Recently, while out running errands, I saw a man to whom I was once engaged. Seven years had passed since I’d last seen him. And although at the time I was very fearful of what he might do to me, I ended our relationship because he had become abusive.
On this most unexpected occasion, I froze in place when I saw him. I listened as he spoke irritably to his female companion. I was standing in a parking lot so instead of walking into the store, I returned to my car, locked the doors and drove away. A huge sigh of relief came over me as I drove home, thankful that I had been able to react quickly to what could have been a dangerous confrontation. I had always feared what might happen if I ever crossed paths with him again. I realized I was able to keep my composure and handle the situation well. I found I hardly thought about it as I went about the rest of my day.
Did that sound too easy? Yes, I thought so too. It wasn’t until about two weeks later in the shower one evening that I knew things weren’t as cut and dried as they had seemed that particular day. I experienced what I can only describe as a flashback. Memories of times spent with the man intruded my thoughts as I felt grief, shame, and powerlessness like I’d never felt before. I wept as I stood in that shower, unable to move. Finally, after what felt like an eternity, I was able to move again, and started to try and calm down.
As I sat on the edge of the bathtub wrapped in a towel, still crying, I began to realize what had just happened. I wasn’t able to fit all the puzzle pieces together until I met with my counselor who helped me to see the bigger picture. Seeing this man from my past who I so deeply feared caused my body and mind to spring into emergency-mode. My adrenaline surge helped me to get away from him as quickly as possible. My mind blocked the flood of emotions that I later felt in the shower. This is very similar to what happens when someone experiences Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. In the moment of crisis, the person appears to handle it remarkably well. But some time later those reactions needing to emerge come uninvited and flooding in. This was my exact experience.
The body and mind are very good at protecting us from traumatic experiences. I am reminded that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made” as Psalm 139:14 states. God designed our bodies brilliantly, with the capability for great resilience. That being said, the effects of those traumas don’t just disappear never to be felt again. They eventually need to be brought up and processed through; ideally with the help of professionals or understanding volunteer peer counselors who can help through what can be a confusing and scary time.
If you are dealing with past trauma, may I offer you just the tiniest bit of comfort? You are not alone. There are many others who are going through similar things. They are just as confused and just as frightened as you are. Their world, like yours, feels chaotic and intensely painful. If ‘you are here’ in this very traumatic place, please don’t suffer alone. Please reach out for help from a counselor who will help you find healing. She will walk with you, talk with you, and help you to process your overwhelming experiences. I’d like to encourage you to try and embrace what is happening to you. You are valuable. You are loved. You matter. Whether or not you are currently experiencing positive, lovely things, your life experience is sacred. God is with you and He loves you so much, and we at the Eve Center would like to walk with you as well.