I went to a church yesterday. First time in over a year. The pastor said all the right things. The music was good. The people were nice. And I just wanted out of there. I’m broken. I can’t unsee or unhear the things I’ve witnessed.
Sunday, April 6, 2014
This week I hit another snag. It snuck up on me and I didn’t see it coming. So many steps toward healing lately and so many moments of clarity. And then the smackdown.
Over the last year the topic of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) came up in a couple of my conversations. The conversations were at different times and with different people. The mentions were brief and happened in passing among friends, but both conversations were with professional counselors who suggested to me that some of what I was experiencing might be linked to PTSD. I thought it sounded absurd. In my mind, PTSD affects those who survive natural disasters, traumatic events or abuse. It certainly doesn’t pertain to someone who had a bad experience at church. That sounded laughable to me in comparison to the stories I’ve heard of those who suffer from PTSD.
One day this week, I awoke abruptly from sleep in the very early hours of the morning with the words of an email I had received the day before replaying in my mind. Then the pain in the pit of my stomach began. As I got ready for work, I felt unsettled and nauseous. As the morning progressed, the physical pain intensified and I ended up leaving work early. As the day wore on some of the emotions that I had felt without relief over the last 2 years began creeping into my head. By evening, I left my family and went for a drive alone so I could let the tears flow. I wanted to keep driving forever. To escape. To get away from this place. And I felt the extreme nausea that I’ve come to recognize as a need to purge the ugliness, hurt, deception.
For the first time, I went home, sat down and answered the questions on the checklist for recognizing PTSD. I so desperately want to get away from this pain. I’ve had a taste of healing and I want to continue moving forward. To my surprise, I scored in the “moderate symptoms of PTSD” category. The checklist is based on your feelings during the last month. I realized while answering the questions, that if I had answered the same questions 6 or 8 months ago, I would have landed in the “severe” category.
I can just hear the church members laughing at the absurdity of that last paragraph. And I can hear ministers’ families and other people who have experienced similar circumstances breathing a sigh of relief that they aren’t alone in the devastation they’ve felt and the evasive nature of healing. Healing is hard and slow to come even when you are working on it with every ounce of emotional energy you have.
Most of the symptoms that apply to me fall in the categories of “Re-experiencing Symptoms”:
and “Avoidance Symptoms”:
If you read back through the posts in this blog over the last year, you’ll see that I’ve mentioned many of these symptoms over time…physical symptoms, bad dreams, depression, avoiding the church building, avoiding going to a new church, worry for the families of the ministers who were fired, worry and guilt over how my reaction was affecting my own family, avoiding social gatherings with friends, numbness to life in general. And you’ll also see that the ‘forced resignation and following cover-up by church leadership’ scenario has happened 3 separate times in the last 25 years in my church experience. I’ve witnessed a lot of families devastated and discarded by those who are revered by the church membership as being the most spiritually sound and mature among us.
So, this week the trigger came in the form of an email sent to me by a church member stating his commitment to pray for the missionaries in a certain country. The country he mentioned happens to be the same country where one of the ministers this very church fired is now serving. In addition to firing the minister, the church also lied about it to the congregation, threatened to revoke his severance pay if he told the truth about what was happening to him, wrote a secret letter to the International Mission Board to try and sabotage his appointment to serve and then threatened his employment again once he had moved his family to that country to serve.
Glad you’re committed to praying for him.