PTSD Spirituality: PTSD Seeks Our Disease (WB)

Send More Catnip!It is no secret that PTSD seeks to destroy us. It desires to make us unstable, unpredictable, and unreliable. By doing so, it corrodes our best and most healthy relationships (Yikes! The cat just explored the keyboard – again – and I need to retype some things). So, even the cat agrees, PTSD is out to harm us and then to harm others by rendering us unpredictable (Meow! Make him stop typing so he’ll get back to petting me!)…er, umm, well, it seems I have a co-typist today.

So…meanwhile, here I am, back at the keyboard … (Meow! Send more catnip!)

While the word “disease” has a long and distinguished career in the medical community, my use of the word relates to its original sense.

PTSD seeks our disease. It seeks to make us uneasy. This unease has the potential to harm us and alienate those who love us.

The word “Disease” comes out of Middle English, which acquired it from Old French. The meanings we get from there is “lack of ease” and “inconvenience.” More explicitly, it has the sense of a “reversal” away from “ease” or “convenience.” Exploring the word “inconvenience” and its roots gives us a variety of meanings having to do with “troubling,” “disruption,” and “disturbance.”

Like my cat, I am going to be a bit of a pest and string out these words (and some others that can also go with the word “disease”) below so they don’t get lost in a paragraph-shaped word wall:

  • Lack of Ease, Uneasy, Dis-ease
  • Inconvenience
  • Troubling
  • Bother
  • Disruption
  • Disturbance
  • Unsuitability
  • Worry
  • Vexation
  • Burden

You could certainly add to this list even more ways that PTSD tries to make us feel.

Even more than just how it can make us feel, PTSD actually wants us to become these feelings.

PTSD wants us to be incarnations of these negative feelings.

Think about this for a moment. PTSD wants to change who you are and prevent you from being the person you could be.

Take one of the words from our list above and then insert it into the statements about PTSD. What do we get?

  • PTSD makes me feel like a/an ______________.
  • PTSD wants be to be a/an _________________.
  • PTSD makes me feel like a disruption. PTSD wants me to be a disruption.
  • PTSD makes me feel uneasy. PTSD wants me to be uneasy.
  • PTSD makes me feel like a burden.  PTSD wants me to be a burden.

Okay, So Now What Do I Do With This Info?

One of the ways that PTSD attempts to control us is by seeking to confuse us and keep us off-balanced. Many of the people I know who have PTSD can describe feelings of not knowing why they feel the way they do, not understanding why they do things that they know are harmful. They don’t understand what has happened to them. This remains true even though PTSD is more a part of the public conversation today than it used to be.

Knowledge about PTSD leads to power over PTSD.

The more we understand what PTSD tries to do to us the better we can heal and even thrive.

We need to remove PTSD’s authorization to define us through PTSD symptoms and triggers. How do we do this?

We revoke PTSD’s authorization by choosing what words we will use to describe who we are. We know that PTSD wants to change our heart and by so doing, go on to change who we are.

It wants to change our hearts so that we will alienate all of our healthy relationships.

We need to change this “PTSD heart conversation” away from the destructiveness of PTSD and towards a conversation that promotes the essential value of our lives.

Image and Likeness of God (Again)

If we desire to prevent PTSD from defining us, then we need to acknowledge that we are created in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26).  PTSD does not want us to know, let alone affirm, that we are made by God, that we have value, and part of our divine creation is to be lived out in healthy relationships.

What we think we are, we will become.

This is not simply a matter of willpower, but it is a matter of commitment. It is a matter of risking a willingness to forgive, of not dwelling only on the past, and to acknowledge that our future is not predetermined by PTSD. I also acknowledge there is a physical, brain chemistry, side to PTSD. We ought not to reject the medical side of PTSD treatment.

We need to replace PTSD’s goal to make us diseased … dis-eased, and replace the word diseased (and the other words that go with it) with the kind of words we’d prefer to be associated with.

  • If PTSD wants me to feel hopeless, I need to replace it with hope.
  • If PTSD wants me to feel like a burden, then I need to replace that with words like, a gift, an opportunity, a joy.
  • If PTSD wants me to feel worthless, I need to replace that with words like worthy and worthwhile.

PTSD and its enablers want us to feel hopeless, ashamed, and worthless. They work at reinforcing those feelings in us so that we may actually become those things.

Rapists, pedophiles, molesters, and those who inflict incest on their own kids often try to make the child feel like the instigator. The child is made to feel as if they are the one who has sinned, committed a heinous crime. The perpetrators don’t want you or me to ever feel hopeful, worthwhile, or that we have something positive to offer others.

We are not required to stop remembering or ever think again about the traumas we’ve endured.

Yet, we need to prevent those negative PTSD-diseased thoughts from becoming our dominant thoughts which determine who and what we are.

While the worst of PTSD may have shaped our past, it does not have to shape our present and future.

As often as PTSD’s disruptive and intrusive memories, or as (sadly) some people, try to make us feel diseased, we need to counter that with the affirmations based in our knowledge that we are created in the image and likeness of God.

And, since we are created in God’s image and likeness, we know that we are not diseased, a burden, a pain in the ass, just a waste of space … fill-in the ones you know that get used against you.

Don’t Do This Unless You Take Both Steps 1 and 2

  • Step 1: Take a minute and jot down the negative, alienating thoughts which PTSD inflicts upon you.
  • Step 2: Now take several minutes writing out the opposite of those things.

If you only do Step 1, or simply dwell on Step 1, then you are programming yourself for failure and further alienation. Why? Because only engaging Step 1 will simply reinforce PTSD’s disease and alienation. It’s like opening a painful wound (Step 1), but opting not to clean out the infection and stitch it up (Step 2).

Want Some Bonus Points?

  • Step 3: Jot down a couple of things you would like to do that PTSD makes difficult. Be sure to phrase these in the affirmative.

For example, “I’d like to be more hopeful. I am more hopeful.”

This helps not only to heal other wounds, but also builds up more health and resilience overall.

Assuming you did Step 2 (and maybe even Step 3), don’t just write these affirming items down only one time. Write each of those things down five … count em! … FIVE ! Times! One! Two! Three! Meow! Five! Times!

Doing repetitions helps build stronger muscles in weight lifting and running more than just one yard helps us run farther and be healthier overall.  Similarly, adding repetitions to Steps 2 and 3 help us to beat back PTSD’s goal to render us as permanently dis-eased.

Is This Easy To Do?

On the surface, this looks just way too easy to do. It’s one of those activities that look so easy that we may then just add it to our procrastination list and never get around to actually doing it.

In truth, this is not an easy activity to complete.

  • Neither PTSD nor its enablers want us to regain our lives.
  • We might feel silly doing Steps 2 and 3.

But we will never learn to run in life’s marathons if we are never even willing to jog down the street.

Every time you engage Steps 2 and 3 you are telling PTSD that you want to be the one who determines who you are and who you will be.

Who Are You?

You are someone with immense value. You are made in the image and likeness of God which means that you are not only mortal, but you possess built-in connections to eternal divinity. This means you have immense worth.

In the Comments Section, please feel free to share ways that PTSD tries to make you feel diseased, how you would prefer to feel, and who you would like to be.

Semper Meow, Dr. Z

Comments

  1. I agree with your comments Western and I thank you for them. I get that feeling from most people that they think you are making a big deal out of nothing. It’s amazing. Imagine watching a child being molested by her father, see her pain and terror, do they think it’s so funny then? Imagine that going on for years thru her teens. Society inflicts the wound, dismisses it, and leaves many of us to rot. I can think of no worse thing than csa. I lost faith in humans long ago. To find a truly sensitive compassionate human in this world seems rare. This world belongs to the evil one and he has played puppet master with his puppets well.

  2. Georgiann says:

    I work as a hospital chaplain on a behavioral health floor and see people with PTSD all the time. It tears my heart up to see people going through all that they do. I do believe that the spiritual is a huge component of helping them heal, and am looking forward to hearing more from your posts. Just discovered this today!

    • Hello Georgiann,
      My hat is off to you for your chaplain’s work. While I imagine it can be rewarding, it is, no doubt, also a challenging vocation. I am glad you found the site, poke around!
      Semper Pax, Dr. Z

  3. PTSD makes me feel isolated, rejected, unworthy of good things or good treatment. It wants me to hide and not come out from hiding, or to think people don’t like me and don’t want to be around me, that I have to put myself in a servant role to have worth. It tells me I am not safe and neither is the world or others and that love is for others and for not me. It tells me multiple lies. I think the devil, the father of lies, has a lot to do with ptsd. And it stems from his sick and twisted imagination foisted upon the children of God. I want to feel safe, worthy, and whole, not bad, evil, and ashamed, which is what my abuse did to me.

    • Hello Annie,
      Suffering abuse is a horrible set of experiences, as is the ongoing PTSD that comes from it.
      Part of our healing journey is to remind ourselves, that in spite of our PTSD, that we are indeed worthy and can be whole. The more we are able to internalize our self-worth, the more safe we can begin to feel.
      It took courage to share this in the comments here and I admire you for your courage (which is something else that PTSD tries to convince us we do not have).
      Semper Pax, Dr. Z

      • Western US suffering. says:

        It’s no surprise to me that only one person has left a comment. This is exactly what having PTSD does to a person. To try to talk about non combat PT you ARE ridiculed! The biggest part of having this problem IS that everyone…and I mean EVERYONE thinks you are making more out of what may have happened to you. Then there are the people who you trust in just telling them you have been diagnosed with this horrible CANCER. ..because its almost as deadly!….they don’t even know what caused this in you REALLY upset us by saying ” Yeah…. I had it to..,.but I just did (this or that) and you just have to forget about it, get on with your life….if I got better?…you can to! That PTSD is curable. I am now 57 and after living with this disorder for over 50 yrs off and on…not even knowing what I had been living with and ADDING to (punishing myself) ptsd is NOT curable! It will always be a struggle to overcome. A work in progress….for me. I pray that more people get involved with educating the world. ..yes I said the world…about a horrible problem that will touch a lot of children and adults in the very near future. Bless all who are struggling with this…and I pray for all who may loose the battle.

        • Hello “Western,”
          People will indeed ridicule you for PTSD, especially non-military PTSD. I’ve also seen where even people who have been through the most horrendous combat (Battle for Okinawa) are diminished for not being tough enough, or for not shaking it off, or for not just getting over it and moving on. That’s bad enough for combat vets as at least part of society will acknowledge their wounds, both visible and invisible. The deeper injustices are done to those who have PTSD from non-military sources. Child sexual abuse survivors, incest survivors, clergy abuse survivors, all tended to be discounted and silenced by our society.
          I had expected a few more comments on this post when I first wrote it. Interestingly, a couple people cancelled their email alerts for when a new post gets written the day after it came out … I’m still not sure what to make from that.
          PTSD does seek to silence us and will also use the vampires and drive-by caring crowd to try and enforce that silence. The last thing PTSD wants is for us to find a voice, our voice, and speak. I am very glad that you still have some of your voice and chose to share it here.
          As to the question of whether or not PTSD is curable, here is my take:
          http://www.ptsdspirituality.com/2011/05/25/ptsd-spirituality-two-groups-state-ptsd-is-100-curable/
          Semper Pax, Dr. Z

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