i noticed something in 2016. my mind is much less sharp. while i can recall aaron broadus'(706), tim wilson’s(549), and heather gibson’s (747) college post office box numbers from 8 years ago, I cannot tell you much about what happened in 2016. i think some of it is the normal progression of life; i mean, i did turn 30 in 2016… but, i think some of it is related to trauma. until about a month ago, i honestly had no idea that my counselor i’d been seeing, or my midwife who delivered Lilly, had identified me as having ptsd. and i never thought of ptsd much outside the context of soldiers home from war. i always err on the side of minimizing my trauma. you know what ptsd is defined as?
a mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event — either experiencing it or witnessing it. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event.
i am finding that my inclination is to feel like others get to decide what is “terrifying” for me. that maybe i am “over exaggerating” my trauma. which leads me to ignore trauma cognitively, resulting in my body holding it inside. leading further still to occurrences like constant fear, feeling misunderstood, desire to hide, physical exhaustion, stagnancy, feeling alone, forgetfulness, wanting to run (to where? doesn’t matter; just wanting to ruuuuun), abrupt moments of passionate “epiphanies” or declarations, shingles, and the desire for comfort above ALL ELSE. this, my friends, is not healthy. i tend to hide behind humor and tv when it comes to trauma. i remember my midwife saying she was surprised at the way i made the techs and nurses laugh at the ER when i was transferred for surgery after my home birth. it is not a choice for me, it is a natural occurrence; humor. i turn to it when nervous; mostly.
in 2016 i allowed the trauma to dictate my body and my actions. i allowed it to be first. to control me. and i hid behind humor and tv. i had a lot of angry conversations with friends. “im so angry”, “life is too hard”, “i don’t know how to walk through it”. but, don’t worry, i always keep going; i have these thoughts inside of my body and i don’t let them win…but i still feel them. i still say them. i thought i could also ignore them. i don’t know what i thought. i guess i thought that this is just who i was now. and i knew i didn’t like the new me. i just didn’t think there was any way to reclaim parts of the me i was before or even the me i hoped to become. i tried to “put on love” to “lay down myself”, among other Biblical principals i find to be motivating and beautiful, but the desire to seek comfort above ALL ELSE kept me isolated to myself and to my immediate task of parenting. i’d think things like, “i’m definitely going to make some plans with this or that friend, or start volunteering here or there, or read such and such book, or stop watching tv, and i’ll only take naps when i am actually tired”. but i’d fall into the same patterns. much like depressions can, the trauma consumed me, and i deep down i believed that whatever i was facing (then nameless) was something i would either grow out of, or need to just “get over”.
i was surprised when i heard ptsd. initially i thought, “nah. im okay. i probably just made too big a deal out of what i’ve been through”. but when i told my counselor about the idea of me having ptsd, and she responded having “known that”, i felt more curious about what it could mean for me. i guess other people who are wise and educated on this subject of trauma, can help me to identify it in myself, i thought. and i suppose others are not the ones who can decide if what i experience is trauma or not. as i cannot decide what is trauma for others either. in other words, i finally felt free to say with confidence, “i had a traumatic childbirth, i’m not over it, and i need help”. i am getting so close to believing confidently that no one else can decide if the above statement is true for me or not. just me, God, and my counselor.
my counselor said that we will talk through the experience i had to teach my body that what happened to me was real, and now it is over. she said that with trauma the pathways in our mind and thus the feeling of the experience inside of our body is not connected well. so that when the source of trauma is mentioned, we are flooded, and cannot control the flood. hence: outbursts, followed by feeling misunderstood, followed by feeling isolated, followed by tears, humor, then tv.
my counselor is going to help me with the flood. i am hopeful. but, i’ve decided to put my hope in God; “For His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Prince of Peace”- Isaiah 9:6. He is the ultimate Counselor, and i know if i trust in Him to heal me from this trauma; this ptsd, He can. and i hope that He will.
as 2017 begins, here is my prayer, and my hope…
56 “Blessed be the Lord, who has given rest to His people Israel, according to all that He promised. There has not failed one word of all His good promise, which He promised through His servant Moses. 57 May the Lord our God be with us, as He was with our fathers. May He not leave us nor forsake us, 58 that He may incline our hearts to Himself, to walk in all His ways, and to keep His commandments and His statutes and His judgments, which He commanded our fathers. 59 And may these words of mine, with which I have made supplication before the Lord, be near the Lord our God day and night, that He may maintain the cause of His servant and the cause of His people Israel, as each day may require, 60 that all the peoples of the earth may know that the Lord is God; there is no other. 61 Let your heart therefore be loyal to the Lord our God, to walk in His statutes and keep His commandments, as at this day.”
(the above reference to “His commandments” are “summed up in this: to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength… and to love your neighbor as yourself” –Matthew 22:37-40)
so, to 2017: a year of hope. a year for healing. a year for rest in Christ. a year for loving His people. for not hiding. for redemption. i’ll raise my coffee glass to you, and i’ll breathe in deep this ice cold air near The Sound, and surrounded by snow covered mountains, and i’ll keep going.
ps. 2017’s soundtrack is “poets and saints” by all sons and daughters…