What is PTSD and how do we minister to people who struggle with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder? The truth is most people do not know what to do. Some want to care but do not know how to care. I hope this article will help those people who have desire but lack knowledge.
The first thing we need to know is define what exactly it is. We do not bow to humanism but it is of benefit to see how the world views this,
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event — either experiencing it or witnessing it. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event. (Mayo Clinic)
In simple terms, it is when a person does not recover mentally or emotionally from an event in 12 months. If you can’t face your trigger a year after the fact, you are dealing with some form of PTSD according to the worldly classification.
In many cases, nightmares are common about the events that happened. It is also common to have flashbacks at random times, having unreasonable anxiety, and fear for safety, and feeling of complete detachment from people in general.
One does not need all of this present to have struggle with trauma and some of them will come and go over time. The truth of the matter is people can go weeks or even months with any of them and then, they get “hit with it.” They go from being completely normal to being suicidal in a matter of minutes or hours for no understandable reason.
The challenge for people with PTSD is that, according to the National Center for PTSD that is led by the Veteran Administration, there is no cure for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. They can only manage it but it is not like cancer that you can have a series of treatments or surgery and then you go on with life.
This leads to an issue that must be addressed. In popular culture, especially in the United States, people who suffer with PTSD are often seen as “military problems.” While the best research is done by the Department of Defense, there is far more people who never served overseas with trauma that there is combat veterans. It is just as much a “civilian” issue as it is among those who served in combat zones.
The reality is much of what the world sees as “helpful” for people with trauma is actually damaging to a person and from a ministry point of view, they open people to all types of spiritual warfare that is not of the Spirit. To be clear, most therapy is rooted in questionable practices are invitations to demonic oppression.
So is PTSD demonic? I realize there are preachers out there that teach this and it is biblically and theologically wrong. There is never evidence in scripture to support that someone having trauma is equal to being demonized. It just is not there.
PTSD has relapses
I will not go into my personal story but around 2016, I was living in the Philippines and the trauma from years before started to come out again. Just like a drug addict can have a relapse, someone with PTSD can as well. I was in the midst of a relapse.
Things were flying out of control and I was thousands of miles away from any real help. People just see those who are struggling as “crazy” in developing countries. The longer it went on, the worst it got. The harsh reality that I was alone in a foreign country without anyone to reach out to was present.
After returning to the United States, it was still getting worse. While there was treatments from the worldly system that was trying to help, none of them seem to work. (Surprise, Surprise) I left my hometown for San Antonio that is ground zero for research.
On December 18, 2018, everything came to a head. I grabbed all my medication including a month’s supply of oxycodone and took them all at once. I found myself in the trauma unit of a hospital hundreds of miles from anyone I knew. In a split second, I had attempted suicide. No thinking it through, no plans, just the attempt.
Two months later, I was in the woods of Moravian Falls, North Carolina crying out to God how this cycle must stop. I knew I was probably heading through another attempt if something did not change. Only the power of the Spirit could change it.
In a moment, the power of the Lord broke in. I did not see any angels or anything like that. However, the presence of the Spirit was so strong that it felt like I was in the throne room of God. For the first time in many months, I had feelings. I was no longer completely emotionally numb.
The relapse was over. The cycle had ended. Emotions were back. It had not been an easy road but after many months, it has came to a head and everything was about to return to normal. The only answer to it all was an encounter with the Spirit.
I am not against seeing a therapist or being the local pharmacy. (They had me on 14 pills at one time!) There is a place for both of them concerning PTSD but the only thing that really made any difference in the presence of Holy Spirit.
Everything has not been without stress since but it is nothing like the level of what it was in 2016-2019 and I make sure to value the presence of God as my healing today. This is not to say that I do have a few pills to take because the reality I still have a few… but nowhere close to 14.
I look back at the relapse and realize that it is only by the grace of the Lord that I did not die a few times in those crazy two years!
Emotions vs Memory
Science tells us that we have several parts of the brain. One of them is called Amygdala. It exist to control how we process things like fear, threats and anger. The other important part is called hippocampus that we use to process our memories. Both of them normally work in unity but PTSD makes them not happen.
What happens is the hippocampus wants to shut down and to make up for it, the amygdala wants to work overtime. So people are low on memories and high on emotions when trauma does not heal quickly. Memory is blocked on purpose and the side effects is outburst of emotions.
Memories are normally wrapped in emotions. A recall to the event awakes those feeling. This is why people can recall events that happened historically (9/11 for example) without a concern. They have no personal investment into it. However, if they recall a wreck from 2001, they start to break down. It is not just the memory but the emotions stored in the data of the event.
Therefore, a person now has emotions that are not being used because the memory is blocked and as a result, they are orphaned and hyperactive. They are free from regulation and this is how outburst begin. They are like a Collie becoming an American pit bull. The emotion exist to protect the memory from coming in our rememerce.
It is spiritually and ethically wrong to try and remove the “wall of emotions” that protect the memory without a plan to address those emotions in a responsible matter. Many people want to take people to the dramatic event with no plan how to overcome when it is triggered.
This happens because many people do not understand or choose to not understand that the emotions are not independent to the event. They think that “if we can remove the emotions, we can heal the person from the memory.” This is not true and it can cause the person to turn suicidal.
As someone who deals with cPTSD personally and has done quite a bit of helping others with it, I can tell you that this is critical. People who are traumatized are very uneasy to try and address what happened because the last person that tried to “help” them did not care about the emotional state they were left in.
In some cases, they have been treated as a EDP or Emotionally Disturbed Person. This is a term used by law enforcement. I can tell you from experience that many people will call law enforcement when they can’t deal with the emotions they triggered in the therapist session. They try to open up the can of worms in the trauma and hour later, you are being handcuffed and taken to the hospital.
This happens because the “professional” is not willing to address the issue of there is not a difference between event and emotion that protect the person. It is unethical in my opinion.
The area that real damage is done is relationally. In most other areas, they can appear “normal” but when it comes to dealing with relationships in family, work, and community; there becomes a complete breakdown. There is no sugarcoating this.
The main breakdown is about trust. People with PTSD simply do not trust people anymore. No one is trustworthy. If you want to earn trust, you better be a Saint Bernard or be willing to be untrusted for an extended season. Trust requires an emotional tie and most who trauma won’t allow themselves to be shatter by giving people that ability.
This is why many people with these challenges tend to live alone and do not try to have many friends. Often when they are befriending someone, they are doing it for their own protection. It is more about an intel gathering mission.
Somewhat connected but still a different matter is the struggle of being close to someone. It is possible to be close to someone and not trust them. People can “trust” a person but not want to be close to them.
There has been times where I had to close to a person for professional reasons and it was not easy. The struggle of relationship was very real. There was no connection outside of the shared project. This is very common in romance too.
The test of an relationship is communication. If you do not have that, you won’t have much of one for very long. Most positive communication is based in trust and when there is no trust, there is little true communication. Most people experience people talking at them and not to them.
When you add the issue of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder to the list of things that could go wrong with interacting with someone, you have a serious problem on your hands.
Now, we have to add another layer to the matrix. Trauma causes people to either fight, flight or freeze. In my cases, it was freezing and one of the main areas of this happening is problem solving. It is very hard to find solutions when you are completely numb to life.
When one becomes unable to make decisions, they can be “talked into” making that call no matter what people may think. People around them just don’t understand why they can’t “pull the trigger” on some of the most basic things.
While there are other issue in relationships, these remain the important ones and it one can work on them, they are on their way to having a life that looks much closer to “normal.” The truth is these are much harder than they look on paper. It is why many know what to do but can’t see to get freedom.
Resources for people struggling
Dave Roever’s Operation Warrior Reconnect is a great place to start for veterans that need serious help. He is a combat vet that had half of his face blown off so he knows the struggle of PTSD personally. He also works very closely with the Department of Defense. Quest for Souls highly recommends him.
Operation Warrior Reconnect has camps in Colorado and Texas to help people for several weeks at a time. It is Christian based, peer to peer and led from a position of love.
Another great source is a project of Global Awakening known as God heals PTSD. An associate of Randy Clark, Dr. Mike Hutching, has had great success with helping people with trauma, veteran and civilian to receive healing from the Spirit of God.
Recently, (2021) he has released a book about his healing ministry to people struggling with PTSD known as Supernatural Freedom from the Captivity of Trauma. It is a great place to start. You can find it on Amazon.