Here we are 66 years after D-Day, Operation Overlord, the invasion of Normandy, and those men and women, soldiers and civilians, widows and orphans, still struggle with PTSD.
PTSD and Overlord
It strikes me as ironic that Operation Overlord received the name that it did. For the trauma of that operation, without disparaging the need to remove Nazism from the picture and liberate Europe, still drives God away from those afflicted with PTSD. The effects of PTSD damage our souls. Regardless of the cause of the trauma, regardless of the worthiness of the goals, we are left with a damaged soul.
The PTSD-Identity seeks to become the new Lord, the new basis of identity. It seeks to push the Lord over and out of our souls, out of our sense of self, and out of our relationships. PTSD seeks to become the Overlord of who we are and how we engage the rest of the world. PTSD-Identity can make us feel as if God has abandoned us. Despair and alienation becomes the new God, the basis of the new identity. It only requires one traumatic event to make this happen.
Even in Peace We Must Heal PTSD
If peace breaks out tomorrow, there will be another 66 years of PTSD to deal with. If sexual assaults stopped now and forever, we would have another 66 years of PTSD to contend with. If we were so fortunate to no longer experience tragedies and trauma, we would still have souls wounded by PTSD that require healing and compassion.
While the event is over, the experience of the event, the soul wound continues and needs love and compassion to properly heal. One of the most cogent remarks I have ever heard from a Vietnam veteran goes like this:
Every day I was in Vietnam I thought about America. Every day I have been back in America, I have thought about Vietnam.
In some cases we may be able to forget about, or push out, the memories of our traumatic experiences. Even if that happens, we cannot easily push away and suppress the effects of those experiences on our souls. A person who has lost an arm may be able to forget momentarily the event that caused its loss, but that person still has to daily deal with a missing arm.
I may be able to keep from dwelling on my traumatic experiences,
but my PTSD soul wound still affects me day in and day out.
The survivors and veterans of World War II, rape survivors, clergy abuse survivors, other veterans, and all those who have been traumatized, deal with the on-going realities of PTSD on a daily basis. For myself, most days are better than other days. Yet, I still have to be careful, mindful, of my PTSD soul wounds. I must not let PTSD become my new Lord. It lingers in the shadows, always ready to make me give up on myself and others. It wants me in despair and alienation. And, it wants me to abandon God.
PTSD, Hope, and Courage to Heal
Yet, in spite of our soul wounds, regardless of the source of trauma, we may continue in hope. PTSD hates hope. PTSD wants you to give up on yourself, others, and God. It desires to isolate you and then allow you to die through suicide or just wither away in despair and hopelessness. PTSD wants to become your Overlord and force you to abandon all hope and your life.
Hope Takes Courage.
Hope Sustains Life.
While there are various medications to help with PTSD symptoms, none of them restore hope. Our medications can help us control some of our PTSD symptoms. But, meds do not restore the soul wounded by PTSD.
We need to decide who or what is our Overlord
For those who have no solid religious upbringing, or for those who have been abused by unrealistic fundamentalisms (whether they are victims of religious fundamentalism or fundamentalist atheism), the start is to be open to the possibility of something/someone bigger than yourself. To be open to the possible reality of the ultimate reality, that is, God.
It is not inevitable that the PTSD-Identity will become your new Overlord. It wants you to give up hope, lose courage, and think it is inevitable. But it is not.
PTSD Does Not Have to Become Our Overlord
Your life has value. The PTSD-Identity will try to wound your soul so severely that you will give up on yourself and others. The way to defeat PTSD is to realize you have self-worth, that all life has value.
Commit to the brute, basic, fact that your life has value.
Let all of your decisions generate from this fact. Not in a conceited selfish way, but in the knowledge that your life is connected to God and so is in relationship with every other life.
Recovery from the PTSD Soul Wound
PTSD recovery is a long hard path. It takes the utmost courage to walk it. Not everyone will support you. Many will wish you would simply go away. In spite of their foolishness know you have value. God wants you to heal. God does not want PTSD to be your Overlord.
Not everyone is indifferent to your suffering. There are those who sincerely want your PTSD wounded soul to heal. This is hard to deal with as PTSD has taught us to trust no one. Risking trust is part of the healing.
PTSD recovery is a renewed embrace of hope and trust in a time when the answers seem too distant and vague. Let your guiding star be the assured awareness that you have value, your life has meaning, God loves you.
Whether your trauma was from decades ago, or occurred just recently, don’t give up, don’t allow PTSD to become your soul’s Overlord. You are not alone in this painful, confusing journey. People are praying and hoping for you even now.
Semper Pax, Dr. Z