A Note to the Church From a PTSD Survivor

PTSD survivor

"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."


PTSD survivor

Dear church,

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. 

PTSD survivor

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.


PTSD survivor

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. 


PTSD survivor
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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.



Comments

  1. So sorry that you went through some rough stuff. As a Christian, we all have trials and should never judge someone else for the trials and pain they are going through. PTSD is rough, hang in there.

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    1. Thank you for your encouraging words. Unfortunately it seems as though so many people have forgotten to take the plank out of their eye before judging someone else.

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  2. bravo bravo bravo a call to the super spiritual and legalistic people who are quick to give you pat answers. The church just does not understand many issues people face and the pray about it, trust god and read your bible are passe answers. Jerry Godinho

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    1. Thank you :) I don't even think that it's all about legalism though because nobody can show me where in the Bible it even says "don't take pills." In my opinion, God made everything we have and if we use it for the correct purpose and not as a scape goat, we're well within His plan.

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  3. interesting article- i have a few friends that suffer from PTSD and its been hard seeing them struggle with it :( thanks for this article!

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    1. I'm sure they appreciate and value your friendship.

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  4. This is one reason why I'm agnostic. I couldn't deal with the judging from the church and such. No one sound be made to feel bad over taking pills.

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    1. Unfortunately it does drive a person away. Few are strong enough to stand up and battle against it but someone has to so why shouldn't it be me?

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  5. I have a few friends that suffer from PTSD. It can be really hard when you don't have the right support system.

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  6. My husband had a form of PTSD and he has gotten over most of the struggles by changing his lifestyle. I think religion is so important even if you do not have PTSD.

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    1. I'm curious what your husband did to get over his PTSD. I've been eliminating sugar and drinking more water, taking vitamins, and exercising. Some days are still bad for me though unfortunately.

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  7. I'm sorry that is the experience some people have! I'm glad you have found a way to feel better after your trauma.

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    1. Yes, it's such a shame that a place that's supposed to be truly welcoming isn't always so welcoming.

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  8. I'm so sorry to hear that you received these comments about your PTSD. It sounds like they do not understand what PTSD is.

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    1. Unfortunately PTSD/CPTSD often gets linked with all the other mental health issues. Now I'm not saying that anyone should be stigmatized but I also don't feel that PTSD/CPTSD is the same as other mental health issues. It's more of an injury than a chemical imbalance - like having a broken leg instead of just a broken ankle.

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  9. I know a few that deal with ptsd as well. I am always willing to be there for others myself. I think that's the way it should always be. It's nice to see you sharing this post with everyone. I'm sure some are going to learn a lot from this.

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    1. Thank you for being there for them. I wish more people had your attitude.

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  10. You sound like a strong person and I'm sorry you have had to endure these things. You have to do what is right for you.

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    1. Sometimes I wonder how strong I am lol You're so right though in that you have to choose what's right for you - great point.

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  11. I am so sorry you have had such things said to you - it is not helpful or healthy for the person who is being subjected to such words either.

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    1. Thank you but no need to apologize on their behalf. As I've said many times, "consider the source" because when you do you realize you just need to keep it moving. In due time I'm sure I'll prove half of them wrong lol

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  12. I'm so sorry you had people shaming you for suffering from PTSD. All of your feelings are valid and no one is allowed to take that away from you.

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    1. I've learned to "consider the source" of the comment and keep it moving. I agree people need to be kinder and more understanding though.

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  13. As a parent of a child with autism, my kiddo's counselor suggested to me that I could have PTSD due to some of the stressful circumstances in our life due to that. It was eye-opening to hear him say that!

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    1. Kudos to you for being strong enough to raise a child with autism. My daughter is very high functioning on the autism scale.

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  14. PTSD is such a hard thing to go through. It is good that you have friends that you consider a lifeline.

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    1. I'm truly blessed and I realize it even though I often struggle to reach out and connect with them.

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  15. I'm sorry that is the experience some people have. I'm glad you have found a way to feel better after your trauma. Hugs x

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  16. I've always found double standards at churches. The conversations should be about love, acceptance and understanding and in most cases, this simply does not happen. I'm sorry you are being shamed for PSTD. Trust your higher power, not mortal man.

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  17. I think PTSD is real and wish there was more help and support for those with it.

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    1. There's some help and support if you know where to look. Unfortunately most people don't know where to look. This is especially true when you're dealing with the want/need for good, solid, Christian based trauma therapy.

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  18. "Psychological injury" is such a helpful term for the nicks and bruises on our souls --every bit as painful and in need of healing as the visible ones. And why is it that we cannot imagine the God who used mud and spittle and the spoken word to heal might also use a small pill as well?

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  19. what a powerful letter, an important plea, a needed call for the church to better understand those of us who deal with brain illnesses.

    i'm so grateful to have stopped here on this Sabbath morning.

    my the Lord give you rest and peace this day ...

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    1. Thank you for your comment. It means a lot because while I wanted to be powerful, I also wanted to make sure to be non-offensive so others would be willing to listen and learn.

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  20. Beautiful, powerful post, Brenda. I am trying so hard to help eliminate the stigma that is all too often attached to issues of mental health. I am so sorry that you had to be the recipient of those non-supportive remarks. I have heard them all myself throughout my personal mental health journey. It's why I speak so publicly about it as well. Because we have to stop judging and start showing some compassion towards others no matter what they struggle with. Life is hard...for everyone...so I wish everyone could be empathic towards each other. Please keep sharing your experiences and your journey. People need to hear/read it. Thanks for sharing this wonderful post at my link party.

    Shelbee
    www.shelbeeontheedge.com

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    1. I wish the world was more like you described it too. Unfortunately I'm finding that the world is a selfish, cruel place and all we can do is be a light in its darkness.

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