Saturday, June 13, 2015

A Parable - Part I

Imagine with me a healing institution of world-wide renown.

All reports of patients coming out of this facility are glowing.

The healing happening is miraculous.

The caregivers are amazing. 

The hope for every new patient is boundless.  Every prognosis is good.  Every disease is treatable. 

Imagine you are a patient who has heard of this amazing, almost unbelievable place.  You have tried everything else.  Nothing has worked.  You are dying of your disease.  There is NO hope.  The only thing you have left to try is this facility.  You would be willing to do anything it would take - give up everything you have - to go to this place and see if they are everything you have heard.

You travel to this world-renowned hospital and are admitted.  You and those around you know you are dying of your disease.  It was clearly written on your admissions paperwork and your chart.
Everyone that checked you in was amazingly caring, and almost excited to see you.  Their excitement rubbed off on you, and you began to have a small seed of hope form that perhaps something could be done for you.  You were left to settle in to your room.

After a while of no one coming to see to your care, you started to wonder what was going on. You start making some noise because you want to experience this world-famous care and healing of which you have heard.

Finally, a nurse comes in and tells you to quiet down.  It seems your excitement about being a new patient here has upset some of the longer-term patients.  Just be patient, your turn will come, you are told.

Somewhat disgruntled, you settle in again, beginning to wonder about the way this place is operated.  About the time you begin to lose hope, the admissions people come by your room to check on you.  They seem a bit upset and bewildered by the lack of care you are receiving, and promise to follow up.  That is the last you see them, but at least they stoked the small fire of hope that had been started.

Some time later another nurse comes by and asks if you have eaten.

"Of course not", you reply, "as no one has brought food."
The nurse looks at you, incredulous, and says, "You're supposed to go down to the cafeteria with everyone else!"
"But", you sputter, "...this is a hospital! I'm supposed to stay here, in my room!"

The nurse explains that everyone eats together in the cafeteria, and that the effort required to get there will be worth it.  You wonder how others, those whose disease is more advanced, are able to get to the cafeteria.  You wonder, but say nothing...only asking where the cafeteria is located, and how you are supposed to get there.

Friday, June 12, 2015

What does PTSD look like?

The month of June is PTSD Awareness Month.  PTSD is something most are aware of, on some level, but really don't know what it looks like, fleshed-out, aside from what they seen on TV or in the movies.  I am here to help with a little more personal level of awareness.

This will probably come as a surprise to some people.

I was diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder a few years ago.

What?  I don't LOOK like I have PTSD?  This begs the question, "What does PTSD ACTUALLY look like?"

I could give you the book-definition (from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, Text Revision, pg. 463). You can read the actual entry HERE.

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder is:
"the development of characteristic symptoms following exposure to an extreme traumatic stressor involving direct personal experience of an event that involves actual or threatened death or serious injury, or other threat to one's physical integrity; or witnessing an event that involves death, injury, or a threat to the physical integrity of another person; or learning about unexpected or violent death, serious harm, or threat of death or injury experienced by a family member or other close associate." 
The "characteristic symptoms" are what people usually identify as PTSD, though there are symptoms that are invisible, and relatively hidden to most people.

The symptoms listed in the DSM-IV-TR include:
1. Recurrent and intrusive distressing recollections of the event
2. Recurrent distressing dreams of the event (aka, nightmares)
3. Acting or feeling as if the traumatic event were recurring.
4. Intense psychological distress at exposure to internal or external cues that symbolize or resemble an aspect of the traumatic event
5. Physiological reactivity on exposure to internal or external cues.

Also, there can be two or more of each of the following:
1. difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
2. irritability or outbursts of anger
3. difficulty concentrating
4. hypervigilence
5. exaggerated startle response

There is more...but we'll stop here for now.  When people think of what PTSD "looks like", they often think in terms of #5 under the symptoms - physiological reactivity - the automatic response to stimuli, learned by our bodies over the course of the trauma.

In reality, my diagnosis falls more along the lines of what is commonly known as "Complicated PTSD", mainly because my "traumatic event" took place over the course of at least 18 years, and affects everything I know about myself, and how I view my life, and others.

So, all of the official stuff aside....

Not funny. Created by my mind trying
to make sense of my pain. 
I have nightmares.  Recurring ones.

I have trouble getting to sleep...yes, I am very much a night owl.

For a LONG time, I flinched every time anyone close to me moved fast.

I don't trust.  Anyone.  You're not singled-out for my lack of trust...believe me.  (this makes life SUPER-difficult.) I trust Jason the most...and my lack of trust drives him bonkers some days.

I have a VERY hard time releasing things.  Things are safe.  People are not.

I have a VERY hard time not over-thinking.  Really, I over-think EVERYTHING.

I have a pretty high wall.  Several of them.  If you think you are close to me, chances are that there is another wall you haven't even seen yet.  I don't think my counselor has seen all of them yet.

I am anxious about most things.  I TRY not to be, but the anxiety is there, whether I want it to be, or not.

I have difficulty concentrating...if there is too much noise, if there are too many people, if there is chaos.

I have issues with irritability and anger and can be a BEAR.  I'm sorry.  I don't like it, either.

People and events that remind me of some of my past experiences tend to trigger more anxiety, anger, depression, hypervigilence, and nightmares.

Again, there is more...but I don't want this to all be negative.

I have lived with this diagnosis for a long time before actually knowing what to call it.
It has been my reality as long as I can remember.
It is how I function.
I don't know life apart from this set of symptoms.

Since the point in time when I began to recognize that my reactions were not normal, I have wanted to change them, and have prayed and worked towards that end.  Thankfully, I am not the person I used to be...God has changed a LOT about me...and He is still in that process of growing and changing me.

Several verses have been a comfort to me as I have worked through the repercussions of my PTSD.

2 Timothy 1:7 YLT
"for God did not give us a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind;" 

Romans 12:2 YLT
"and be not conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, for your proving what is the will of God -- the good, and acceptable, and perfect."

There is HOPE.  God IS transforming my mind with His love, and His Word...I don't have to be stuck in this former way of thinking...I definitely look forward to the transformation being complete!!

*PSA: If you have PTSD, DO NOT google images of nightmares.  DO NOT.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

More MORE.

Today was another in the series at Grace Chapel on MORE.
(You can watch the sermon here.)

I took notes.

So, you'll get my notes from the sermon.  And maybe a little more....

Bryan Wilkerson 
MORE - The Super-Natural Life

Super-hero movies are the big hits for the summer.  

The draw of them is seen in the possibility of being better than we are.

In reality, we ARE made to do and be more. Super-Naturally.  We cannot live up to those possibilities on our own. Even as believers. 

Reality means we go back to our old ways, habits, etc. 

From Romans 7 - what is wrong with me? I want to be different, more, but I still do the old things. I do the things I don't want to do. 

Why don't we find the victory we so desire?

Galatians 1:1-2, 6-7; 3:1-3, 

The Galatians have traded the good news of trust for the bad news of trying harder. 

After trusting God for forgiveness, we then go back to doing it ourselves to change ourselves. 

Galatians 2:20 

We can't live this life in the natural. It can only be done in the super-natural. 

In the same way a glove can do no work without a hand in it, so we cannot change without the Holy Spirit in us.  

Galatians 5:16-18 

Our natural self cannot do anything new and different without the help of the Holy Spirit. 

Galatians 5:22-25 talks about the Fruit of the Spirit.  This is NOT something we produce on our own, but is evidence of the Spirit within us.  

John Ortburg give an example of using a row boat vs a sailboat. 
Some of us live the Christian life as if we are rowing, but with the Holy Spirit it is like being in a sailboat. 


We are not passive. 
We walk in step with the spirit.  
We set our sails to catch the wind. 

A Super-Hero serves thru the power of the Holy Spirit. 

How to live the abundant life: 

1. Get acquainted with the Spirit
John 13-16, acts 2, Romans 8, Galatians 5, I Corinthians 
Chuck Swindoll, Andy Stanley

2. Invite the Holy Spirit into your daily life. 

3. Yield to the Spirit at critical moments