"If you were a mature Christian you'd be victorious over your PTSD in Christ."
"If you only trusted God you wouldn't refer to this as my PTSD... You'd be healed..."
"You're spiritually oppressed and in need of deliverance."
"Your past couldn't have been that bad, just get over it."
Unfortunately, yes, I have heard some of these less than "helpful" comments since becoming a Christian 2 years ago. I've also heard from others who've been told far worse. If you only knew how much you're hurting people here, how tired we PTSD warriors are of hearing these things... This is not the love Christ has for people nor is it the love you should have for members of your flock who are doing their best to overcome PTSD. This is not helping them get the help they need. Instead, they find themselves living in agony or committing suicide.
Do you really understand PTSD at all?
Personally, I don't think you do because if you did you'd know that PTSD is an injury that's permanently affected a person's brain. Having to live with this is like fighting a war in your mind all the time. Now when you're told you're weak because you've chosen to use medication to help you fight this war, imagine what you feel like... crippled, unarmed, desperate. So, you try nutrition, exercise, prayer and therapy but these don't always help with combating the debilitating affects of PTSD.
Why is pill shaming so harmful?
Although PTSD is an invisible illness, it's still an illness nonetheless. Pill shaming really isn't helping anyone. Instead, people are left to suffer because they're too scared to seek the help they need. Your stigma must end before even more lives are lost - not just spiritually, but through suicide as well (and yes, it does happen). This is spiritual abuse. It is not what Christ would want from you.
Instead of making a person with PTSD feel worse, why not be helpful?
You have the power to support people in your life who are dealing with mental illness. If you're not sure what you should do, start here:
- Provide them with some social support. This doesn't mean pressuring them into talking. It does mean being patient and letting us take the lead.
- Be a good listener. Sometimes we'll get stuck on a topic, but we need to be stuck on it right now. When this happens don't:
- Tell us everything is going to be OK
- Stop us from talking
- Tell us what we "should" do unless we ask for your advice, keep it to yourself
- Invalidate, minimize, or deny our feelings
- Make us feel worse by making demands or telling us we aren't coping like we should
- Tell us how it could have been worse
- Dominate the conversation with your own feelings
- Help us rebuild our trust and safety. Let us know you're committed to our relationship by making and keeping future plans.
- Be there for us throughout our flashbacks and panic attacks. Remind us that we're in the present and need to take a few deep breaths. Remember, this is not the time to give us a hug.
- Be willing to deal with our anger. PTSD makes it difficult for us to manage our emotions and thus we're more prone to extreme irritability, moodiness, and explosions of anger. Try to remain calm and give us some space when this happens. The last thing we need is a lecture on how we as Christians should rise above our feelings. Most of us already know this and are struggling to do so.
Why do I care so deeply?
I know the love my Savior has for me but only because I've found supportive, Christian friends who've stood by me, unwilling to give up on me, even when times got hard and I was ready to give up on myself. These people were my lifeline. They're why I'm here today. Each time I've stumbled they've led me right back to the foot of the cross, where I belong. This is why I have the ministry I do today: Because I want you to know the love our Savior has for us, regardless of what medications we may or may not need to make it through the day.
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P.S. Who in your life needs a lifeline? Will you choose to let Christ use you as that lifeline today? I pray that you will because there are people out there hurting, broken, lost, and confused for whom you could be the very answer they need.