PTSD Spirituality: You Are Not Weak, You Are Wounded and Strong

Raptors Like FlowersRecently, those of us with PTSD were further stigmatized by being labeled as weak by a major party presidential candidate. He stated that military personnel who are not strong enough have gotten PTSD. This is a false statement, probably based on ignorance and not malice.

If you have PTSD, you are not weak. You have plenty of strength, plenty of character. It is not a case of not being strong enough. We have been wounded both physically and spiritually. Trauma wounds our brains and it wounds our souls.

If one is shot with a bullet and it punctures a lung, do we say that they were not strong enough to withstand a bullet? Do we say they were too weak to withstand a bullet?

If one is run over by a car, do we say they were not strong enough to fend off that car?

If a Tyrannosaurus Rex bites … well, you get the idea.

Trauma is not always physical. The experience of trauma can be like an invisible bullet. Like physical bullets being sprayed around in a combat zone, some hit people and some don’t.

If a child is repeatedly raped by a relative they get to experience the equivalence of physical and invisible bullets. The physical effects of those bullets may, but not always, dissipate. The spiritual and psychological effects of those bullets stay with one for a lifetime. The wounds stay with us in the form of PTSD because of the twin hammer blows of being sexually molested and being sexually molested by a person they thought they could trust. This PTSD creates a soul wound.

In the military, some of the toughest people serve in the Special Forces. You can think of outfits like the Navy Seals, Army Special Forces, or Marine Recon. Physically and in terms of rigorous training, these are some of the toughest people out there, as we usually understand the word tough. Yet, they often become afflicted with PTSD, even when not physically wounded. Their PTSD is not a matter of being too weak or not being strong enough … and neither is yours.

Military people (Yes! We are People!) who are not Special Forces, even those who have not been in combat, can be afflicted with PTSD. Why? Because trauma is more than only combat. Trauma includes combat, but trauma is not limited only to combat.

Indeed, civilians also get PTSD. It is not limited to only the military.

Related to this are the Three Big Lies About PTSD:

You Are Strong

If you have PTSD and you are still alive, then you are plenty strong. Even those sisters and brothers who have been killed by their PTSD exhibited great strength as long as they could, until circumstances and society’s ignorance, denial, and neglect isolated them into a hopeless despair.

Each Day You Strive, You Are Strong

Each day you strive to choose Life. That makes you strong.

Each day you strive to reject PTSD’s desire to destroy your healthiest relationships. That makes you strong.

Each day you strive to avoid isolation. That makes you strong.

Each day you strive to avoid the temptation of self-harm. That makes you strong.

Our wounded lives, combined with physical, psychological, and spiritual pain, are never easy. Many people with more money and wider support systems conclude that we have somehow chosen our PTSD or that somehow we just don’t measure up, that we are not strong enough.

The fact that we are wounded does not mean we are somehow unworthy or of little or no value. We are not to be pitied, although we could use a smart dose of compassion and some legal protections (And, those without compassion could use a right smart dose of salts).

We, like Jesus of Nazareth, are created in the Image and Likeness of God (Genesis 1:26)

Like Jesus, we are wounded. And, even though we go through life bearing our scars, our limps, our stutters, our tremors, our headaches, and our anxieties, we still seek to embrace Light and Life. That makes us strong, like Jesus. That makes YOU strong.

Neither ignorance nor malice can deny these two realities:

  • God values you.
  • Despite your PTSD wounds you are strong.

You have value. You are wounded and you are strong.

Semper Pax, Dr. Z

[This has been a fascinating year in politics. With some effort, I have opted to not use this website as a means to puff up my preferred politicians or tear down my non-preferred politicians. This essay was catalyzed by one of the current candidate’s recent comments about military people who suffer from PTSD. My response would be the same if the other major party candidate said it, but perhaps with even greater surprise and disappointment.

I hope readers see that the larger point is how ignorance reinforces the fallacy that PTSD sufferers are somehow deficient, that they are too weak, or they would not get PTSD. You and I know it can attack anyone.  Again, you are not weak, you are strong.]

Comments

  1. This condition is a wound of rejection. The shadow world of being an incest survivor is to be, as an online genius stated, “hiding in plain sight”. We are strong but broken. I lately have had an image of Jesus hanging on a cross looking at me with compassion. He seems to want company. Since I am a lot like the fishermen, somewhat stupid, foul-mouthed, stubborn, but willing, I think I will try hanging out with him there. Words heal or hurt and Jesus knew that, He had the right ones to set humans free, but after He was gone they still had lives to live. I wonder sometimes what life was like for them after the Master left their presence. I trust Jesus because he hung around the scum of his day. Go down hill in this society and find out how quickly you become a leper in the eyes of the self-appointed pharisees. It will not take long. Jesus was quick to notice and respond to the hypocritical order of his day, and he pulls out of the shadows those who have been driven there to hide. pstd wants to ravage all that is life-giving and beautiful about humans, like our capacity to love. We are strong. Strength is seeking to give and not turn inward, to love instead of the temptation to avoid trying when rejection has left one reeling and lost in the human made shadows.

    • Hi Annie,
      “Strong but broken” and “hiding in plain sight,” are quite apt descriptions of the lives we are forced to lead.
      You mentioned, “Strength is seeking to give and not turn inward, to love instead of the temptation to avoid trying when rejection has left one reeling and lost in the human made shadows.” That is also particularly apt. Whether our trauma and subsequent PTSD drives us into bitterness and lashing out, or if we manage to still respect that we ourselves, and others, are made in the image and likeness of God, makes all the difference in the world. In my own experience, and in conversing with others who have PTSD, if we can help others, no matter how insignificant we may think that help is, then our own pain is more easily borne. It still hurts, but it does not produce as much despair. You are right: in giving, we heal.
      Semper Pax, Dr. Z

  2. Dr. Z,
    Sorry I’ve been so reclusive. Thought I’d check on your status & thoughts about the current “noise”. I agree with your perspective on the issues. I’m shocked at how many seem to excuse or even condone his words and behavior. It’s really good you’re reaching out to serve God among his wounded children. I know I’ve benefited greatly from your generous spirit.
    Thank you
    Russ

  3. The worlds you share are, as always, gentle and kind. I agree, this particular candidate is likely ignorant to the reality of the issues PTSD causes, nor is he likely aware that he has power to help people heal, or to rewound us with his words. My own response was not in the least gentle on social-media. You’ve taught more than one lesson with your work here. I’m blessed to know you. Be Well.

    • Hi Darren,
      I am much less sanguine about how he treats women and girls, especially since his recent tape hit the charts.
      That said, your own work helping others find hope and thrive is always a light to follow.
      Me, I write now and then and drink other people’s coffee!
      Always great to hear from you.
      Semper Pax, Dr. Z

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