PTSD DOES NOT JUST AFFECT VETERANS
It affects a wide range of people who have survived any number of extreme circumstances. This is my introduction post to a series called “Dealing with PTSD” outlining what God has taught me about dealing with PTSD and some practical steps to help to those suffering from PTSD cope.
It was November of 1987 and I was teaching one of the general sessions at a large veteran’s conference sponsored and hosted by CBN in Virginia Beach. A few days before we’d been interviewed on The 700 Club by Sheila Walsh about Point Man Ministries and how we were ministering to Vietnam vets and their family members. As I shared how wives and children of veterans suffer from their own Post Traumatic Stress symptoms just by living with someone suffering with PTSD, I had yet to realize there was more to this than met the eye.
I distinctly remember standing before a few hundred veterans and their wives and addressing how sights, smells, or sounds can trigger the veteran and launch a full scale adrenalin surge resulting in anger and rage, or the other end of the spectrum, isolation, depression, and possibly even suicidal thoughts.
I had studied Dr. Archibald Hart’s book on adrenaline and stress and was discovering some amazing connections to those suffering with PTSD. At this point in the 80’s, PTSD was just beginning to be diagnosed in war veterans by the Veteran’s Administration… and putting a name on it and describing the symptoms was an important step in helping combat survivors begin their healing journey.
As they met in small groups in churches across the country and shared their stories, often for the first time since coming home from Vietnam, questions long since left unanswered were beginning to find resolution. Adding the spiritual element of surrendering to Jesus the baggage carried from the war experience and forgiving the Viet Cong, Jane Fonda, and other officers whose decisions resulted in the death of fellow soldiers was the key to true healing, even though the VA declared PTSD incurable.
As I stood before these men and women it finally occurred to me that I had an attitude of “you guys really have a problem and here, I’m going to give you some answers.” In reality, I was beginning to see in myself and many of the other women who were married to vets, those same symptoms of PTSD, but not because we were married to vets. No, it was from our own traumas that we’d stuffed away in shame and guilt, and never dealt with ourselves. It was the sexual abuse, the rape, the abortion, the domestic violence, the alcoholic parents, and the list went on and on.
No, PTSD was not just for veterans…many of us had our own, and God was lovingly pointing it out so that we, too, could allow Him to come in and heal those ravaged places that had been shoved aside and stuffed away because they were too painful to confront.