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Anxious thoughts…when the place you most want to be, feels like the most unsafe place in the world?

February 19, 2011

Anxious thoughts.

We have all had moments where anxious thoughts rise in our heads and hearts. Something makes us feel uncomfortable, ill at ease, alone, or unnerved. The future may not be known, past circumstances weigh on our minds, or the present situation is tense or uncertain.

The ideas of danger, misfortune, or worry actually cause a response in our body, our mind, and our spirit.

It can keep us safe. It can prepare us for greater danger. It can also keep us from trust, hope, peace, and joy.

Trusting God

King David was one of the strongest men in history. He led a nation, he fathered a family, he guided a people, and he also had an incredible need for God. One thing is very clear from David’s story. He was a man who made some bad decisions, that lacked wisdom, guidance, and peace, yet he knew where to turn when he had a need in his life.

In Psalm 139, David turned to God saying, “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.” He didn’t hide his need for God. He was not a perfect man, and he knew that he needed the Lord to provide direction and guidance, and bring peace to his anxious thoughts.

A moment of anxiety or uneasiness usually doesn’t create a lasting effect. Sometimes we can even laugh about it after the fear or adrenaline has passes.

What happens though, when anxiety goes a  little extreme?

The uneasiness turns to fear. The uncertainty moves toward confusion. Adrenaline overpowers the body.

A moment turns to something more. A little turns to a lot. Something small turns into something big.

That is what can happen in a car accident, a disaster, an assault, a war. The body, mind, and or spirit is traumatized and it responds to the extreme.

This is the ground where Post Traumatic Stress (PTSD) is created.

Post-traumatic stress disorder is based on anxiety. The causes are not completely known, but it can occur after a major event of stress, trauma, or threat. A person does not even have to experience the event but only needs to see, or be affected by it. Certain events may produce stress or anxiety in anyone, but that doesn’t mean everyone involved will experience PTSD. It depends on your temperament, your resources, your perceptions, and your state of mind at the time of the events.

However what if you do experience PTSD?

That is the question I have had to wrestle with, because I live with PTSD.

I live with anxiety that is a little out of control. I live with a body that doesn’t always respond the way I want it to. I live with a mind that can get frustrated or confused more easily than others. I live with doubts and questions. I live with a constant reminder of the trauma of my past.

However, like David, I also live with the knowledge that I need the Lord to provide direction and guidance, and bring peace to my anxious thoughts. I live with the knowledge, the hope, and conviction that Chris holds the answer to my anxiety.

PTSD is something that only about 7-8% of American’s experience in their lifetime. Women are twice as likely as men to wrestle with this disorder. Sometimes it lasts for only a short time, while others may suffer from the effects of PTSD for years.

There are three main groupings of symptoms experienced by those who live with PTSD.

  • Re-experiencing of the trauma (troublesome memories, flashbacks, nightmares and/or dissociative reliving of the trauma)
  • Avoidance of places, people, and experiences that remind the sufferer of the trauma or a general numbing of emotional responsiveness
  • Physical symptoms such as sleep problems, trouble concentrating, irritability, anger, poor concentration, blackouts or difficulty remembering things, increased tendency and reaction to being startled, hyperarousal and hypervigilance (excessive watchfulness)

My anxiety comes from trauma in my past. I re-experience the trauma, over and over again. I experience many of the physical symptoms where my body responds to triggers that remind it of something threatening, even if it isn’t true. When that happens, I have to work hard to bring it to a place where it is calm and relaxed. Places, people,and experiences remind my mind and body of the trauma.

Good News Bad News

The best way to cope with PTSD, is to avoid situations where I might be reminded or triggered and where my anxiety and responses accelerate.

Veterans with PTSD may never be able to return to war. Abuse survivors avoid contact with their abusers or situations that remind them of where the abuse occurred. Those who experienced a plane crash or train wreck may never choose that mode of transportation again.

We look for places to feel safe. Places where we are accepted. Places where positive and uplifting things bring joy and hope instead of anxiety.

We make choices that provide a sense of security, often living in a place of comfort and security rather than taking risks and stepping out into the unknown.

This trauma, stress, anxiety, and the ongoing ramifications of living with PTSD may be the event that leads a person to ask questions about religion and faith. Faith, and church may be the place that is needed to bring the peace, hope, and calm that is needed in the healing process.

The question I wrestle with is, where do you go
when church is what triggers your PTSD.

My trauma came through the church, through abuse.

Where do you turn when church is the place you most want to be,
yet it feels like the most unsafe place in the world?

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