People who’ve faced a significant trauma sometimes develop Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is the name given when a person struggles greatly after a very difficult situation. It has been described as a “normal reaction to an abnormal situation.” Do you or someone you know struggle with PTSD? Do you wonder, “Will I ever be normal again?” PTSD affects many more people than combat veterans and those who endured 9/11 closeup and personal.
- 70 percent of adults in the U.S. have experienced some type of traumatic event at least once in their lives. That’s 223.4 million people.
- Up to 20 percent of these people go on to develop PTSD. As of today, that’s 31.3 million people who did or are struggling with PTSD.
- An estimated 8 percent of Americans – that’s 24.4 million people – have PTSD at any given time.
- An estimated 1 out of 10 women develops PTSD; women are about twice as likely as men.
- Among people who are victims of a severe traumatic experience 60 to 80 percent will develop PTSD.
(The above statistics come from http://www.psyweb.com/users/healmyptsd/index.jsp.)
1. You are not alone.
2. There is hope.
Tragically, among the deepest crises leading to the PTSD label is sexual abuse. This trauma sickens the soul and messes with the mind, spirit, and body for years, even decades. The effects range from paralyzing fears to physiological symptoms, as well as identity struggles and damaged relationships. Many believers who experienced sexual abuse may ask, “Where was God?” and “Why didn’t he stop it?” According to the Sidran Institute, people who experienced specific traumas such as rape, child abuse, and violent assaults often feel isolated, guilty, trapped, and confused. They may suffer from many symptoms such as depression, addictions, self-abuse, and suicidal thoughts. There’s hope. Says biblical counselor and author David Powlison:
“Your recovery will be a process of learning and remembering those two truths—you are not alone and there is hope—not just once, but over and over. Think about how bread gets made. It must be kneaded so that the yeast goes through the whole loaf. These two truths must be kneaded into who you are until they work through every part of you. The working of these truths into the deepest part of you takes time. The damage you suffered may have been done in one or more terrible moments; the healing and the restoration unfolds at a human pace. It unfolds at your pace. It unfolds as part of your story, and it unfolds over time.”
Lindy Abbott, a Christian blogger, wife, and mother, suffered abuse as a young child so severe that she developed PTSD. She told me she unknowingly used a coping skill called dissociation to survive ongoing trauma. It protects her from awareness of the pain in the short run, but a person who dissociates often may find in the long run she has relationship difficulties and inability to function. As Lindy writes at her blog, Abuse and Trauma Hope,
“It is at this precise moment [of abuse] that the child unconsciously begins to protect the soul from utter destruction by separating the harmful/abusive experiences into hidden places in the soul. The mind does this without needing the child to actively think about what she needs to do to survive, it as an unconscious act of self-preservation.”
Lindy says this about her abuse:
“My life began in trauma and abuse as a child, affecting who I am, how I see, and how I feel. The abuse was hell but God has used it for good. Truly, God has used what was meant for evil to be good in my life and to conform me to Christ Jesus. I see things deeply. I feel deeply too. Sometimes really good, sometimes really bad. While I love to laugh and be silly, I am burdened by the seriousness of eternity.”
Help for All
Awful memories may haunt someone with PTSD. Condemning words like “you are dirty and ugly” may invade her thoughts. What happened was horrible, but the truth is that she is not dirty or ugly. You can apply the truth to your horrible situation. “Because of her faith in Christ she can apply the truth that she is clothed in the righteousness of Christ and she is precious and loved. She can apply the truth of who she is in Christ to the truth of her past experiences,” says biblical counselor Eliza Jane Huie with Life Counseling Center. Each of us needs to remember who we are in Christ and apply this truth to past experience, even trauma. Expect to apply the truth over and over and over again. “Having a painful past that still hurts is an opportunity to build a deeper confidence in the truth of God’s Word and what it says about you,” Huie says. “This is not an exercise in positive thinking. It is telling gospel truth to yourself. As you speak gospel truth to horrible situations you’ve faced, let it make you desperate for God and for the love He has for you.”
Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything. And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. 1 John 3:18–19, 23, ESV
COUNSELING: Whether you or a loved one another trauma, know that God heals in his timing, and his timing is always right. Do you want to talk with someone confidentially about your pain? Please contact us. We have male and female certified biblical counselors at our various Chicago offices who counsel in person and by Skype. You may self-schedule an in-person appointment. If you’d like a Skype appointment, please get in touch because we have many more Skype hours available.