“You definitely have PTSD.”
I wasn’t surprised. But hearing a medical professional confirm it stunned me. I hadn’t even expected to do a questionnaire on mental health when I went in to the doctor today. But there it was and I answered honestly. Even though I knew what answers would get a better rating for depression and anxiety and PTSD. I answered yes to having frequent nightmares. For disrupted sleep. For avoiding certain things or places that trigger memories. All of the things that I had tried not to think about for myself over the last 4 years. But I wasn’t in denial out of choice. I was in denial because I was a mom on auto pilot more focused on my younger kids who had gone through so much in their short little lives, that I hadn’t even taken a moment to self reflect on how things impacted me.
A day later, and I am faced with PTSD again, this time with one of my older children. I always think they had a pretty typical upbringing but when I really take time to reflect I realize they went through a lot as well. This son had a horrific accident a couple of years ago in which he hit a man who intentionally jumped in front of his car, while he was driving in Tulsa. He believes that he killed the man. We don’t know for sure what happened. The police told him it was not his fault. They took his statement and told him there was nothing else to do. He was not given a citation. He was just told to go home and that he would have to get his car fixed. My son has nightmares and thinks about this man constantly. There is no way to get closure because there’s no one that can tell him if that young man survived. And would it help him to know if he didn’t? I truly believe that if the man had passed from his injuries it would have been on the news. That is what I have used to reassure him. And I thought he was doing okay with it all. Until last night. Last night that darkness of fear and doubt and bad dreams and avoidance all caught up to him.
PTSD is expected for soldiers in combat. It is more understood in this arena than in civilian life. I think there are so many of us who walk around with the weight of events bearing down on us and we think it is “normal”. But when it covers you in darkness and depression, when it haunts your dreams and pops up into your mind at random times or there are things that trigger a physical reaction from your body and brain’s memories of events, it is NOT normal. It is time to ask for help.
For me, my primary source of help and strength comes from my belief in a loving God who is there to help me bear the weight of my pain. He never promised that humans, even Christians, would be free from hurt and tragedy and trauma. See John 16:33. He even says we WILL see trouble. But He tells us that we can have peace even in these times because he has overcome the world. In Isaiah 40:31, He tells us that He will give us strength and endurance if we will rely on Him. These truths give my soul, heart, body, and mind peace. I BELIEVE these words to the depths of my soul. Not just because someone told that to me in church. Or because I read it in the Bible. I believe it because I have experienced it. Over and over. And though I am continuing to work through the effects of trauma I have been through, and though I struggle at times (because I am human), I know that God is there helping me through it.
I don’t know that my son has the same confidence that I have developed over the years. It took me many times of feeling desperately alone and fearful before I fully understood that God was there beside me in those stormy moments and not just in the sunny days and miracles. But my prayer is that through the experiences he has had and that my other children have had, they will come to realize the truth: Their Father in Heaven loves them and has good plans for them.
PTSD won’t define me. It won’t define my boys. It will be a piece of the testimonies we each have of the way God has loved us and helped us through devastating times. And maybe our stories of healing will give hope to others who are now battling the invisible foe we have known.