Faith and Sight
It was the week of my daughter’s first birthday that I finally realized I needed help. Between trips to the store to buy forgotten cake ingredients I’d break down in tears and before afternoon naps I found myself shaking in the corner. I’d have my husband take her on walks outside while I trembled on the shower floor. And instead of dreaming of her future I was ripped into our past. I really needed help.
Just one year prior, I was in the delivery room, experiencing the trauma that caused all this pain. I had already had one child, and that birthing process was rough, but I had no idea that this one would almost kill me. Drugs, IV’s, doctors, nurses, tests, scans, procedures; I had them all. After the strenuous ordeal of my baby’s birth, and the sprint to save my life, I was told that I would no longer be able to have children. But instead of crying, grieving, or even being angry, I pushed it away. When sadness arose or I was reminded of pain, I buried it. I mean, I have a beautiful healthy baby girl—what could I possibly gain from soaking in anything other than pure joy?
Now a week had passed since my daughter’s birthday and things were only getting worse; I was being inundated by severe panic attacks. They came on so quickly and were so strong that I spent most evenings physically shaking and throwing up in the bathroom. They were so sudden and frequent that at first I thought I had gotten sick. I had no idea that suppressed anxiety could manifest in dizziness, choking sensations, fight-or-flight responses, and such intense, sudden fear.
As a mental health professional, I knew this wasn’t just an anxiety disorder. I started having nightmares of being in the delivery room, and flashbacks to the pain of my labor in the middle of the day. I found myself unable to care for my two children and could hardly leave my bedroom. I couldn’t believe it, but I was exhibiting all the symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder. I felt so embarrassed and confused; PTSD happens to soldiers and people who have seen horrible things. I had no idea it could happen to anyone who’s been through a near-death situation or intense trauma.
I began praying during each panic attack that God would take them away, erase the feelings of anxiety in my body, and heal me. I went through intense cognitive therapy and asked for help from everyone I could. I prayed and prayed and prayed for years, asking for this burden to be lifted from me. Yet each day I would wake up filled with worry, and I’d go to bed panicked.
It wasn’t until I changed my prayer that I began to see changes in myself. As I began to accept the anxiety as my fate, I began to pray a different prayer. I started asking God if He would take my pain and help me turn it into someone else’s testimony. I resolved that if I had to endure this, it surely wasn’t going to be all for nothing.
As my therapy continued, so did my prayers, and together they worked to heal me. I finally began to work through my trauma, and in doing so I found myself equipped to help others process their trauma. Slowly the panic attacks began to fade. Each morning I woke with less worry, and at night I fell asleep with more faith.
I slowly began to feel God healing my body and shaping my heart. Enduring pain led to newfound strength, and I began to see how the struggle was building character in me. It took years, but finally I realized that He had prepared me for this, and that He was with me every step of the way.
In the years between my daughter’s birth and her fourth birthday, I went to battle for my mental and spiritual health. In the midst of a crisis and difficult season of life, my first instinct was to escape. I wanted the pain and suffering to end as quickly as possible and to completely avoid all the grief, sadness, and loss that came hurtling at me. But God taught me to walk by faith, and not by sight.
I never thought that I would be able to conquer my PTSD. But with the love of friends, guidance from my pastors, the help of doctors, and my faith in Christ, I became an overcomer.
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