Disclaimer:In this testimony, I give prominent mention to spiritual warfare and demonic oppression or attack. However, I am not suggesting a 'one-size-fits' all solution for P.T.S.D. sufferers. As a former sufferer of P.T.S.D., I know that healing of mind and spirit is multi-faceted and is not at all simplistic, predictive, or formulatic.
of Dreams - God Heals Trauma
P.T.S.D. - Part 3
Eventually, I came to realize that a large factor for my developing P.T.S.D. was the fact that I had no support system after my traumatic event(s). In fact, one could say that I had an 'anti'-support system, rather than just the absence of support. Indeed, I was told this by a very smart Christian therapist who heard my case. This therapist, who was once a youth pastor (and I did not know that at the time), was both stunned and disgusted at the reactions I got when I was younger and sought help. He said I was doing very well resolving my childhood issues up until the point of the new traumas. Then, when I sought a support-system and the help of a (Christian) community and it failed, the rug was again 'pulled out from under me,' psychologically speaking. I fell back into the coping mechanisms I once used as a child because I had no other recourse.
Women can be the best support system for other women or they can be the worst, condemning another woman to a graceless existence. Women can also be their own worst enemy. They can be passive about their recovery and be sinful and bitter against innocent bystanders, causing other women or men to almost wish they had not reached out to them. I have known this or witness it first hand. Since I wish to encourage all those women out there who help each other, the following two paragraphs describe how I first met one of the few supportive women in my life:
At about 1989, about the time we moved on from our previous troubled church to a small prison ministry fellowship, the Holy Spirit spoke to me about writing my testimony about how I came to Christ. I already knew that this should be written at some time in my life, but the Holy Spirit urged me saying, "You are delaying... Do it now." Well as you can imagine, this was not an easy task for me. I had two small children to take care of and a baby besides. Obedience to the Lord's voice, however, is wisdom. We never know why His timing on things.
I was no longer suffering from the more obvious symptoms of P.T.S.D. any more, yet as I attempted to write out my testimony in long-hand, I found myself feeling confused and at a loss. There was just too much to consider while writing it out. What should I include or disclude? Furthermore, I genuinely had trouble remembering at what age what things happened.
Earlier, I had a lady at our previous troubled church about my decision to write out my testimony. Because of our earlier conversations, we already knew that both her husband and I had experienced horrendous childhoods (her husband had spent a lot of time in various foster homes). When she called and asked me how the writing of my testimony was coming along, I told her not very well, and I told her why. She said she could tell it was very difficult for me, and she said that my mannerisms while speaking about my childhood were extremely similar to her husband's. Then she volunteered to write the testimony for me. She had once worked as a writer for Guideposts, she said, and would know how to summarize things well. Furthermore she had experience in interviewing victims of child abuse for the purposes of writing a testimony because she had done the same for her husband.
I quickly agreed to this, very thankful for the help. Eventually we got the testimony done. Copies of this version of my testimony (years later, I tinkered with it some and rewrote it) was taken to various places and people were saved because of it. I counseled one person over the phone long distance, because I had already left the state of Virginia by the time she read my testimony. Her family was steeped in Satanism and she was being 'attacked' by a variety of intimidation methods, some of which were extremely supernatural-- such as being thrown up against a wall by an invisible force. She was terrified and wanted to know how she could be supernaturally protected from these attacks, like I once had. I gently told her that she could not quite enjoy the benefits of Christianity unless she received Christ. She called our former prison ministry pastor and was led into salvation. The attacks stopped. Then I assume the 'local' Christians took it from there.
Dream of The Car
I discovered that my new friend who had written the first draft of my testimony was a victim of childhood molestation. This led to further discussions. One night we both sat in a car as we talked (this was convenient because we could be sure that my children did not hear or bother us). Our conversation turned to a discussion about dissociation. I had experienced a few dissociative episodes at the age of thirteen or fourteen. This is what scared me into believing I was "cracking up" and what had driven me to start praying then, even though I did not believe in God at the time.Anger and Dissociation
My only education on the matter was from a book that my best friend had shown me in high school, a year or two after my salvation. The book was called "Sybil" -- the famous case about Multiple Personality Disorder. She let me borrow the book at the time but I just could not stomach reading it. Desparate, I confessed to my friend that I was interested in the book because of what my friend had already described from the book. She had told me that how 'Sybil' had incidences where she was 'missing time'. I asked her to point out to me the parts of the book where "Sybil" described these 'blackouts'. When I read those parts, I found some undeniable similarities between Sybil's 'blackouts' and my own earlier experiences.
As I sat in my car with my friend, I confessed to her the extent of these 'blackouts' . Just as "Sybil" had done at first, I usually remembered what I had done afterwards, in a sort of 'disjointed' fashion, as though watching myself from a distance. Of course I did not tell any Christians about this because they generally thought about everything in terms of demons, and I knew that this was not the case for these incidences. Besides, I had been prayed over for deliverance four times already (two of these times were very informally done and the deliverances were totally unanticipated) If this was a deliverance issue, it seemed it would have been discovered by now!
I told her that these 'blackout' episodes had not happened since that time. I had gone to college, had a husband, had children, and held jobs. I was in very high stress situations at times, yet did not experience these dissociative 'breaks'. In fact, I was often complimented for my ability to 'handle' stressful situations. There were no inconsistencies in my personality that I knew of. I had never insisted that other people call me by another name. However, I often wondered what would have happened if I had not become a Christian (I do not have the space to go into why I thought that at the time, but I had some good reasons for my concerns).
My friend spent some time telling me about what she had learned from a Christian book she read that was written by a couple who ministered 'inner healing'. Well, 'inner healing' is controversial to some of course but I had already had some of it. So, I listened intently as she both described what 'dissociation' was and asked me more questions. She explained how by dissociating when I was a teenager, my mind was actually preserving my sanity at the time. These episodes though, she said, would most often begin at an earlier time then as a teen, and she wondered if there was anything I did not remember from a younger age than thirteen or fourteen.
I confessed that I did not remember almost my entire second grade in school. My mother had just divorced my father then and moved in with my stepfather. My brother and I were suddenly yanked out of our small gradeschool into a larger one in another town. During the school year, my only memories were of feeling overwhelmed while walking through the halls of the crowded school, having headaches, brief flashes of being at the school nurse's office many times, and my mother coming to pick me up from there.
Because it was right after the divorce between my mother and father, I had always thought that it was rather 'normal' for me not to remember much of that year. It may have been, but as we talked about it a little further I suddenly had a memory from an earlier time than that. Although it seemed such an uncomplicated and 'minor' memory, it certainly had a significant enough impact at the time.
This memory came from before the divorce, while my mother was still married to my father. I remembered my mother walking very fast while my brother and I walked beside her. We were only four, five, or six years old. My mother was very angry that we could not keep up with her. We were almost at a flat run at times trying to keep up, but then she would then chatise us for running, even though that was the only way we could keep up with her pace. She would grab our hands in anger and pull us along, telling us we were "slow as molasses". Our pleas for her to slow down fell on deaf ears. Instead, she gave us harsh reprimands for not being able to stay with her while walking.
As I remembered this scene, it felt like it was "bubbling up" from my mind. I instantly understood that I had pushed the memory down, earlier. I also understood that even as a very young child, I was not fooled by my mother's rebukes for being so "slow." I remembered watching her longer legs taking bigger steps, and calculating that my brother and I could not take such long step. I recalled trying to explain to her that we could only take little steps, which only caused her more anger.
Previously, I had thought that my mother was kind prior to the divorce. I distinctly remembered her patience on some things, and some nice things she said or did. Now I was discovering though that my mother had not always been kind prior to the divorce. She had incidences like this where she was being unfair and unreasonable, even while we were that young. Furthermore, she concealed this sort of thing by not doing it in front of my father or anyone else. It was really the beginning of worse things to come, after the divorce.
While remembering this, I also felt an extremely large amount of child-like anger well up within me . I felt a little dizzy and then I felt my mind 'separating' into two, just as it had done those other times when I was a teenager. I struggled with this and through sheer force of will, kept my mind from 'splitting apart'. I also managed to retain the memory rather than let it slip back under.
My friend noticed I was in some distress. I explained to her that we needed to stop and why. She prayed for a me a little and then we both went home.
Of course, I was quite concerned after this. I thought that these incidences were resolved and done for and yet obviously they were not. This meant I was either in major denial and they had happened all along without me knowing it, or I was in for yet another round of major difficulties. I asked the Lord "What now?" and "What if I start cracking up again?" Then I went to sleep and had a brief dream.
In this dream I was in the car with my friend. However, this time as I started to tell her of my mother's behavior, the dashboard of the car burst into flames! My friend did not see the flames, but I did. I attempted to put the flames out quickly with my own hands. I was somewhat successful but after all my hard work, it seemed the flames were just moving into the engine compartment. Then the Lord, in the form of a man (the same 'man' who had appeared in the "Go To Room 20" dream), walked up to the car. He walked straight to the front of the car and lifted up the hood. After looking intently into the engine, He looked up at me and with an easy smile , said "It's okay Teri, I'll take care of it." Then He took out a few tools and tinkered with something deep inside the engine. Suddenly the flames went out completely from both under the hood and at the dash, and I woke up.
Upon waking, I instantly realized that the flames in the dream represented anger. From then on, the Lord began to teach me in a variety of ways about the emotion of anger. For instance, it was from a Charisma magazine article that I first I learned that anger should be viewed as a feeling that was neither good or bad, and as such, it was actually a source of emotional energy that could be used well if turned the right way. I later learned through other sources that if anger was turned inward, it became depression.
These simple truths sparked more realizations as the years went by. I eventually understood that since expression of anger was often punished and 'disallowed' as I grew up, I had to develop an escape that was 'safe' for me. For reasons I won't detail here (it would take too long), I believe my dissociative episodes were a desparate subconscious strategy devised to express myself and yet at the same time protect me from further rages against me. This totally unconscious strategy did work well the few times it was done. The problem was of course, that this 'out-of-control' part of myself was indeed out of the control of my conscious mind. This produced a whole lot of anxiety for me, of course, because it is always disconcerting to have a 'blackout'.
Eventually I realized many things about my dissociative episodes. The more I took care of myself and my emotions in a deliberate, conscious, way, the less any 'part' of me was forced to emerge or 'pop up' in a undeliberate, subconscious way. Of course, this meant integrating anger instead of suppressing it and learning how to express it sooner rather than later. It also meant taking reasonable action to set boundaries against abuse and neglect, which of course included getting away from it as soon as I could.
I had none of those options as a child.
I don't know if any learned psychologist would agree with my personal theory of how I came to dissociate as a teenager, but I do know that the realizations I had about it helped me tremendously. However, they came decades after the fact. In the mean time, the Lord's reassurance in the dream that He would take care of it greatly reduced my anxiety over it.
Anger and Depression
Shortly after after becoming a Christian, I found myself doing something unconventional (for an upstanding Christian)-- something I certainly wasn't proud of. After my stepfather did or said something that really angered me and as soon as I could get away from him, I found myself going to a private place (where he could not hear me). While there, I really cursed him out. I also had some very explosive expressions toward God too (though I tried to keep those 'cleaner'). Being religious and all, I was disappointed with myself. I didn't think this is what a 'good Christian' should do at all.
However, all I had heard throughout my life were constrant streams of curse words from my mother or stepfather, and I was a young Christian. At the time though, I was genuinely disappointed that I could no longer "keep it together" as well as I did prior to being saved. What I really meant by this was that I could no longer suppress anger so well. Although I did not realize it, I was really upset about my new inability to totally push down my emotions, too. In other words, I was more normal. I could not numb myself out so well. It took me many years to realize that while I was expressing anger against my stepfather in a safe place, I was far healthier than I was only months prior. God was doing me a favor by deliberately letting me lose some control. By expressing my anger somewhere during that time, I no longer dissociated.
As I have indicated, I did not fully appreciate the benefits of my angry outbursts at the time. Soon I ran into folks who smiled a lot no matter how they felt and who did not curse. Thankful to leave my early cursing outbursts completely behind, I went on with my life without understanding the benefits of avoiding mental breakdowns by expressing anger. This did play into my P.T.S.D. difficulties because I was afraid to get in touch with my anger for reasons I cannot describe here in this short testimony.
One day though, I realized that I had to use my anger to 'fight' my depression-- I could not always do this of course while severely depressed. However, there are many different ways to 'fight' depression, even while depressed. One of those is to rest, refusing to take on any more than you can handle! Another is to refuse to suffer in silence (at least admit to a trusted person that you are depressed and need prayer). Another, if you are a woman in the U.S. churches, is to flatly reject the cultural pressures around you that require women to never be angry or show anger or passion at all.
Religious people often disobey the scripture which clearly says it is okay to express anger. They ignore the many scriptures and examples of expression of righteous zeal, passion, or anger by godly men and women. They push their anger down and deny it. They do this out of fear of social judgment or rejection just like I did. Some do it because they have never worked through their own pain or difficulties. Some do it so they can feel superior to others.
I know that prior to becoming a Christian, I was absolutely smug over my cool, calm, and collective manner around my contemporaries. I could be like a robot while the kids around me actually suffered from emotions! Being unhealthy wasn't something to be proud about, but I didn't know it at the time.
There is a toxic belief out there that all Christians should never have any real difficulties. They should smile and adjust their plastic masks, and should be able to sail through life on Cloud Nine, a cloud that could be labeled "Super-Spiritual Victory Over All Things Deemed Unpleasant." Of course, Jesus never said any of this was a good idea. In fact some of what we think of as 'undesirable' or 'uncomfortable' is not only necessary, but may in fact be pleasing to the Lord.
I discovered this in some unexpected ways. For instance, one time I was genuinely upset at myself for being "so angry" -- meaning I had once again judged my level of anger about something as being too high and fretted over whether it was 'okay' or not to feel this way. I guess this was an improvement over self-chastisement over feeling any anger at ALL, but like many people who have been sufficiently condemned for having emotions, it seemed I never knew what was "normal."
Well, I went up to the 'altar' and asked for prayer. A lady prayed over me and prophesied: "The Lord says He knows you are angry and He wants you to know that you have every right to be angry. He is extremely pleased with you. Not just a little pleased, but extremely pleased" So much for internal pretzel-twisting over anger!
This is just one testimony of many that proved
to me time and time again this fact: God created us human and never
once asked us to try to reverse His creation. It's okay to be human
no matter what all the other self-prescribed superhumans out there tell
us. Once we have reasonable expectations of ourselves and can figure
out what we are reasonably responsible for and what we are not, then we
can heal from condemnation.
This was a brief discussion and testimony about the role that a few of my dreams played in
my recovery from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, a condition I suffered to varying degrees for fifteen years.
Previous pages of "God Heals Trauma" section:
P.T.S.D. part 1 - contains my young daughters "Dream about Jesus and the Wolves" and a vision I had of Jesus
P.T.S.D. part 2 - contains "The Dream of The Injured Women"
To continue the "God As Therapist" (this page contains first vision in the late 1970's) testimonials in a chronological order, go to the next page:
"Patching The Wound"
followed by "Loving Plea" (final page)
This section of Diary of Dreams is part of our Prophet 'Un'School
So then, putting away
falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members
of one another. Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on
your anger, and do not make room for the devil. (Eph. 4:25-27)
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