited about the opportunity I presented, but everyone they work with has to go through the program first. If I wanted to help, I needed to travel this healing path myself.

What I Didn’t Know

Into the Unknown

When I said yes to the process of attending the program, I had no idea what I was really saying yes to. I did all the research I could on the Onsite Foundation and the Triumph over Tragedy Program (TOT) offered. The part of the program that appealed to me the most was the idea of having 7 glorious days of uninterrupted me time. Healing from whatever God brought me to. The fact that the setting for the program in Cumberland Furnace, TN, a 250 acre property that is beyond idyllic and serene, didn’t hurt either.

It was the second day of the program that I begin to feel the strong, visceral resistance to the work. I did not want to experience the pain. The crux of the program is somatic experiencing. Your body knows how to heal itself, but we get in the way. In order to heal from the pain, you have to grieve what happened. It’s not possible to break free from the past if you are unwilling to experience the strong emotions and responses associated with your traumas.

Apparently, I also developed a strong inclination and ability to not really feel what trauma had done in my mind and body. This was the cause of my strong resistance to the work. But I had chosen to embrace this opportunity no matter what God asked me to do.

Taking a deep breath and choosing to dive into the unknown, I experienced something I’ve never experienced before. Safety, a sense of truly being safe in a place and with the people in my group. We became a family. Bonded by tragedy, strengthened by the process of being known and seen, and not judged or devalued.

A sense of safety, being fully known and seen, created the exact environment needed for healing. Experiencing that I can feel the emotions and not die or get stuck in them, opened up the door to healing I didn’t know I had shut.

Reconnecting Me To Me

Our minds and bodies are intricately intertwined. Trauma breaks that connection between our mind and body. Our mind or our body is loudly screaming at us that something is not right, but we don’t always get that message the right way. The tendency to seek out medical help for physiological symptoms such as digestive issues, chronic pain, autoimmune, and other physiological concerns, is a consequence of this disconnection.

Your body will always remember what your mind forgets.

Our signals get crossed, and we don’t relate the onset of these physiological symptoms with a traumatic event. The rational mind can’t make sense of what the body is feeling because it is stuck in a memory loop of our trauma. A loop driven by the primal, unthinking, part of the brain.

Your mind will always be working to try to resolve your stuck trauma. It will cause you to remember in whatever way it can so that you can heal. Many times this is what triggers panic, anxiety, irrational fear, paranoia, and vivid nightmares. A key indicator of unhealed trauma is whether you still respond strongly to the events or memories of them.

This disconnect between mind and body is the focus of somatic experiencing. The goal being to reconnect us to ourselves. When we are connected, we can heal. If we are dissociated from ourselves, we stay stuck in trauma. We live in the past, in the present.

Goals

Onsite is the first program of its kind and it is incredibly unique and effective. Through the somatic experiencing process, the incredible knowledge of the group leaders and educators, I left with a new perspective on my trauma.

The goal at Onsite is NOT complete and total healing. The expectation of complete healing in a week would cause immense shame and further trauma because no one would get there. The goal is a 1-2 degree change. The illustration of a pilot is helpful. If a pilot shifted his course by 1-2 degrees he’d end up in a completely different and unexpected place.

So it is with us. 1-2 degrees of change will alter the trajectory of our lives.

Changing course

Being able to embrace the knowledge I already had as the truth for myself as well as everyone else, set me free to experience change. Realizing that the parts of me that I was so determined to eradicate are not my enemy and meant to protect me, let me see my pain for what it is.

Moving Forward

After this week, I came home to shut-down and shelter in place orders. I was thrust from a safe, healing environment, into toxic chaos and lack of control. The transition was extremely hard, and I am still learning and recovering from the abrupt change. Because of the work I did at Onsite, I am able to navigate this chaos in a very different way.

I am stronger. I am healthier. I am still on that healing journey.

The process began that week, and I am continuing it now. Healing from trauma is complicated, messy, hard, painful, and takes time. Instant, magic pills, do not exist. Trauma does not simply go away. Your body and mind will always try to force you to stop ignoring the trauma and heal.

Embrace the bad with the good. Realize that you are interacting with the world through the lens of your trauma response. Believe that you can heal. Then take the next step forward on your journey to freedom.

A Letter to A Survivor

From A Survivor

Right now you are in shock. You’re broken, numb, and wondering what just happened. You’re questioning everything. You’re life no longer makes sense. You are desperately trying to undo what has happened, but you know that you will never be able to undo this. You understand that your life has been forever changed. Tomorrow you will have to return to life in some capacity. You cannot comprehend how everyone else’s worlds did not just shatter like yours did. You are wondering how you will ever breathe again, let alone go back to a “normal” routine. As you lay your head down tonight, you wonder if you will ever sleep again, whether or not you will be consumed by nightmares, and if you will ever be OK again.

What you won’t hear from most people, especially those who have never survived these horrible things, is that, you’re not supposed to go back to being who you were before. Witnessing and surviving most people’s nightmares should leave you questioning everything. It is the people who are not changed by trauma that are the most unhealthy and detached. The truth is that the life you lived before you survived is no longer there. You are not the same, you will never be the same, you will never go back to the way it was before. And that is ok. It’s completely healthy, normal, and human. Embracing these truths rather than trying to live in the before, is what will allow you to heal. To finally be OK again.

After Columbine, being a senior, my classmates and I had to navigate this nightmare without any resources or connections. We were simply dismissed and ignored while the rest of the school were given everything they could ever need. Because of this, we had to learn how to survive on our own. I had to learn what was wrong with my by doing research and studying my psychology text books. I had to learn what treatments were most effective for Complex Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), or PTSD that has been compounded by additional traumas. No one knew how to help us. No one knew what to do, so they just ignored the problems and let us flounder alone. The result of that, for me, was a 5 year dissociative black-out in which I have very few memories and essentially existed without any cognitive or coherent life. Some of my classmates succumbed to addictions or resigned themselves to be barely functional for the rest of their lives. Some of my classmates founded The Rebels Project, which is a non-profit that provides those resources we never had to other survivors of mass shootings.

Right now, you don’t really care about any of that because you are in the middle of your nightmare, not 20 years removed from it. But you will care soon, the numb will wear off, and you will start to feel everything. It will feel like every thought, emotion, body sensation, is magnified exponentially, and you will again start to question everything, hope for something to change, but wonder if you will ever get out of the black cloud that surrounds you. You are now part of a community of survivors, a community that we never asked for, never wanted, but desperately need. You will need people who know exactly what you went through, people who are struggling like you, people who have healed and taken back the life that evil threatened to destroy. This is why The Rebels Project and trauma specialists exists. So that you never feel alone in this journey to reclaiming your life and healing.

This is why I wrote my book, Healing the Invisible Wounds of Trauma: A Columbine Survivor’s Story, and why I am a certified trauma specialist working in private practice. My path to healing and regaining my life was more difficult than was necessary. I do not want you or anyone else to have to suffer more, or for longer, than you already have. I want you to know that you:

  • are not crazy
  • are not alone
  • are not a monster 
  • you are completely normal
  • that you are responding exactly as you should when you survive a nightmare
  • that there is absolutely hope for the future

You can heal, you can break free and regain the life that was taken, you can be OK again.

Those of us who are part of this not so exclusive community of mass shooting survivors have been there before, or are just beginning the journey towards healing. If what you’re doing isn’t working, try something else. Not every treatment for PTSD works for everyone. That is OK if some things don’t work for you but work for another. We are unique, we are individuals whose response to trauma is influenced by our past, our perceptions, and our life experiences. No one will react or respond the same way, even if they were right next to you and experienced the exact same thing you did.

The most important thing you can do now, is take care of yourself. Sleep if you need to, get away if you need to, cry if you need to. It is not selfish to put your healing above other things that used to dominate your life. Reach out. Do not suffer alone or in silence. You are not alone. 20 years ago, there was nothing. Now, we know how to heal from trauma. Those of us who are both survivors and counselors have made it our mission to reach those who are suffering and who have lost hope that things will ever change. There are many people and professionals, who can help you navigate this winding and bumpy road that is healing. Your family and friends may never understand what you’re dealing with, but someone else will. There is always another person to turn to, another treatment to try, another day to live.

When you wake up tomorrow, after a long night of nightmares and exhaustion, you will be OK. Tomorrow, reach out and ask for help. Don’t wait until you’re in a dark hole before you ask for help.

When you wake up tomorrow, go outside, breathe in the light of a new day, engage every sense you have to experience the world around you. Then choose to take that hard first step to reclaiming your life and healing.

Choose Life

Over the last week, a community that I belong to, one that is filled with survivor’s of mass shootings, has been rocked by a series of suicides. Two of these suicides were completed by teenagers who had survived the Parkland School Shooting, the other was the father of a victim of the Sandy Hook Shooting. I know that suicides following mass tragedies are not uncommon, that survivor’s guilt and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can lead to irrational thinking and severe depressive symptoms and hopelessness, however, there is something about this last set of three that feels harder than others.

Being the survivor of a traumatic event, especially one in which some people did not make it out alive, is one of the most heart breaking, life shattering, identity crushing events that you can experience. Any form of trauma leaves you devastated, confused, hurting, and lost. Surviving something that you do not think you should have survived, or dismissing your own suffering because you are comparing you trauma to that of the person next to you, does not just resolve itself over time. Time is a necessary component to healing, but so is work, effort, making a choice to never give up, and refusing to allow the enemy who tried to destroy you to win. 

There are many well meaning people who spout off cliches and words that they seem are going to be helpful, but unless you have survived and healed from these traumas, those things just make it worse. There are things that survivors need, and there are things that you should not say to them and are only doing so because you’re uncomfortable and want to make yourself feel better. Stop. Stop saying what you think they want to hear because you are uncomfortable watching someone suffer. Stop using cliches and religious statements that really have nothing to do with healing and are more often than not taken out of context and offer no help. Just stop. And think.

20 years removed from the Columbine Massacre which I survived, treatment and resources that are available for survivor’s is immensely more effective and much more readily available. We can seek help and find true hope and healing in our lives, but it requires us to do the work. Not just once, but every single day. As someone 20 years removed from my most significant trauma, I still struggle. The anniversary is and always will be hard. Watching the news or not being careful with social media will always be somewhat of a trigger. I have healed, more or less, from that trauma, however, healing doesn’t mean that the struggle doesn’t still exist. It doesn’t mean that something out of the blue won’t pop up and send me into a tailspin.

Healing and life requires attention and intention. You cannot allow yourself to become complacent in your pursuit of emotional, psychological, spiritual, and physical health. Healing also requires that you let people know how you are struggling and allow them to help you. You see surviving trauma isolates us. We belong to a growing and exclusive group that no one wants to be a part of, but we still believe the lie that we can’t make it, that we are suffering in a way no one would understand, and that we really should be over it by now so we’re not going to tell anyone that we still struggle. We continually have to take control of our thoughts, and choose to decide that even if the thought of death or suicide comes into our minds, we will completely reject it, no matter what. 

I’ve worked with and seen many people who have not chosen to eliminate suicide as a potential out for their suffering. Inevitably, these are the people who suffer immensely more than they ever need to because if you don’t reject death, the enemy of our souls will use every opportunity to convince you that death is not only a valid option, but the only option. There have been many times in my own healing where I wished that I could just sleep for a long time, or that I wouldn’t wake up until everything was over, but that is vastly different than entertaining the thoughts of it would be better if I was gone and that the suffering is to much and I’m not strong enough to cope. Death is never the option, you can never allow that to be an option for you. 

Suicides are tragic in so many ways, but mostly because the pain that the individual was suffering from is often hidden, and then is magnified and heaped upon those who survive your death. Every single issue that we face in this world, the pain, the hurt, the darkness, the seemingly endless pursuit for our minds/bodies/souls, is temporary. Temporary in this world. We do not have to wait for death in order to be free from whatever we’re struggling with. 

We were created for so much more than a temporary existence full of suffering and pain. Yet so many of us, especially survivor’s, choose not to believe that and choose to give up. The suicide rate in this world is astronomical. There are literally hundreds of people giving up, letting their enemies win, and cutting their life short because the fight for freedom is hard. When you lean on yourself and only yourself, when you white knuckle your life, you will fail. Everytime. 

You cannot survive and thrive in this life without God, without friends, and without family whom you actually allow into your darkness. It. Is. Impossible. You may exist, but you will be miserable and so will everyone else around you. Survivor’s of trauma, us, we have to choose to pursue life, to pursue healing, and to allow the things we’ve survived to shape us, not destroy us. That is the only way to find yourself and find life again. 

My heart is broken for the families of the three who took their own lives, who cut short their opportunity for a real life free of pain and suffering, because now their families have become the new trauma survivors. Their loved ones now have to add that devastation, the survivor’s guilt, the pain and suffering that the person was dealing with to their own immense experience of the same. Suicide does not fix the problem, it removes every single possibility to be free. Suicide allows the people who hurt you to completely eradicate you and remove the powerful purpose that you would have achieved had you kept going. They win. You and everyone else around you loses. Everytime.

I don’t know about you, but I absolutely refuse to allow those psychopaths who tried to kill me and who stole a decade of my life to ever win again, to ever have any say over my life ever again.

Healing from trauma is horrible, it’s painful, it’s messy, it’s complicated, and it is a battle you never should have had to fight. However, you are in that battle for a reason. Find the reason and choose not to ever allow death to be the “out if it gets to hard.” Because it will get to hard. It will always be to hard for you to handle alone. Without God, without Him holding you and carrying you through the pain of your trauma and the nightmare of your healing, it will always be beyond what you can handle. 

You did not choose this battle, but you do get to choose who wins the war. Will you allow those evil, hateful people who took everything from you continue to destroy you until you die? Or will you get mad and say, ENOUGH! You do not get any more of my life? One decision will lead you to healing and a life you could never imagine. One decision will lead you to death, either by suicide, addiction, or slowly ceasing to exist. 

That decision is yours alone to make. You choose life or death, every single time you wake up and choose to fight or to give up. What choice will you make today?

 

That Thorn in Your Side is a Creative Lie from the Enemy of our Soul to Keep us in Chains. There is another way to FREEDOM

I’ve been in pain for as long as I can remember. Seemingly out of nowhere I began to realize that I was not able to function the way I was supposed to function. This began at a very young age and has plagued me my entire life. At least as long, I have been trapped in a body that I couldn’t control, feeling like I was living a lie because I knew that I wasn’t who I was supposed to be, but there was nothing that I did that seemed to be able to change these factors. Nothing I tried provided true relief from my pain and my struggles with my body and my health. I must have tried literally almost everything available in order to gain some semblance of control over my body and my health. I grew despondent, frustrated, and more times than I can count, gave up on trying to be healthy, trying to heal, and just resigned myself to be unhealthy and in pain for the rest of my life. I punished myself with the ferver of the Pharisees, and beat myself up every chance I got because I could not change.

The longer I waged this war with myself, the worse I became. Before long, I was a shell of the person I knew I was meant to be. The hope for a life that I was meant to live, the experience of the calling on my life a distant memory. I wasn’t happy, but it was more than that. I was angry, hateful, seeking revenge on myself and my body for the perceived flaws and what felt like self-sabotage. I hated myself which meant that in turn, I hated pretty much everyone else too. I knew that I was not who I was meant to be, and I hated myself for the fact that I could do nothing to change it. I believed the lie, that this was the way it was meant to be, and daresay, I believed that I deserved the pain, I deserved to suffer and to be plagued with my existence because of the things that I had done. Ironically though, in early childhood, there were not many things that I had done that were horrible enough to evoke such senseless rage against myself.

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But our minds are not always rational, especially when you have given control of your body and soul to the one thing that never should have had any claim to your existence. When I began counseling following the shootings, a lot of the work focused on this anger and rage towards others and towards myself. I made a lot of progress, I figured a lot out about the root cause of all of it and was able to regain control over the hatred and rage towards others. Until recently though, I have not been able to tame the beast inside my head that wants to destroy the very fabric of my being and rip my heart to shreds with the things he speaks to me inside my head. I have fed that beast for many years, allowing it more and more access to the inner parts of my mind, soul, and body. Every time trying to fight back harder, but every time failing to gain control over the ravenous appetite of this beast. That is the nature of the beast that seeks to steal, kill, and destroy, he makes you believe that he is unstoppable. All he wants is destruction. If he can destroy one of God’s people and keep them from becoming who God created them to be, then he takes great delight in doing so.

The reality is that we are all broken people. Every single one of us has experienced things in life that left us wounded, broken and hurting. For whatever reason, the enemy is allowed to be present when we are at our most vulnerable and that is when he is able to sneak in and offer something to us that we are usually too weak to resist. The idea of bargaining with the devil is a great story plot in Hollywood, but we play that game unwittingly when we are the most hurt. He offers us the idea of peace, the ability to forgot what has happened, or any other tantalizing things that in our broken state, coupled by immaturity, we willing accept what is offered to take the pain away.

What in your life is the thing that you cannot change? No matter what you do, no matter how often you pray, no matter how good of a Christian you are, you struggle to defeat the things in your life that you know are not really who you are, but that control your existence in ways you never thought would happen. I used to believe that this was the proverbial “thorn in my side” like Paul talks about in 2 Corinthians 12, but what if it’s not. What if that is another lie that we believe, that we must endure because this is what we were given to “humble” us? There have been many times that I believed that, but then I turned around and screamed at God for allowing such pain and suffering to exist in my life. My perspective has changed, significantly.

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I have a counselor who was desperately looking for a treatment for trauma that provided real healing and that was permanent. She found Splankna. I had never heard of it, but she gave me a brief synopsis and we went to work. In April, I was able to receive the first level of training in this same protocol and became an apprentice in the treatment. What the treatment entails is for another post, because, it’s incredible, amazing, and the backstory is complex. What I can tell you though, is that this treatment is ridiculously effective and the impact is felt immediately and you are permanently free from the things that have been plaguing your life.

Last week, during a session with a counselor, we were led to begin the work in healing the brokenness in my body. I will admit that I was very excited, but I was also skeptical. I have seen this treatment do amazing things in my own life already, but my body and my health were like the holy grail. It’s the one thing that has haunted me since age 5 and that has kept me from fully being who I was created to be. Even though I had trepidation, I dove right into whatever healing God was going to bring. You see, God is the God of healing. He wants nothing more than for his children, his beloved, to be free from the chains that have bound them for too long. I know now, that God is not the cause of the suffering, and I also know now that He is the deliverer of healing, and there is little more I can say than to sing praise to Him who loves me.

Yesterday was my final session in healing work for this particular issue. I confirmed what I had been expecting, but around age 5, whatever happened to me (I have some ideas but no memories yet), I gave up control of my body and my soul (specifically with regard to my memory) to the enemy in exchange for the ability to forget what had was happening and to escape. I obviously would have had no idea that was going on at age 5, but the enemy used my vulnerability to attack, and I unconsciously gave up control of my existence to him. This knowledge made me incredibly angry and I went after my healing with renewed vigor. I broke the chains, revoked the agreement, rebuked the lies, and submitted myself fully to Christ instead of the enemy, permanently revoking his access to my body or my soul in Jesus name!

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I left that office feeling giddy, knowing that something powerful had happened, but I wasn’t sure how that would play out in my daily existence yet. I prayed for increased awareness and discernment of the movement and shifts that had taken place in my body, mind, and soul so that I could really see the small changes that were done when Christ provided complete healing to me. Today, I really got to see that. I went for a run this morning, with my son in his stroller, which is significantly harder than just running and always results in physical pain and suffering as punishment for my desire to be healthy (the common theme). As long as I remember, walking any distance was enough to cause severe pain in my back, let alone the pain I would endure as a consequence of my running (something I’ve done since 2009). I have a high pain tolerance and so I always pushed through the pain, medicating with ibuprofen and later, the good stuff, after a run because I could barely breathe because of the pain. As I gained weight, I blamed it on that, but the reality is, that pain with any type of movement has always been there. But not today. Today, I ran 4.5 miles, then took another 2-mile walk later, and chased a moving toddler throughout the rest of the day. I racked up 8 miles of movement today, over 18,000 steps on my fitbit, something I haven’t done in years…and I’m not in pain. Not only am I not in pain now, I wasn’t in pain when I was doing it. I am sore, of course, because I worked my muscles, but I am not in pain. Not only that, but the beast that lived inside my mind, punishing myself if I had to slow down, walk, or modify my workout, was silenced forever.  I AM FREE!!!! 

For those of you who deal with chronic pain, what I just said speaks volumes to you. For those of you who know me personally, you know what this means. I know that God wants to heal, I know that we often beg whoever (which is always the enemy in disguise) for relief from whatever we’re suffering from, and I know, that Splankna is the tool that God will use to bring real and permanent healing and restoration to anyone who wants it. It’s not a magic bullet, a magic pill, or anything like that, but a cooperative agreement between myself and God that I am ready and willing to accept His healing in my life. When you submit to Him, ask Him for healing, He will show up, every time. The conflict that keeps us from fully submitting to Him for healing is what keeps us sick.

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If this is something you want to explore in your own life, contact me. Give yourself permission to hope, one more time. I am an apprentice (looking for people to work on) until the end of August when I will be certified, but God can and will use me to facilitate healing in your life. That’s what Invisible Wounds is all about. True healing from the brokenness that haunts us and destroys everything we try to do. It’s what I am passionate about, and now because of this tool, can bring to you.  

Disappointment and Deliverance

Psalms 22:5 To You they cried out and were delivered; In You they trusted and were not disappointed.

It’s funny how so many people use the term disappointed to describe relationships, careers, religion, friends, family, the list could go on. The definition of disappointment is feelings of sadness or displeasure caused by the nonfulfillment of one’s hopes or expectations. What a lonely and desperate existence and it describes how the majority of people feel on a regular basis. We each have hopes and expectations for how our lives will unfold. We hope and dream of that one thing, whether it be a relationship, a career, or a change that will lead us to happiness (or all of the above), and more often than not, it seems as if these hopes and expectations are left wanting. The amount of disappointment, the sometimes constant and unwavering experience of the pain of unmet expectations, of the loss of hope, overwhelms our society. We are a people who have a deep and radical need for hope and achievement of those things that God has put in our hearts, but for most of us, we cannot see the hope in ever experiencing the fulfillment of those hopes and dreams. Without that, we are left disconnected and incomplete, the feeling that no matter what, something is missing.

That feeling that something important is missing in our lives is what drives us to seek out a way to fulfill that deep longing. Unfortunately, this world is rife with temporary fixes that will alleviate the longing and the emotional pain for a time but come with deadly and even more painful consequences that what we are already experiencing. Regardless of what we use to numb that void, to dull the aching in our soul for contentment, if we are looking for a worldly solution, we will always end up with a consequence that was never meant for us and will lead to further discontentment and disappointment. The world will offer us alcohol, drugs, sex, pornography, anger, rage, selfishness, entitlement, relationships, food, shopping, gambling, and anything and everything else that will activate the reward center of our brains and temporarily distract us from what is missing. No matter which of those vices you cling to, instead of delivering freedom from the anguish and generating hope, they destroy the very fabric of who you were created to be. When we set our sites on someone or something that is not God, those things become idols in our lives and we are enslaved to the service of that person or thing. For those of us who claim to be believers in Jesus Christ, we know that idolatry is not only forbidden but will destroy us and those around us. The Bible is full of warnings and examples from God saying as much, and we are wise to heed those warnings lest we get caught up in something that will consume and destroy us and those we love.

Here’s the part that makes me so eternally grateful that I am a believer. I have idols in my life, we all do. Every time I get rid of one or think I have gotten rid of it, another one sneaks in and takes its place. I believe that this is what Paul was alluding to when he wrote in Romans 7:15-20 when he said that he does the things he does not want to do while neglecting the things he should be doing. The struggle to keep our eyes and our minds focused on the only One who can heal disappointment and deferred hope is exhausting and more often than not, we will fail. The things in this life that vie for our attention, that draw us to them with the lie that we will be better if we would just indulge in this person or this thing, always feels good in the moment. There is always a temporary relief of carrying the burden and sadness that comes when our needs, our hopes, and our desires are unmet. Alongside the deep and intense desire for those hopes and dreams God has put inside of us, is an intense and primal desire to rebel and to do whatever we have to do in order to feel good. We justify our behavior and our choices convincing ourselves that the consequence we know will come, will not be as bad as we think it will be. We delude ourselves into thinking that since we are covered by grace, since we are forgiven by faith, since we are doing this thing in secret, or since the person we are hurting made a commitment before God to love in spite of, that we are free to go ahead and indulge that part of us. What we forget is that even though all of the above is true, God never promised choices without consequences. Even though as believers we “can,” more often, there are times that we “shouldn’t” because the consequences will not just destroy our relationship with God, but will destroy others or our relationships with others as well. Our idols do not just affect our existence, but they have a profound and sometimes catastrophic effect on those around us. There are examples throughout scripture, especially in the Old Testament, where one man’s sinful idolatry brought destruction upon the whole nation of Israel, or upon his entire family.

This is where we have the power to affect positive or negative consequences in our lives or the lives of those we love. The only way to be set free from the cycle of feeling disappointment, turning to idolatry to numb the pain, and destruction, is to interrupt the cycle by crying out to our Savior when the disappointment comes. When the pain is too much, when the loss is too great, and when the hope is gone and you do not feel like you can hold on anymore, the only real way for freedom is to cry out to Him. Repeatedly throughout scripture and throughout our lives, we can see examples where we, or the people of Israel, cried out to God in anguish and despair and He sent them a deliverer. God always provides a way out of the situation in which you find yourself, even if it’s not the way you hoped for. God will always deliver His people when they cry out to Him and ask Him to. We tend to get so focused on the solution that we envision for our problems, that giving up control and allowing God to intervene in the way that will bring full resolution and restoration proves too difficult and so we choose not to cry out and humble ourselves before our God. That’s the trick, though, we have to be willing to relinquish control of the outcome first. When things in our lives are spiraling madly out of control, the instinct is to hold tighter, to white-knuckle every bit of control we think we have and try and direct the spiral in the way we hope it will go. This never turns out the way we hope, and definitely does not turn out the way we need. God is the God of peace, of hope, of deliverance. He longs to free us from the burden, from the soul anguish, the disappointment, and the unrelenting cycle of pain and idolatry, but because He is a good God, He gave us the option to choose. We have to choose to let go of our sense of control, to humble ourselves and cry out in desperation for Him to intervene in whatever way seems good to Him. We cannot expect the God of the universe, the Creator, the Healer, the Savior, to give us less than what He has planned for us. We cannot expect Him to give us mediocrity when He wants to give us the extraordinary! God can and will deliver us from the pain of this life, but we have to let go and trust Him to bring about the restoration, the healing, and the peace. We have to let Him fix the problems and trust that He will always have the best in mind for us. Believing His promises that He not only has amazing plans for our lives but that those promises are good, exciting, and exactly what we need and getting out of His way, ushers in the opportunity for God to actually reach down and fix what is broken. Every story of salvation and redemption is preceded by the person humbling themselves, letting go, and allowing God to do amazing work in their lives. Trust Him, even when the pain is immeasurable, even when the vices you’ve turned to sing a siren’s song. Cling to the One who brings deliverance and hope, instead of the things that are meant to destroy.

Reflections on a Life Bound by Chains

I just returned home after attending the Writers on the Rock Conference 2017. I knew from the previous conferences that today would be powerful and that at the end of the day, I would have a renewed passion for writing, for pursuing Christ in my calling, and for using my gift to reach those who are broken and hurting. Those were my agenda items, and without a doubt, every single one of those was checked off of my list. However, as is always the case when the Holy Spirit moves, God had bigger plans for me. He used the gift of another author to not only inspire me, but help me break free of the chains that keep my bound and unable to write, but that also bind my ability to function freely in the way that God has created me. As a writer, it is easy to come up with ideas, especially on the topic and passion that you have identified for yourself. What is not so easy, is the execution of the plan and the understanding of why the struggles exist in the first place. Today I found that answer, and not only am I angry that I could not see this before, but I am free and emboldened to smash through the barrier thrown up by the enemy of my soul and which I have allowed to stop me from pursuing my life’s calling for far too long.

See, I entered the conference today, completely free in Christ, in belief only. I have desperately been fighting the chains that are binding me to the hollow life in which I have existed for too long, but have resisted the true freedom that comes from a relationship with Christ. I know all about spiritual warfare and how the enemy desperately wants to keep us alone, broken, and in pain. Even with that knowledge, I did not truly understand how to break free from the chains of my past. I know that the moment I accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior, I became a new creation. The sins of my past, present, and future were forgiven and I was set free from the chains of the enemy…However, I did not live in that truth. I have often chosen to get sucked into the lies that the enemy craftily devises to convince me of my lack of worth, of my failures, of my hopelessness and that fuels my shame and self-loathing. Today I met a writer who showed me how to change this.

I innocently entered her discussion entitled “Writer, Thou Art Loosed” thinking that this would be a great conversation about how to break through writer’s block, motivational issues, and stumbling blocks. I had no idea what God had in store for me. From the moment she began speaking, I was laser focused on what she was saying as if she was speaking directly into my bones and marrow. Turns out, God was going to use this woman to free me from the chains that have bound me for years. This conversation encompassed the excuses and things in my life that prevented me from fully and wholly embracing what God has been calling me to do for years….to tell my stories. I was hearing myself and the excuses that I had for why I was having a hard time finishing my book, and I was enthralled by how she related those struggles to the chains imposed by the enemy to keep me from finishing what God has ordained me to do. Towards the end of the class, she picked me to come up to the front and participate in an activity…she’s a legit retired army drill sergeant, it’s not like I could have said no! Then she began to lead me through a declaration of “I am loosed from…” and I chose the word fear. That in and of itself let out a torrent of emotion and release, but she had more in store for me. Responding, I’m sure, from the promptings of the Holy Spirit, she then grabbed my list of things that are keeping me shackled and chained in my life and proceeded to repeat the process with each one of the things that I wrote down. To say I had no idea what was coming is an understatement.

Most of my life, I have spent bent over and in pain of some sort. Emotional and psychological pain has led to significant physical pain, including the development of an autoimmune disorder. I am in a constant battle between what I know to be the truth in who Christ proclaims me to be, and who the enemy claims I am. What I didn’t fully understand or realize until today is that this is a battle that does not need to be fought. This battle was already won many years ago, yet I continue to revisit that battle that Christ died to win, over and over in my life. Every time something happens in my life, and there have been numerous excruciatingly painful traumas and tragedies, and every time I experience a setback or roadblock in my pursuit of the life that God has called me to live, I have reacted in predictable ways that tightened the chains around my heart and soul rather than in a way that removed them from my life. The beauty of other people embracing and using the gift and calling that God has placed in their life is that they can be used by God to speak truth and bring healing into another person’s life. This is my experience at the conference today. God used a woman who has fully embraced her life and calling and successfully defeated her past and loosed her potential in Christ, to free me from the chains that bind me.

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Declaring freedom from the chains that have devastated me for so long is a powerful, intensely emotional experience. I believe that at that moment, I broke free of so many of the things that have sought to keep me broken and in pain. But I know that the work doesn’t stop with moments like these. At that moment, when the physical weight of what I had been carried was removed from my bones, I decided to begin to declare this freedom in my life every time I begin to feel burdened by my circumstances. The chains that have long bound me were not necessarily overtly obvious. Yes, I have suffered from depression, PTSD, fear, shame, pain, etc., but I just thought that was my destiny with the life that I have lived and with what has happened to me. I didn’t truly grasp that I could actually be free from these things. Not surprisingly, the enemy has successfully, up to this point, capitalized on my pain and suffering, especially in the last few years, and has attempted to destroy me. This realization coupled with the reality that the enemy has not just tried to keep me quiet, to keep me from embracing my gift and calling, but that he has specifically tried to end my life and the life of my loved ones many times, awakened a beast inside of me that has been dormant. So from this point on, I declare through the power of the Holy Spirit that I am loosed from fear, from pain, from infirmity, from depression, from shame, from brokenness, from hopelessness, from misery, and from everything else in my life that has kept me bound in chains. I will no longer accept these chains as a part of my existence, and I will no longer be devastated by the tactics of the enemy. I am free.

Battle Weary and Victorious


War, the unmistakable and continuous fight for your very existence, for your heart, mind, and soul.When everything in your world is so far outside the norm, outside of your control, and the enemy is using everything in your life, loved ones, work, your pets, to attack you at every angle, you live in chaos. If you are lucky, you experience moments of chaos that eventually resolve and you can move forward in life with new knowledge, resilience, and perspectives that will help you succeed. However, for many people, chaos is not an unusual experience, but the definition of their existence. For some people, the battle never ends. It seems as if no matter what you do, no matter where you are in your life, things are always falling apart and you are always fighting to stay afloat.

For whatever reason, I seem to live on the battlefield. There is always something, usually many somethings that are passionately seeking to destroy my heart, my soul, my mind, and sometimes my very life. Living in this state is beyond exhausting. I am a fighter but there are many times in my life where I can’t fight anymore. Where I am so beaten and broken that I can barely breathe, let alone pray for relief. Most days I’m on my face crying pools of tears and can’t even muster the strength to speak. These moments try to draw me into the darkness in which I’ve lived a lot of my life, seeking to drown me. And to be honest, most of the time, there is a period where these things win. Where I can’t find a hint of the light, where hopelessness for change reigns more than the knowledge of God and His purpose and His love.

Fortunately God is aware. His word says He is not blind to our tears and that he counts them and keeps them in a jar (the psalms are full of this truth). Sometimes this knowledge is the one thing that keeps me going forward. Because when no one else sees or cares about the pain I live with, God does and He will ultimately redeem my anguish. This is really the only thing that can break through the despair and give me enough hope to keep fighting one more day.

Ultimately, God is king, He is the creator, the Redeemer, the Comforter and the Healer. In an existence that seems harder and more excruciatingly painful than it needs to be, knowing the One who can heal, redeem, and comfort is counting and holding your tears, silences the chaos within.

I don’t know how to stop the pain, the disappointment, the trauma, from coming, but I do know how to keep my head above water. The answer is, I can’t by myself. In my own power and strength and I would have given up a very long time ago. But my deep and profound knowledge of God and who He wants to be for me, through the power of the Holy Spirit in me, I can wake up another day, I can keep going. Often I am going on full autopilot where I have to stop thinking in order to just do what I need to do, but I’m still going. Even when my heart, my soul and my mind scream out that I am done with everything, God speaks a little louder than the chaos to say “not yet, I have more for you. Hang on my child, there is something better.”

How I wish I could remember these truths and experience Christ’s love and peace in a tangible way, but that is rarely the case. My default is to drown in the darkness until He lifts me up and helps me see the light. I long for the moment when I can experience the pain and destruction that comes at me and immediately fight back the right way and not get overwhelmed. But I am not there yet. I long for the days when I can give myself grace in these moments but due to the nature of these attacks which reinforce the lie that I’m worthless, I’m not there yet. I often beat myself up for not being the right way, adding to what is already beating me up, and that makes me angry at myself again. But I know the truth and I do the hard work required to deal with what is trying to destroy me. And I know, no matter what, the battle ends in victory even if I can’t wield the sword. My God is fighting for me, His warring angels are deep in an intense battle for my soul even when I can’t breathe. Because of this, I can find the strength to get up, to mumble His name, to cry tears to Him and to rest in His hands.

Invisible Suffering

I have spent the majority of my time on this blog writing about trauma, PTSD, and the invisible wounds of psychological and emotional injuries that no one really understands. The more I walk through this life and experience all the pain, suffering, chaos, trauma, and “junk” that is thrown at us, I realize that invisible wounds are so much more than trauma and PTSD. There are so many things that people experience every single day, every hour of every day that no one can see and most people do not understand. There are many different illnesses, struggles, thoughts, and emotional states that people either cannot or do not wear on their sleeves for others to see. These different areas of suffering are no less severe and debilitating than it is for someone who has lost a body part or suffered other obvious physical ailments through their own choice to fight for our country, for example, or through the result of others actions. So why do people act as if those suffering from invisible pain and invisible ailments are somehow faking it, or somehow in less physical and emotional pain than someone whose wounds and illnesses you can see? This is the greatest disservice to each other that we perpetrate or is perpetrated against us every day.

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You see, I am one of those people who suffers from indescribable physical and emotional pain every single day, but you would never know that unless I allowed myself to be vulnerable in front of you and told you what I was experiencing. Unless I felt safe enough to let you in or have some other reason to let you know the truth, you cannot tell by looking at me that there is anything wrong. For the last 20 years at least I have suffered from Fibromyalgia. A severe and debilitating constellation of symptoms that causes significant physical pain, exhaustion beyond words that does not respond to getting a good nights sleep, mental fog, concentration problems, memory problems, and a general feeling of “why is my body letting me down?” Unless you happen to see my legs give out from the excruciating pain, see me catch my breath from the simple act of moving, or experience my inability and struggle with organizing my thoughts and remembering what I am supposed to be doing at any given time, I look and act “normal.” Because you see, those of us that suffer this way have learned how not to act in front of people, we’ve learned to plaster on a smile and pretend that we’re ok. We’ve learned that it is usually not safe to share our pain with others because they cannot or will not try to understand. We’ve learned to hide our pain at all cost because for the majority of our time, we’ve been told by “professionals” that the symptoms aren’t real, the pain isn’t real, and that there must be something wrong with us. We’ve been diagnosed with a multitude of psychiatric words and accused of malingering for attention or to get out of doing something. You see, we have learned that no one will believe us anyway.

Then there are the mental illnesses that no one can see until the sufferer “acts out” in a way that expresses their deep sorrow and suffering such as self-harming and suicide attempts. Illnesses such as depression, PTSD, and anxiety. Illnesses that nearly the entire adult population in the United States currently has or has had at least once in their lifetime. Illnesses that are so widespread and debilitating, you would think that society would be desperately trying to understand, accommodate and help those who are suffering. However, the opposite it true, society has pushed them aside and distanced themselves because of irrational beliefs and unfounded fears. See the media blames PTSD, depression, loneliness, bullying, and anything else they can, for horrifically unspeakable acts committed by evil people. People whose only real mental illness is that they have no conscience and do not care about anyone else. These people aren’t suffering from true mental illness, but the media and everyone else in society are quick to label them depressed, lonely, or my favorite, bullied. But the truth is, people who suffer from these hidden disorders, likely do not have the energy or the desire to put in the effort to carry out the plans that the evil among us relish in. But for that reason, those who suffer must do so in silence, because the fear of irrational responses and consequences is to real.

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The reality is that there are people in your life, your close friends, and your family who are suffering indescribable pain and anguish and you will never see it. Your responsibility is to be a safe place, a person that they can trust enough to share their pain and suffering. If they ever do reach out to you, to open up and make themselves vulnerable, learn how to trust what they are telling you and be kind, compassionate, and patient. These people can’t just “get over it.” They can’t just “exercise” or “pray” away the pain. If you truly love and care about the people in your life, begin to ask questions, be open for them to come to you and above all else, be safe. Don’t accuse them of being lazy, don’t be angry and frustrated with them because they couldn’t get out of bed, or do the dishes, or make dinner, or take out the trash, or rake the leaves, etc. “again.” Don’t be that person who pushes them further into themselves in order to escape the additional pain you are causing. Because the truth is that even though we have learned to cope, to survive, to hide the pain and to take care of ourselves, we all need someone who loves us enough to take care of us even when we can’t express what we need. We need someone who is patient, selfless, compassionate, and who is willing to sacrifice in order to help us get back up another day. If you truly want to help those around you, those who are suffering be the person they can lean on, be the light in their darkness and shine through their pain and suffering to offer a glimpse of hope.

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