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Blog: PTSD & healing invisible wounds

blog emotional healing health + healing ptsd Nov 22, 2016

- Andy Jenkins

PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) is a relatively new term. In fact, you may not know anything about it unless you actually have it- or unless someone you know does. Its effects have been around for centuries, but the visibilty of our vets is giving us new language and ways to understand it. 

The Mayo Clinic says PTSD is "a mental condition that's triggered by a terrifying event..."

Though common in soldiers, PTSD can show up in anyone, anywhere. In other words, you might find PTSD in...

* Victims of rape or other forms of abuse

* People who endure a tramautic event, such as a car wreck, plane crash, or natural disaster

* Pastors who've been kicked out of churches

* Men & women who've been fired or consisntently overlooked for job advancement

* People who've endured divorce (even relational rifts in your family can give rise to symptoms)

(A few years ago we adopted two boys from Africa. Since that time, we've seen how relationally difficult integrating new people with their own wounds and past baggage can be. And we've learned it's not uncommon to see families who adopted children find themselves broken apart by the ensuing havoc: an orphan has a home, but the previous family finds itself the victim of fracturing and even divorce.)


What PTSD looks like

The symptoms of PTSD include rampant flashbacks- as if you're constantly re-living the event again (or, sitting "on edge," repeatedly on guard that it might happen again), severe anxiety and stress, and anger (sometimes, not even knowing why the anger is happening). 

You can see how these symptoms might fit together to create the perfect storm of unsettlement and mental upheavel:  

* You're on guard and hyper-vigilant because of the past trauma you experienced...

* This leads to a constant state of alertness- creating anxiety and ongoing stress...

* Your adrenalin stays in the high-alert zone, so you sleep less...

* Because you can't sleep well, you're constantly tired & mentally fatigued, so you get "short," snappy, and angry... 

* You find it easy, then, to do things that "numb out" and "shut down" (in other words, you might get angry and "fight," you might check out and "flight," or you may waffle back and forth between the two)

Notably, the Mayo Clinic says you can experience PTSD if the event happens to you- or if you just witness the event (for instance, many people who simply witnessed 9/11- or who lost friends and family in the terrorist attack- experienced PTSD). 

And, the event can be marked by physical trauma or emotional trauma. In other words, bodily harm is not a requirement for you to experience PTSD. 

Whereas anyone who endures a traumatic event  may experience some of the symptoms listed above, ongoing trouble with a combination of them for a period of months and years may indicate PTSD. Physicians estimate that as many as 4% of adult Americans (about 6 million people) suffer from PTSD.



The problem with medication

The problem with medication is that most medication was designed as a temporary fix, so that real, deeper issues can be addressed. 

Take an example of a physical level and then we'll make the shift to PTSD: 

A few years ago my little girl, Miriam, fell from a zip line and injured her wrist. We didn't realize it at first, as all kids cry when they fall. Even if they just trip and fall while walking. 

It was late in the afternoon, so we took her inside to let her bathe and put on pajamas and just take it easy until bedtime. After the initial shock of the fall wore off and she began relaxing, though, we saw that her wrist had begun to swell and she was "guarding it" every time anyone got near her. 

She couldn't decide how much it hurt for us to touch it, so we gave her some Ibuprofen. And, since it was swollen, I took her to the E.R. while Cristy stayed behind with the other kids. 

Now, never in a million years we have thought, "Hmm... let's just give her some Advil and call it good... she can simply take two tablets every 8 hours for the rest of her life..."

No! We understood- as do you!- that the Ibuprofen was a temporary measure to reduce the swelling and alleviate some of her pain so that we could deal with the bigger issue- a possible broken wrist. (Turns out, she had a minor sprain. A velcro wrist-support for a few days = kid as good as new!)

Now, apply this to the modern medicine world... 

I'm pro-Western medicine when it's used in the context of overall health & wellness. So, in the instance of PTSD, I am for medicine if it helps us get to a place of calm, so that we can deal with the deeper issues... 

So that we can...

* Sleep through the night without constantly waking up at every abrupt sound

* Talk through what happened, to gain clarity and understanding, so that we might move forward as best we can (knowing that, yes, there a lot of broken pieces that we may never put back together or even full understand)

* Speak life & restoration and wholeness, knowing that there's still an amazing person inside- one that will empower and bring healing & hope to others as they walk through the mess of life

In other words, medicine (in general) should be a temporary fix. I wouldn't want to consign anyone to walking around with a broken mind or spirit anymore than I would consign my daughter to walking around for the rest of her life with a broken wrist. 



The pain is the indicator, inviting us in closer

The pain in my daughter's wrist was a signal to her- and then to me- that something was wrong, that something needed to be healed. In the same way, the emotional dis-ease and unrest that we feel after a traumatic event is a caution flag, a warning light, a check engine beep... it tells us to take a closer look. 

Think about it: 

* When a caution flag is waved at the race track, you don't address the caution flag- you look for the accident

* When the check engine light flashes or beeps in your vehicle, you don't simply cover the light or ignore the sound- you investigate the engine

* And when someone has an emotional wound or hurt, you don't "cover it up" with drugs anymore than you would cover up the check engine light with a bit of duct tape... 

You go in deep and begin walking through the real stuff of life. The pain doesn't invite us to cover the pain; the pain invites us to deal with the deeper issue which cuased the pain. 

Yes, PTSD makes it difficult to go about "normal" life. Medication may actually make it more difficult unless it's used as a temporary measure.



Talk it out, but sleep on it first

Dr. Gary Young (the founder of Young Living Essential Oils, a natural health alternative) learned that victims of PTSD can move forward by talking through what happened, getting some clarity, and defining reality. Often, what hapepned doesn't match what they expected to occur- and goes against what they've been taught. 

* Soldiers are taught not to kill, but then must... it's a necessary part of their job that enables them to protect other people from getting, oddly enough, killed

* Everyone has an innate value of protecting "women and children," but some are harmed as "colatteral damage" (what a horrible term!) in war

* One person survives... while another doesn't (people with PTSD often have "survivor's guilt" and may even blame themselves for what happened- even if everything was completely out of their control)

Each of these instances- and more- brings about layers and layers of issues that need to be discussed. And, most often, there aren't "tidy" answers that fit into a "Bible box." Yet, victims must still discuss what happened, get clarity where possible, and define reality.

Retired Master Sergeant Jess Johnson struggled with PTSD for three decades. Serving as a Green Beret- and even leading missions post-retirement- he lived through the incomprehensible. Many times. 

He exhibited the typical symptoms: 

* Anger

* Numbing out of life when he could, to avoid reality...

* Nightmares when he slept, inability to sleep most other times

In Vietnam, he manned the radio 3am - 5am. He was required to be vigilante, as he'd be the one to alert other soldiers if / when needed. 

Sergeant Johnson says, "I met Gary Young seven months ago- his oils work! For the first time in 45 years, I now sleep a full eight hours and no longer experience nightmares. So powerful!" 

In other words, he used a natural solution to sleep. And, after he slept... only then did he have the mental stamina and clarity to begin processing some of the trauma of the past. 


The moral compass

In addition to sleep (sleeping at night helps people be more awake and alert during the day, right?), psychologists and religious leaders alike who study PTSD are now grappling with another term, moral injury.

I learned about moral injury from my friend Bob Waldrep. He leads a nonprofit called Crosswinds Foundation, and has recently produced a few (incredible) documentaries on PTSD. 

"Moral injury happens when experience doesn't match what people have been taught as right and wrong," he told me. 

Moral injury means this: What I've been taught is right & wrong is disconnected from what I've experienced. 

As you can imagine, moral injury is a bigger issue with soldiers than with other types of victims.

Oddly enough, psyschologists, pastors, and priests all agree on the "cure" for moral injury: victims of moral injury need to be forgiven. 

I know. It sounds odd. Soldiers were just doing their job. Policemen (who are victims) were just protecting the innocent by incapacitating- or locking up- the guilty).

They need to hear some of the words Jesus spoke to the woman caught in adultery: "Neither do I condemn you..." (John 8:11)

Or, the words He spoke to the paralytic, who was stuck on his mat: "Your sins are forgiven... take up your mat and walk..." (Mark 2:9)

Notably, it was the friends of the paralytic- and their faith- that brought the healing. It wasn't the broken man's faith, showing us that victims of PTSD may need someone taking them to healing rather than waiting for them to seek it on their own. 

Anyway, practitioners of healing who have studied PTSD and moral injury agree- from secular sources and sacred sources alike- that the forgiveness must be declared from someone the victim sees as a spiritual authority...

* A pastor

* A priest

* A mother or father

* Even a judge

It must be someone they see, sense, or feel has the authority to give it.

"The healing process often begins right there," Bob told me.


Get practical  

Sergeant Johnson spoke at Young Living's annual convention two years ago.

* He said he uses Frankincense essential oil and Lavender essential oil to help him sleep

* He uses other oils in the "Freedom" kit (see below) to deal with the daily issues of life

* He gets support from others who walk with him on his journey of healing- and of taking healing to others 

If you're suffering from PTSD, the same steps-  yes, easier-said-than-done- will serve you well, too.  

First, sleep. Get a routine that enables it. Life is better during the waking hours when you actuallly sleep during the sleeping hours. A tired body leads to a more-stressed mind and more-racked emotions. It's true of anyone. How much more is it true of someone already dealing with hurt and pain!?

Second, talk it out. Find a support group where you can discuss things in real, raw way- apart from tidy answers and simple phrases. Walk with people who are comfortable living in the tension of unresolved questions with you. And, find somene who will remind you that you are forgiven. 

Third, get ongoing support. Don't assume this is a "one-and-done" thing. Look at it as a journey. 

* If you're a soldier, find a group of other soldiers who can relate to your unique journey

* If you've suffered divorce or abandonment, find a similar support group

* If you've been raped or assaulted, find people who've endured the same trauma that can help you voice things that others simply can't

And let each of these people show you that you're not alone, that you're not crazy, that your unique story- though certainly unique- has some common ground with others who've also been wounded. 



Essential oil protocol

A few years ago, my wife purchased a Freedom Release kit from Young Living for our family. We had dealt with hurt-after-hurt, issue-after-issue, pain-after-pain. (By the way, if you don't have the Freedom Release kit, I'll give you an alternative essential oil from the Premium Starter Kit you can use in the parentheses).

Here are some practical steps for you- 

First, spend 5-10 minutes in prayer or guided meditation in which you just receive the Father's love. If you don't want to look a the clock (I hate doing that!), just find a song or two that put you in a "place" where you can rest and hear the Father's voice. As you do, take 3-5 drops of T.R. Care essential oil and rub them on your neck and wrists (alternative from Preimum Starter Kit = Frankincense)

Second, release any hurts and wounds you have. If you feel guilt or shame for something, let go of it. If you feel condemnation, bid it farewell. As you do, anoint your feet and your lower back with Divine Release (alternative = Lavender).

Third, sense the stress and anxiety being removed. Far away. Never to return. Send it to the foot of the Cross and visualize Jesus taking it from you, forever. You can rightly bear something He has born for you, right? As you do, rub 3-5 drops of Transformation on your temples and wrists (alternative = Stress Away).

Fourth, finally, sense new life coming into you, the same power that raised Jesus from the dead, which Paul says now lives in you. Place 3-5 drops of Joy on the heart (alternative = R.C.).

By the way, this is a great way to start your day, and it's a great routine before bed time.


Questions, comments? Email [email protected] or text 205-291-1391

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