Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The Belly of the Beast

It’s 2am with no hope of sleep in sight. I saw the peace on my husband’s face as he slept. I simultaneously felt lucky to be married to him and envious of his ability to sleep so effortlessly. I’ve memorized which spots on our bedroom floor creak so I can step around them to make my escape without getting caught. 



My friends often joke with me “Don’t you ever sleep? I saw that email come from you at 3:30 in the morning! Girl, you’re crazy not to want to sleep!” I usually let out a lighthearted laugh…




but you know what? Crazy is exactly what I feel.




I’ve struggled to sleep as far back as I can remember because when my world is at its quietest, my mind is at its loudest. I lie in bed and hope for sleep without nightmares. I desperately wish to shut my brain off so I might just get some rest. But the fear rises up anyway, and I often think to myself “I really must be crazy.”
 



And when it isn’t fear, it’s self-loathing that is so heavy and dark it feels like it will swallow me whole. So I write. Or bake. Or read. Anything to try to escape. But you can't escape from your own brain.
 




 



You see, I have PTSD. It often makes me feel broken, unlovable, powerless, and like a lost cause. But on the outside, you’d never know it. I work very hard at smiling all the time and serving others. I feel a compulsive need to hide these crazy parts of myself so that no one will ever see this ugly beast that rages inside me. I HATE the beast and I didn't want anyone else to see.  So I worked overtime on keeping it quiet.






 



For a long time this worked…until the beast started fighting to come out. And you know who the beast unleashed itself on? My wonderful husband. I have this great life with him, and feel immeasurable guilt that I can’t just be happy. He caused 0% of the issues that gave me this diagnosis. ZERO. But he caught flack that he never deserved to when I would get triggered in the tiniest {and most unexpected} of ways. And when I’m triggered in an episode, I HATE the way I'm acting, but I’m completely powerless to stop it. All that remains afterward is intense grief and shame. I HATE that he’s catching this stuff the beast dishes out. And I HATE that he feels responsible to fix it. 


He can’t fix what he didn’t break; only Jesus can do that. And He has been, and I PRAISE HIM for that! I’ve only recently been able to admit these issues to some sisters in Christ and their encouragement has been of more value than words can express. I’ve been able to put together emotions and claim them. This is a huge milestone for anyone struggling with PTSD! I’m also realizing that PTSD isn’t about me being defective or broken, it’s about what happened to me. 



My husband and I are finding ways to cope when things get rough, and I will forever be grateful to him for standing by me through this. I am also forever grateful to God for sending me this tremendous gift of a man who adores me at my lowest and who was safe for me to release this heavy burden I’ve been carrying for far too long.
I felt called to write my experience for people who are struggling with PTSD or other psychological disorders. I want to encourage you through any low places you may be finding yourself in. The only way to heal is stop any avoidance or unhealthy coping mechanisms like I did. To move forward, you have to give your problems to God, and to do that, you must own your story. 


Accept what happened to you and start seeking Godly counsel through friends and/or with a mental health professional. There is no shame in getting helpYou must love yourself before you can love others effectively. This is a truth I must re-learn almost every day. If you don’t take care of your own emotions, they will boil over on to your loved ones and you’ll hate yourself for it. And round and round the cycle goes. The only way to get off that downward spiral is to pour into yourself and your own relationship with Christ.
But also know that the spiral is also good! It feels CRAZY in the moment, but the bad stuff has to come out to heal you. So when bad episode happens, know that you’re releasing poison that has been trapped inside for far too long.



I’m not even close to the end of my journey, but I’m much further than where I first began. These are the verses that are getting me through it, and I pray they will be helpful to you as well:



Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are Mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior… since you were precious in My sight, you have been honored, and I have loved you… Fear not, for I am with you. -Isaiah 43:1-5


We are hard pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed. -2 Corinthians 4:8-9


In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, maybe found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ. -1 Peter 1:6-7



Read part 2 here.

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