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
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