Welcome to The Upper Room PTSD Support Group!
Each month we try to use a reading from the week or a feast on the liturgical calendar as a starting point for our discussion. After the group listens to the reading, or a short introduction about the given feast day, we ask how that reading or saint's life speaks to each person's healing journey. Members often then share different moments of their experience and how the story relates to them. Often, members find similarities to their own story by listening to other survivors.
My hope is to use this space to share some of our thoughts and discoveries from our meetings so that others may benefit from the discussions. Eventually, I pray that our site becomes a resource for anyone dealing with PTSD themselves or even those looking to start a chapter of their own for survivors in their area.
After my own hostage ordeal, I was fortunate to be put in contact with an FBI crisis counselor. One of the things she told me was that the human body responds to trauma the same way, regardless of its cause. So any survivor of trauma—soldiers, crime victims, survivors of abuse, etc.—can get PTSD. But she also said that not everyone gets it. Even two people who experienced the event can react very differently. This was true in my case, as my fellow hostage at Discovery had several very different PTSD symptoms than I had.
I share this here because I want to make it very clear that ANYONE can get PTSD. Your feelings, your symptoms are valid. You experienced something so impactful that it activated your innate defense mechanisms. So you don't need to justify condition. But you do need to own it. And by owning it, I mean taking positive steps to take back control.
Own IT, don't let it own YOU!
So much of PTSD feels like being out of control. Our unconscious minds work independently of our conscious minds. We cannot WILL ourselves better. It is NOT weakness. It's how God made us, to keep us safe. And until we feel safe, our unconscious is on the job. Unfortunately, it seems like it has its own timetable on when it will get around to standing down.
This is where faith comes in.
It seems counterintuitive that in order to regain control, you have to let go. But it's in that acceptance of not being able to consciously turn off these PTSD symptoms that we can start to find peace. Because by believing that this is part of God's will, and that we can trust that God will take care of us, it's THEN that we can start to feel safe again. Our faith becomes that external source of strength when our own strength fails us.
In a way, it's like being stuck in quicksand: The more you flail and struggle, the faster you sink. But if you remain calm, then slowly and steadily you might be able to pull yourself out.
Your healing journey moves forward with each step you take, but healing is never linear. However, it is a lot easier to move forward if you aren't constantly look back over your shoulder. There will be ups and downs. Sometimes what feels like a setback is actually progress, because your unconscious decided you were ready to handle something new. But I can tell you that it can get better—if you get the professional help you need. If you lean on your faith to sustain you. If you embrace the fact that what you are experiencing is a normal reaction to surviving trauma, and understand that you are not alone.
May you find the Peace of Christ in the Upper Room, as the Apostles themselves once did, and may the healing Grace of the Holy Spirit sustain you on your journey of healing.