PTSD Spirituality: Sick of PTSD, But Our Lives Still Have Value

I’ve been physically sick again.  Flu and PTSD memories make a lousy combination.  I’ve been busy trying to write down more of my own personal PTSD experiences.  I’ve been writing partly for the VA and partly for my children.  The VA has their purposes.  The writing of my personal trauma legacy for my kids, who are now adults, is so they will know after I am gone (hopefully still years away) why I’ve not been the father that television propaganda says they should have had.

More and more in my role as a university professor I run into young people who are bewildered why they don’t have a “TV Family.”  Sometimes, it is because one or both of their parents had survived trauma before they even knew each other.  That parent struggled for a normal relationship, marriage, parenting, but the PTSD still ate at them and there was much they could not say or express.    And thus, we often appeared distant or cold to our kids, our spouse, and our friends.  We were struggling with bigger issues: finding the means and the will to choose to stay alive.  We may not be the best parents, but we care, and we choose to stay alive…when it comes right down to it that should beat the “Brady Bunch” any day.

My PTSD is progressing into its third decade, nothing compared to the Vietnam, Korea, and World War II generations and light years longer than our current vets.  Unsung and largely unprotected go all of the women and children and men who have suffered various civilian traumas that are nation pretends do not happen – regardless of when they were traumatized.  So, it seems we are all in it together.

And, over the course of these years of surviving I now know a few things about PTSD and spirituality and about staying alive.  The combination of physical illness and the active remembering of trauma can make me ill and enhance the damage of my PTSD.  But, at the same time, I know now what I never knew when I only had five or ten years of PTSD under my belt.

I know that this latest bout of PTSD symptoms will pass, that my writing in the long run is healing.   I will not always suffer as bad as I am as I write this out. 

It can certainly be worse, it certainly has been worse, and it certainly will be better.  I won’t always feel this crappy, this helpless, this discouraged, and so damn worthless as a human being…. certainly not.

Genesis 1 (I think verse 26 or 27) tells me we are all made in the “image and likeness” of God.  That means we have value, no matter how damaged we are, no matter what we have done, no matter what has been done to us, and no matter what we have failed to do.  God loves us and is in relationship with us and values us, regardless.  When I meet with people I try to remind them of that: Each of us has real value in the eyes of God.  And, so do I…  and …so do you.

We can all choose Life together.  It will not always suck this bad, so stay alive, it will get better.  I know.

Semper Pax, Dr. Z


  1. Dear Dr. Z,

    Know that you’ve been a critical mentor for me on this path. The kindness and generous spirit you show in your writing and responding to people is tremendously important. Thank you. And I thank God for you being there. You’ve been in my prayers. Hope things smooth out a bit. You are a God-send.

    • In many ways, those of us with PTSD become pioneers and pathfinders for the more recently soul-wounded individuals (regardless if that wounding has a military or civilian basis). Yet, at the same time, we ourselves are helped by those who have gone on this journey before us. The other day I was in the warrens of the VA. An Iraq vet helped me along as he had already walked that particular walk. But, even if physically alone, we are not alone because we are made in the image and likeness of God.
      For some people we are mentors, and at the same time we ourselves are mentored by others. At the same time there are also people who are definitely not our mentors, they may even mean well, but they are not a good fit. Indeed sometimes they become toxic. I know that I am not always a good fit for every single person with PTSD; we are, after all, individuals and not robots. In spite of that, if we can help others stay alive and seek God’s Light and Life, then we are on the right track. Your own artwork does that, thinks me.
      Combined together we create a network of compassion and competence and keep one another alive. I am honored by what you have said; it reminds me of the urgency of our own lives in the context of Psalms 8 and 51. Semper Pax, Dr. Z

  2. Thank you. This is such a great reflection, I had to share it on my blog. As a pastor with PTSD, I’ve struggled with the interconnection between PTSD and Spirituality. I love your insights.

    • Pastor Beth, Thank you for sharing some of my work on PTSD and Spirituality with the readers of your website. I do appreciate it. While I write these essays partly to help me find my own meaning, I think they at times are useful beyond my own personal experience. In the kind of work you do on your site as well as in your pastorate, we re-enter the dark valley and help people to choose Life and to walk out together …sometimes we do that while we hold each other up.

      Risa R.: Thank you for the links to your work. Thank you also for your good wishes about my health. I am mending. I had a rotten morning at the VA, but I got past the immediate negative effects of that experience. I was supported by an Iraq war vet who knows how draining the VA experience can be for someone with PTSD. Some days I hold him up, other days he holds me up.
      Semper Pax, Dr. Z

      • PTSD
        Dear Dr. Z,

        My wish for humanity is that all who have experienced trauma may receive of the Great Healer right now. Although, we all have lessons to learn and as that goes some take longer than others to “learn”. You may be angry at what I just said, but it is in perfect timing our own recovery, or not, will take place. For me these past 3 plus years have given me the time to reflect and grow from my own twice PTSD experiences. Without them, I would not be able to assist those in fellowship like I am right this minute. That’s the key you know. Live in the moment and celebrate the day giving thanks for the little things that come our way. You have my prayers–all of my brothers and sisters in Christ do, too. Risa

  3. PTSD in response to Semper Pax,

    I think when we have physical symptoms that coincide with what our minds have been contemplating on our past trauma then it is time for new thinking. In our hopes for this Lent season to strengthen us I would like to offer one of my poems that is published with many more on In respect for this site I am not putting an active link, but the title there is: “PTSD Cancelled To Celebrate Christmas and Easter”. The unique thing about PTSD is that the emotions are the same even if the trauma is not. Peace brother, Risa

  4. Hang on to the truth – you ARE infinitely valuable.

    If only for the light and solace you have brought to me – you have a huge impact and value.

    I pray for your spiritual protection and refreshment first, and your physical symptoms be relieved.

    In Christ.

    • Thank you, Steve, for your prayers and kindness. I am convinced that I would never have made it this far in my life if people were not praying on my behalf. The upcoming season of Lent and our journey into the Easter Resurrection is always an important one for people like us. PTSD attempts to extinguish our hopes and then our lives. But, the prayers and thoughts of well-being from our other co-sufferers helps to extinguish the despair of PTSD. Thank you for keeping me in your prayers. Semper Pax, Dr. Z

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