About Dr. Z

 

I am Dr. John Zemler, PhD.  My students usually call me Dr. Z.

I am a disabled US Army Veteran and I have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, usually known as PTSD.  I was traumatized as a young officer serving overseas.  I am not a combat veteran, although some people have said that I am.  I have not served in anything like Iraq, Afghanistan or Vietnam.  I was the security officer for a special weapons unit and I experienced what I call “interesting times.” 

 

My PTSD cost me a number of relationships and almost my life.  I spent 23 years with nightmares and other PTSD behaviors and there were several times I thought that life was no longer worth living.  Fortunately the right people entered my life and I am much better off than I used to be.  That said, my soul is still wounded by PTSD and I strive to nurse it back to health.

 

After I left the Army I eventually earned a PhD in Biblical Studies at a Jesuit Catholic University.  While disabled and having survived some encounters with the US Medical Industry I am still able to teach part-time in a Theology Department.  I usually teach scripture and introductory theology.  I also teach a course called the Theology of Violence and Non-Violence.

 

I have taken my theology background, my military experience, and my PTSD and strive to help others heal from trauma.  Sometimes this is done through meeting students, priest abuse survivors, sexual assault survivors, soldiers, or whomever has been damaged by trauma.  Starting this blog is one effort to try and help others heal from the soul wound of PTSD.

 

Some of my disabilities I acquired in the military and some as a civilian.  One of them means that to write or type is very painful.  I will try to keep a regular blog and respond to people, but please be aware that some days I am unable to use a keyboard.

 

The PTSD life is a hard one, but it is one that helps us to learn to hope, pray, and help others.

 

Semper Pax, Dr. Z

Comments

  1. Daniel M Stalling says:

    Hope you are doing well. Dan Stalling

  2. Ms. Vee says:

    I’m weeping as I read just a little of your writing. I need this help. Mother’s Day was a disaster. I’m horrified by the way my behaviors affect my family. I know much about healing and just as much about falling apart and going back to square one, but what I know has been discovered in isolation. Thank you God for putting this website in my awareness.

    • Hello, Ms. Vee,
      Holidays can be really destructive for us. There is just way too much expectation built into these days. Everyone is on edge, if they know it or not. The potential for good is there, but so is the potential for disaster. If we and/or others do not understand how PTSD will try to use these days to further damage us, we will get further damaged. But, we can still take things a day at a time, asking God for the grace to get through, somehow, for the next day, or the next couple of minutes. Semper Pax, Dr. Z

      • Ms. Vee says:

        Would you direct me to a few of the best articles and links for legal help? I was arrested for disorderly conduct and punched in the face by a police officer when I went to a crisis center in the midst of a panic episode on Mother’s Day. I’ll need to find the correct resources to navigate this mess, and will need to do so in swift order. Thank you, Ms. Vee.

        • Hello Ms Vee, I don’t have any direct advice in this area. Indirectly I would google phrases like, “disorderly conduct defense” and “police excessive force.” One might also seek out local legal counsel as soon as possible.
          The following link may be useful to you: http://www.justanswer.com/sip/law?r=ppc|ga|1|Law|Legal%20Aid&JPKW=legal%20aid&JPDC=S&JPST=&JPAD=31553396523&JPMT=e&JPNW=g&JPAF=txt&JPCD=20120920&JPRC=1&JPOP=Janine_GimmeAMinute_trans&mkwid=sbsPXvmoD_dc&pcrid=31553396523&pkw=legal%20aid&pmt=e&plc=&gclid=CjgKEAjwnfGbBRDlxoHrl6uikyESJAD-nzCF5fxxOzWXfG3sCFPw8U38c_JzbvkZ0ZwG7rDty3VtGvD_BwE

          It is for Legal Aid.
          Good Luck & Semper Pax, Dr. Z

          • Ms. Vee says:

            I’m sorry, I think I was unclear in my last reply. I have access to attorney information and general information about police officers using force. I am hoping to find support groups, other PTSD afflicted people who have been in legal situations that resulted from their panic episodes, useful information for dealing with the effects of re-traumatization when in the process of attempting to get help, ways to remain calm and composed in court during criminal and civil proceedings…anything that can address the multi-faceted issues specific to PTSD in legal situations. Blogs, articles, books, anything you might know of to help with the disease side of my dilemma. Thanks much,

            Ms. Vee

  3. Diane Waltman says:

    #lifeverse

    When I think about where I was and how God rescued me and brought me through all of my pain and misery, I want to help as many people as I possibly can to have hope and believe what God can do for them. If you’ll trust God to write a beautiful story through your life, you’ll find purpose in your pain as God takes your mess and turns it into His message. My motive in telling my story is not for you to go out and buy my book or feel sorry for myself. I’m sharing my story because many, many people have been through similar struggles. God wants to share my story so you may be restored by God’s mercy and grace. I’m living proof.

  4. No, I haven’t written a letter to him. I just kept beating myself up for not going to see him. I was always too afraid to face him alone. I was seeking counseling because every day I was thinking about suicide, but it’s been four years and I’m still here. But I still think about it every day.

    Could I ask one more question? Do people with PTSD talk about the feeling of everything being surreal. I descibe it as feeling like I’m here, but I’m not really here. I do what I’m supposed to do, but it’s more like going through the motions. I feel more tied to where my husband is now, than to where I am now. That feeling of being in the moment escapes me. I remember it from before he died, but I haven’t felt it since. I just don’t feel connected to this place anymore.

    • The feeling of swimming through a surreal world is not uncommon in my own experience or in the PTSD experiences of those who I have spoken with. Sometimes it feels like the world is slightly on a different frame and I am either just ahead or just behind. Sometimes this will coincide as if there is no real, authentic meaning to our actions and lives. While we should always be on the lookout for our own authentic growth (and that which would devalue such growth), we need to be careful we are not suckered into thinking life has no meaning and then throw our lives away. Our lives and actions do indeed matter; we are after all, made in the image and likeness of God. Going through grieving for people whom we loved, and also grieving for those who had harmed us, can give us a feeling of disassociation. If a person feels this is leading to persistent thoughts of despair or suicide, then talking with a professional is a wise course. It is a noteworthy achievement that you have chosen to honor your own life these last years. Many of us are challenged with these thoughts daily, the key is to do our best to not allow those thoughts to define us. The thought that should define us is that we are created and given life in the image and likeness of God. Thus, we have inherent, eternal value, mo matter what. You have value. Semper Pax, Dr. Z

  5. Dr. Z,

    Thank you so much for you quick response to my question. I have been trying to seek counseling after the death of my husband, his brother (both Vietnam Era veterans who died six months apart) and then my father and it has triggered many feelings and behaviors that I had not expected. My husband was the “protector” that I sought after dealing with a violent father. I never got to confront my father like I wanted to, partly out of fear, but also because I was still grieving the loss of my husband. The extreme feelings and behaviors that you describe are what drive me a little crazy. I always try to stay on an even keel, but I can’t seem to do it.

    Thank you for your service and for using this website to help others.

    • It is not unusual for events like the death of loved ones and/or the death of those associated with our trauma to trigger our PTSD. Even without PTSD, living through the series of deaths which you describe would be a challenge. It is important that one not allow PTSD to convince us that this state of being is the “new normal.” Grief mixed with a background of trauma can be a hard journey. Yet, our situations remain filled with hope, especially when we realize that how we feel now does not have to be the new normal. You need not respond if you don’t want to, but have you written a letter to your father? Write a letter to him and tell the truth. Read it aloud when you finish. It will be stressful, but can also be a channel to some healing. You need not share the letter with anyone. You are on a tough road, but a road that is survivable and one where you can come out into the light. Semper Pax, Dr. Z

  6. I’m not sure if this blog is still active. The comments are a year old. I found your website looking for information on this connection between PTSD and thrill seeking. When I read your description about extremes, I related to it instantly. I was not in the military, but I grew up in a very violent situation with a violent alcoholic father. As and adult, I find myself in a line of work that can be very dynamic and sometimes chaotic. It is the days that are extremely fast-paced and chaotic that I seem to do very well in. It’s true, that I do feel the most alive when it’s like that, but then I just crave more of it. Normal days where it’s relatively quiet seem boring to me. Do you think the kind of behaviors and feelings that soldiers have can be the same as someone who has lived through a violent childhood? I was the youngest in my family and my sister doesn’t understand how I can be so affected by this so many years later.

    • Hello, The website is still active, I’ve never closed any of the comment sections as some people come across particular essays only well after I have posted them to the site.
      You asked about if the feelings and behaviors of a soldier could also be had by someone with a traumatic childhood. In a nutshell: Yes.
      In the times I have met with with survivors of sexual assaults and clergy abuse, as well as active military and veterans, I find that many similar symptoms and behaviors are experienced – regardless of the source and type of trauma. It is also not unusual for people in a family to not fully realize how traumatic one of their sibling’s experiences were. Sometimes they truly don’t remember it, other times they are in denial. Trauma can create PTSD regardless if the person had a military background or not. Semper Pax, Dr. Z

  7. [Edited: I was asked to delete the comments which generated this reply. I have done so but am leaving the reply visible as it does not reveal personal information and others may find parts of it useful. Semper Pax, Dr. Z]
    Hello, As I read your earlier comments/questions, the biblical text of 2 Cor 12:8-9 came to my mind, too. I think you are onto something with it. It is important that you do not become collateral damage in all of this. PTSD is never an excuse to physically harm another person. It sounds as if you have a good idea of how his anger cycle works. When the PTSD has us hyper-angry, we will not usually listen to a voice of reason and love. Is there a time he is more reasonable? That maybe a time to try and talk about some of the issues. Try to make such a talk one where there is no judgement as the PTSD willtry to make him feel as if he is under attack. You may try what Jesus did and use a parable where someone can evaluate a situation w/o thinking it is about them.
    Be sure you are taking good care of yourself. Write in your journal how this is harming you and your husband. In prayer, share with God how awful and vulnerable this makes you feel. If you have a very trustwortthy friend, then discuss it with her. As you well know, the PTSD journey is a hard one that often lashes out at those whom we love. Since the PTSD knows we can help through our love, it will try to make us the “enemy.” Love, sometimes from a safe distance, is how we can help those with PTSD in terms of its spiritual dimensions. Medical care, whether through the VA or another source, is the other part of the healing equation. You may also want to looke at Dr Diane England’s book on PTSD and Relationships…I have found it to be a valuable text. Semper Pax, Dr. Z

  8. If i had several hours id type my tramas hear. But i had to comment:
    Im first finding out ptsd. Everything Dr.Z has said (well ive read hear) has rang truth to my soal..scence thats all i know. Lol.. ive lived so long in despair Jesus just runs by my side. .. ive learned so much in a few days..that i wont tell r-evil-e that i know ive got ptsd.. i will continue to live in the light of my dream world i fight so hard to see, live in…and share to others, easing pain… i think it if anyone other thanmy pastors.. amazing the truth i know i deticated to Gods time/ my journey trama.my contract. JESUStest of my faith??! Please.DR. z…s amor ygave a

    • I hope you find the time to both write about your own personal trauma in your private diary and also that you can talk to God about your pains and your joys. Part of our journey is to not succumb to despair. When we share our journey with God it makes the pain easier to endure and perhaps we will then even learn something from it. We can pray for the grace and healing that will save us from despair. The journey will often feel hard and difficult, but we can make the journey with God’s help. Semper Pax, Dr. Z

  9. Melissa A. says:

    Thank you for sharing your PTSD healing journey on this site. And thank you to each and every one of you who took the time to comment above. Bless you as you continue to heal and take care of others. I know how challenging both can be as you do so daily and often when very tired or triggered.

    I am having little comfort in the realm of forgiveness. Something inside me thinks it is downright dangerous to forgive, as that has taken a bad form of forgetting the abuse and allowing more to continue to others. Denial. Forgiveness is not denial, but I don’t know how to tell my inner five year old that there is a difference. I will continue to try to make myself understand that it is good to forgive, and not dangerous, but even as I type this, I don’t believe it and feel like running from the laptop. There is much inner conflict. I have not found anyone who has had severe early childhood abuse who has been able to find peace and forgive and heal that part of their spirit. I do believe the spirit wants to forgive.

    Thank you all, Melissa

    • You are absolutely right: The spirit does wants to forgive. Forgiveness is something we strive to do and also to accept and not always with success. Forgiveness is difficult, especially for trauma inflicted on us when we are children and/or vulnerable. We may often wish that we cold make a decision, flip a switch, and then forgive people. But, like Love, Forgiveness is a journey into the grace of God. Some of our wounds are so deep and so grevious that our mere human will is inadequate to the spritual journey of forgiveness. In those cases, we may pray to God that we be open to the possibility of forgiveness, that we be open to all of the grace and healing God desires for us. If we find forgiveness eludes us, then we pray for the grace to be open to God’s forgiving love and that we might share in it – that it might heal each of us and all others. Don’t beat yourself up over this, God loves us wounded folks. And, in our wounds we pray for healing and grace. Semper Pax, Dr. Z

  10. Love your work.
    I’ve had complex PTSD since mid 2007. Could not believe how I fell apart, but I now know that I surely did walk through the valley of the shadow of death. The first 3 years, I was completely confined to the house and with the help of practicing forgiveness, my strength grew.
    It has taken 5 years to get me to the point of being okay to leave the house, still not functioning like someone without it, but getting back to that place.
    I truly know that forgiveness has saved me, with prayer of course. But when you completely forgive the transgression, healing does happen. I urge all those suffering with PTSD to follow the path of forgiveness and watch the miracles happen in your life.
    I wish everyone the best of recovery and to know, with God, anything s possible!
    Thanks for a great site.

    • Sharing your story enables other to heal and find the value in their own lives when PTSD has beaten them down. Forgiveness is both a grace and an action. Since it involves love of God it is always a grace, since it involves a willing – sometimes a not so willing – act that we embrace or reject, it is also an action. In my own healing journey, I find that when an action also involves the loving grace of God I am better able to experience authentic healing. Your story is also important because it shows us there is always hope. The PTSD journey is never an easy one, but we can regain our lives and relationships. Semper Pax, Dr. Z

  11. Hi Dr. Z

    I was doing a search on PTSD and isolation and stumbled upon one of your blog posts to which I left a comment. I’m very grateful to have found your blog! What tremendous work you do and I thank you so much for it.
    I was diagnosed with Complex PTSD, even though this dx is not one in the DSM-V but my therapist hopes that it might be. By complex, I am a survivor of multiple and sustained chronic abuse. Beginning at around the age of five with sexual abuse. Sexually abused by every male authority figure in childhood. Physical, emotional, sexual and lastly in my last relationship, all of those and spiritual abuse as well. I come from a pathological home and spent three decades married to a man with an Axis 2 as well as another ten year relationship with another Axis2. (psychopath). My traumas are many. I was diagnosed eight months ago and continue in weekly therapy with a fantastic trauma therapist. I believe God brought her into my life, as I consider her to be life saving. The last year and a half I have been diagnosed with several chronic illnesses that are incurable. I have taken my pain and have turned my life completely around, understanding my past behaviors, identifying them and having awareness…by God’s grace. I feel spiritually disconnected and come from a Catholic based home. I have been abuse free for 19 months now. I have also needed to remove others from my life who were toxic to me. I have also taken my pain and turned it into a blog and a facebook page to support survivors of abusive personality disorders. I see survivors and trauma daily. It has helped me so much in understanding PTSD better, mine and others, but it is hard work because the triggers are everywhere. It has helped me to become more mindful and more compassionate with myself and others. I am now isolated to my home. I cannot tolerate anything remotely connected to toxic behavior, relatioships, or environments. A sentence said in a toxic way that is abusive, can set me completely off. I cannot work because of this. My physical disabilities are also complicating my life. My work online is how I give back. HOw I connect with others. I have terrible guilt about this though. Prior to awareness, I fought through triggers and was very active at school (going to college for a degree in psychology) as well as “getting out there” and forcing myself to deal with chronic stress, hypervigilance and dissociative symptoms, numbing. I feel guilt that since I have become aware I am more isolated, and somewhat like a failure because I cannot function like “normal” people do with one another in every day environments. I have been told I’m making excuses and that I’m lazy. It has been implied that I must therefore be “parasitic” because I have had to apply for disability. Not one of those who have said those things, has had to live with the hell that I am when triggered. The hell that it is to have lived with so much chronic abuse. I totally understood your article on grace. Would you be willing to email with me, providing it doesn’t cause you too much pain? I have a lot to share, and a lot to do with faith that I cannot share publicly. I would appreciate your feedback very much. Again, I am so grateful for your blog and find that God’s grace covers me in so many unique and wonderful ways through this process. God bless!

    • Hello, Your life journey has certainly been one of pain and struggle. Yet, at the same time it has also been one of discovering personal liberation and validation, healing, and learning how to be of help to others. I visited your website and it looks like you are helping quite a few people. I am not too sure how the PTSD definitions have differed between DSM-IV and DSM-V. Given that PTSD has only been in the DSM for a few decades I have hope that as our science friends discover more about the nature of trauma they will be able to get it into the DSM.
      You are absolutely right that God’s grace affects us in all things. One of the better parts of the otherwise painful PTSD experience is that we are in a position to experience God’s love in deeper, meaningful ways.
      Semper Pax, Dr. Z

  12. Melanie says:

    I have had PTSD symptoms for half my life now and only just recently received a diagnosis. Sadly, I have gone through many therapists without effective help. I ended up completely crippled by my symptoms – unable to excel in a job and having severe problems just being out in public among strangers. Never having known what was wrong with me, why I was experiencing the triggers and associated reactions that I was, and never having heard of anyone with a similar set of triggers and reactions, this diagnosis felt like a tiny light at the end of a tunnel out of the dark place of guilt and shame that has been a long-term residence.

    This dark place has also been the antithesis of spirituality. I miss it. I imagine it will be a difficult road finding that within myself again. I look forward to reclaiming my spirituality. I look forward to light returning.

    I am curious if you know anything about the use of companion animals in treatment of PTSD. I know for me personally, I never feel more at peace than when I am cuddling with a purring cat. My cat is the only entity from whom I feel unconditional love in my life and I wonder if other single PTSD patients feel similarly about their companion animals, be they feline, canine, avian, etc.

    • Hello, Recovering – or discovering – our spirituality is one of the key elements to living with PTSD. Indeed, many aspects of PTSD are “heal-able” with a mature spirituality.

      You asked about companion animals. Anecdotally, I find that companion animals can be very useful (as well as delightful) in dealing with one’s PTSD. In my view there is also a spiritual element to having a companion animal. You may find http://badypartnership.wordpress.com/ a useful website on companion animals and PTSD recovery. Relationships with our companion animals can help us heal. While human relationships and divine relationships are always important, many of us can dare to start feeling and loving again because of the unconditional love of our companion animals.
      Semper Pax, Dr. Z

  13. On a lighter note! I just learned that free passes are available to the National Parks and 2000 other federal sites for:

    1. Current military and their dependents http://store.usgs.gov/pass/military.html
    2. Anyone who has a permanent disability (as many vets or their family members do — whether or not service-related)
    http://store.usgs.gov/pass/access.html

    The press release talks about recreate, rehabilitate, and restore, as well as
    unwind, heal, and rejuvenate. I enjoy the concept of people enjoying these natural beauties with their families. May it be so! And blessings be to you, Dr. Z! Amy

    • Thank you for getting the word out on the Parks! Often, being out of doors and away from the phones and hubbub is very healing – free passes can help people get away where the sound of nature is one of the Voices of the God Who loves them. Semper Pax, Dr. Z

  14. John F. says:

    Dear Dr. Z,

    Like yourself, I too am a former officer who has been diagnosed with PTSD.
    I was raised in a very affluent community in Northern California, and unlike my classmates, supported the war in Vietnam, and subsequently went on to ROTC and a commission as an Officer in the Marine Corps. Like yourself, I was a Special Weapons Officer in the Corps, as well as a Cryptographic Security and Classified Documents custodian. Had a clearance three notches above Top Secret, and like yourself had some “interesting experiences”. It was one of the reasons why I cut my military career short after only 8 years. I left a very disillusioned and embittered man, who to this day doesn’t believe anything this Goverment says until it has been officially denied.

    But afterward, back in the civilian world, I found it was impossible to get on with people. Got into verbal altercations with co-workers, freinds, and family, as well as sudden rage attacks that came out of nowhere. For many years I just could not understand why. After going to a private therapist, I found out to my shock that I had Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Being in that world of intelligence, and with the secrets that one must keep, even if they trouble one’s conscience, makes one pay a heavy personal price.

    Of course the VA did nothing to help, as they kept insisting that my disability was not service related. I’m still going the rounds with them, but as a rule I never do trust anyone on the Government payroll. In the meantime, I have been forced to deal with this using my own resources.

    After 26 years and 21 jobs later, I have gotten my life back into some form of normalcy. Been together for the last twelve years with a cute lady from Switzerland who also happens to be an Officer’s daughter- fate! Also doing caregiving work for elderly people and creating fine art ( Prehistoric, Fantasy and Military subjects.). 12 years sober from Alcohol and hard drugs, gave my firearms arsenal to my brother, and do my best to be the Officer and Gentleman that it did not take an act of Congress for me to be.

    Here’s the reason why I am sending this rather verbose message. I am looking to put together a support group of former Officers who have been diagnosed with PTSD, and can find practically nothing about it anywhere, even on the net and other veteran-related websites. And there is indeed a reason for this. For those who are or have been Officers, one pays a heavy personal price for admitting to having PTSD. Simply put- it is a career killer, both in the military and civilian world. I am thinking about perhaps doing this with some other veterans group and not the VA, because every time the Government gets involved, things always go to blazes. Do you have any suggesstions about who I may be able to make contact with about this, and what resources I may be able to use?

    And thank you again for this website. Even though I may not agree with everything said here, it is refreshing to find that I am indeed not alone.

    Regards,
    John F.
    1st Lieutenant USMC
    1977-1985

    • Greetings John! Very nice to make your acquaintance. Several parts of what you said gave me reason to grin or chuckle. I am guessing we both use sardonic wit as a way to communicate.

      While we served in two different branches and only a few years apart, it seems we lived some similar tales and lived to keep mum and have those mumsey tales go on to eat a hole in us – that latter part is where the survival skills really kick in. So it goes. We took the oath, we get eaten.

      Congratulations on sobriety, a strong relationship, and keeping the arsenal out of easy reach. Like you, I am going the rounds with the VA. In fact I won’t open a letter from the VA unless my wife is home. I find meaning in faith, relationships, my teaching, writing, and even this website. We should always be developing vectors of additional meaning – thinks me.

      Your idea for a support group of former Officers is a good one. I’ve never heard of one. Many of us are physically unable to talk or write about it: after all, we swore, and signed, we never would.

      My own thoughts would be many of us would be leery about having the VA run such a group. Rightly or wrongly, many vets would not break surface if they thought it was a government sponsored activity. That all said, the VA could be a good place to publicize such a group.

      Former officers who are dealing with or surviving PTSD can be a tough group to reach, especially if they had what I call the Cosmic-Attaboy clearances, etc. Most of us have since submerged pretty deep so as not to offer that silhouette against the horizon line.

      Yahoo Groups would probably be a good place to run such a group. I believe it is free and it could gated.

      If you would like to go deeper on this, drop me a line at the email address I have on the “Contact” page. Your idea is excellent: it can help people heal, find meaning, and can save lives. Realizing we are not alone is life-saving. Even if we don’t go further on this, drop me an email, I am sure we can find topics of mutual interest.
      Semper Pax, Dr. Z

  15. Past tense: I used to find my identity in faith and relationships.
    Present tense: I’m in “partial recovery” from a definite existential crisis; eternity feels different here (and it looks different in my hellish nightmares that lasted 60-80 nights straight)… having failed the testing of my faith. I’ve been hospitalized on 2 suicide holds since February for PTSD and Major Depression; and have gone through a 3 week intensive outpatient recovery program. My wife and I have thought that I was dead several times; I have not been able to read or to pray for over a year and a half. I was unable to clothe and bathe myself daily for over 8 months. My inner dialogue has been invaded by self-harm and self-sabotage. I withdrew and isolated from EVERY meaningful relationship and experience in life. My heart is deceitful, and I know it. I’ve had to depend on AA, NA, Adavan, Abilify, Lexipro, Serequil, Prozac, Prozasan EMDR dot dot dot. This is all way too hellish, and now I need to find new faith– faith that I can father my daughters with God’s grace, faith that new life can grow from the ashes– faith that reason and love can be reborn, and that Jesus can turn his rhetorical question into a qualifying one: “Having lost his savor, how can my child be made salty again?”
    Thanks for all that you do.

    • You have not failed the testing of your faith. You have certainly been traversing the Valley of the Shadow of Death – but you have not been failing in your faith.

      I can say this with confidence because while you have had nightmares and difficulty praying, you still desire to pray. Consider that the very act of desiring to know God, desiring to pray, is a prayer in and of itself. You may not pray in the traditional ways, but the desire for prayer, is a prayer. Your desire to improve your relationships and be there for others is also a proof that you have not failed in your faith. The desire to be there for your family is a living out of the will of God is also a form of prayer.

      Do not lose heart. You have shown tremendous courage. The road has been hard and probably remains hard. But you do not have to despair. The fact that you seek solace and desire God and your family places you more firmly in God’s love than many people I know who blithely assume they are terrific and religious.

      Your life has value. I will keep you in prayer. Semper Pax, Dr. Z

  16. Your pages help me. I am an incest survivor with PTSD. How aptly you put it all. I see that more attention is paid to those who are veterans of war than sexual assault survivors, and yet both are equally worthy of attention. Incest is a holocaust of the soul, and war is a holocaust, period, that no one should ever have to be subjected to. I feel like I do a battle with my symptoms every day, and there is so little support for us all. God bless you for your ministry.

    • Incest must be one of the worst ways to be afflicted with PTSD. It violates all of the most basic and fundamental trusts and family responsibilities. Every day we deal with triggers and renewed symptoms from our PTSD. The horror of incest can cause us to be in chronic doubt and that makes the PTSD even worse. Being able to write and/or talk about it at any level helps us to be able to regain control of our lives and know that we have value no matter what others have inflicted upon us. I hope and pray for your continued healing. Semper Pax, Dr. Z

  17. Hopelessness does sometimes lead us to have compassion for ourselves and for those we love, so you are correct in saying that one does not have to give up hope. I have been dealing with PTSD for almost 40 years due to severe childhood abuse. Some of my worst memories are just beginning to surface and dealing with the truth of what happened so long ago has been extremely painful. The challenge I now face is to find the courage to deal with the pain and truth of these memories without remaining a “victim” and continuing to the cycle of suffering. I still have many symptoms of PTSD, such as startling easily, not being able to trust anyone, feeling overwhelmed and unfocused, vague fears, insomnia, nightmares… I sometimes feel as though I am just floating through my life and so much of my life has passed me by already. I feel such pain and regret for all the time I’ve wasted in trying to control my life without realizing that it was controlling me.

    How do you let go of these memories when the physical sensations of fear manifest without warning? Are there other people you talk to who deal with PTSD unrelated to military experience?

    I would like to talk to you if you have the time. Thank you for what you have given for our country. There are many people who do recognize that it was and continues to be a sacrifice of the person you might have been had you not seen what you saw, felt what you felt and had to do what you did.

    Respectfully, Deborah

    • Hello Deborah, I am impressed with your willingness to stay in and engage life in the face of 40+ years of PTSD. Your life and resilience against the disassociation and other symptoms of PTSD are like a martyr’s witness to the value of each of our lives. In many ways, we who struggle with PTSD for years on end, and those who are affected by our PTSD symptoms, serve as living martyrs to the value of life, the sacredness of our lives.

      In my experience, we all share the same soul wound in our PTSD, regardless of how we were wounded. Whether the wounds are from military service, child abuse, clergy abuse, accidents, and so on, regardless, we share the wound and we share the value of our lives. And, most of all, we share the love of God who made us inherently valuable.

      I will be e-mailing you later today. Semper Pax, Dr. Z

  18. Dr. Z,

    Thank you for sharing your knowledge and experience with all of us. My husband is an OEF/OIF Veteran with 2 years of combat experience. His PTSD impairs normal relationships and has been challenging for our home life since his physical return 5 years ago.

    2 years ago, his alcoholism, reckless thrill seeking behaviors including fast motor cycle riding that nearly cost him his life, crossed over into infidelity, ironically with a friend of ours while her husband was deployed. I was both nursing and pregnant at the time and his sought after feeling of false aliveness nearly cost all 4 of us dearly.

    I have always believed my love for him to be unconditional but this has been tested as I struggle to heal from the betrayal of infidelity.

    Thank you for addressing this issue and allowing me to understand why he would act out the way that he did. I thank you for your service and admire your continued contributions as you guide others through the insurmountable mind field PTSD presents us.

    • Hello Jenny,
      I thank you for sharing your courageous struggle. In many ways the spouses and loved ones of those with PTSD walk their very own trail of tears and suffering. They are also susceptible to secondary PTSD themselves.

      I am a believer in radical forgiveness as long as one is not placing themselves at physical risk (in that case we still forgive, but at a safe distance). You have been grievously wounded by the effects of PTSD and it will take much prayer and hope to keep seeing the good in others. It is hard, but with grace, it can be done. Forgiveness and restoration are always possible.

      Do know that the situation is not hopeless. People can heal from the worst of PTSD. I don’t think it has to take 23 years as it did in my case as we now know more about it and spouses are better prepared to deal with it. That, of course, does not make it easier to deal with, but do know that one does not have to give up hope.
      Semper Pax, Dr. Z

  19. Dr. Z,
    Thank you I stumbled upon your website as I was asked to write an article for the survior section of http://www.healmyptsd.com
    I am going to write on how turning to Jesus and getting away from alcohol has healed my PTSD and how through his grace and love he’s freed and delivered me. I just wanted to thank you for this website and the time and effort you have put into it. If you could pass along my contact info to Adrienne I could help her out I was a Marine Corps Scout Sniper and did 3 combat tours in Iraq, I also was a Private Military Contractor last year in southern Iraq and should be able to help her out. Thank You

    Humbly in Christ,
    Jeremiah 29:11

    • Hello Andy, I will be writing for Adrienne as well. She has put together a fine PTSD Healing website. I hope to do as well here. I plan to write her this coming week and will include yoru contact info as you requested. I have not been doing so well lately and that has deterred me from being as active as I would like on this website.
      Welcome Home from your tours of duty. Difficult times, traumatizing times.
      Turning towards Jesus and ditching the alcohol will go along way to healing your PTSD. In many ways we have to make some choices when it comes to dealing with our traumatic memories. We can choose to try to blot them out with booze, or we can turn to God in prayer. In the long run, prayer and worship will help us recover from our truama better than alcohol ever will. You made a life-promoting decision.
      I shall keep you in prayer. Semper Pax, Dr. Z

  20. Henry L. Peterson says:

    I am a Chaplain with VA PCT Clinic in San Deigo. Would love to hear from you and receive some input.

  21. I must commend you on the great work that you have done and continue to do on ‘ptsdspirituality.com’. Your work was just one of the many resources that I used to help research a character for a (fictional) book that will be published later this year.

    My book, ‘A Benevolent Virus’ is a work of spiritual fiction. Daniel, one of the two central characters in the story is a Marine veteran who has been seriously injured while working for a private military contractor in Fallujah. He must deal with conflicting emotions when he tries and fails to help a fellow Marine who has returned home with severe PTSD.

    My publisher has just sent me an edited draft of my manuscript. But I am reluctant to move forward with the production of galleys (for much-needed pre-publication endorsements) without the approval of a Marine who has served in Fallujah and who had some experience, either directly or indirectly, of PTSD. Do you know of any such person who might be prepared to read the manuscript and to give me some feedback?

    I want to be a sure as I can be that my portrayal of the conflict and of PTSD is as accurate as possible. Any help you can offer would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks,
    Adrienne

    • Hello Adrienne,
      Thank you for taking time from your day to visit our website on PTSD Spirituality. I am also grateful that you have found some of the information here to be useful and commendable.
      The Marines who I chat with who were in Fallujah are not currently good candidates to review your manuscript. The ones who I know of are either dead or not ready to engage. That said, you are absolutely right about wanting to have someone qualified look over your mss for versimilitude. You may want to look at http://www.marineparents.com and place a post asking for Fallujah survivors who might be ready and willing to help out.
      While my active service was in the Army and I did noit serve in the current wars, I would be willing to look at particular passages of your mss if you think that would be useful to your work.
      Thank you again for visiting and taking the time to comment – and thank you for writing a positive work about PTSD. Semper Pax, Dr. Z

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