What I Wish Christians Knew About PTSD

PTSD

PTSD, God, and The World

They call combat trauma an illness. And it has symptoms—hyper-vigilance, exaggerated startle response, insomnia, quickness to anger, emotional numbness—the list goes on.

You can look it up.

But it’s one other thing, and you have to understand this.

PTSD is homesickness.

We’re supposed to go to war to come back to a peace we can enjoy. Putting the tools of death away, we’re enjoined to slip into the welcoming arms of a civilian world, secure in the knowledge that we’ve done our bit, and that now, it’s time to enjoy a well-earned rest.

And many combat veterans can do just that. A large part of the success of that the shrinks call re-integration is the degree of home-front support. After World War Two, a popular war if there ever was one, many combat veterans were able to find a measure of peace, and while troubled by memories, they found that, in their hearts, they could eventually accept a place in the civilian world.

They knew that the burden had been, at least to some degree, shared. The folks left in the ZI (Zone of the Interior—the States) had at least endured rationing and restrictions, and while none of that compares with combat, it’s something.

And most families knew someone who’d been wounded or killed. Sorrow was shared, too.
It’s different now. We have a professional military, not a conscript force, and it’s very much insulated from the civilian world. It’s Us and Them.

And when the military went to Iraq and Afghanistan, America went to the mall. That’s how it was perceived.

How do you come home to that? How do you come home from a hard, dirty, dangerous life, one in which you’d see things that would make the average civilian puke?

How do you return from knowing that each day might be your last, and that there are a lot of ways to get greased, and none of them leave a beautiful corpse?

It’s hard to return, because it’s shared over there, and back here in The World—no one gets it. Some try, but they just don’t understand.

We all want to be understood. We all want to be home.

And what you’d call hell, I call home.

Even if my health would allow it, I would not abandon my responsibilities here, my wife and my dogs, to head back to the fight. But if I was healthy, and had no ties…

I’d be gone, just like that.

Not to seek death. That’s not the point. But to find, once again, the only life that has deep, vibrant meaning for me.

It’s like the opening song from the old series, Cheers…everybody wants to go where everybody knows your name.

War knows my name. And Hell would welcome me back.

Six tips for relating to someone with #PTSD. #DoNoHarm Click To Tweet

So what can the Christian Community do? Here’s a list of suggestions for relating to those who suffer from PTSD—not all will work for everyone, but at least one should. I hope.
Never assume – don’t assume that because I’m scanning tree lines and rooflines, and that because I take a quick look around a door’s corner before stepping into what for me is the fatal funnel (doorways are great places to get shot)…don’t assume that I am damaged goods, that I probably drink, and that I may do drugs. That’s Hollywood. I’m different, not damaged. I’ve been places that you can’t imagine, and seen things you wouldn’t want to.
Don’t try to relate – unless you’ve been in combat, you don’t know what it’s like, so don’t try to say you do. Most combat veterans will politely brush you off, some will be quite harsh…and none will be helped by this kind of well-meant attempt.
Give me space – don’t tap me on the shoulder to get my attention, and don’t step suddenly into my peripheral vision. I probably won’t hit you (though you may think I’m about to), but you’ll see me turn faster than you’d think anyone could move, and you won’t like the way I look at you in that instant. Trust me.
Ask your church to hire a pastor who’s a combat veteran – being able to get pastoral counseling from someone who understands both the pain and the attraction of living with sudden violent death at your elbow can be awfully valuable
Don’t quote ‘warrior’ Scripture – I hate to write this, because it’s often so well-meant…but offering comparisons with David’s mighty men, for instance, can cause a huge push-back. It’s meant as respect, but can come across as condescension. If we know the Bible, we’ll find it. If we don’t, and show an interest, you can suggest certain books or psalms. The first verse of Ps. 144 works well for me…”Blessed be the Lord, my rock, who trains my hands for battle, my fingers for war…”
Do recognize and build on shared humanity – I always loved dogs; still do. I like Impressionist painting, and metal music, and wildflowers. We can share those loves. We may be under a distant war’s shadow when we talk, but at least we’re talking.

I’ll never be fully home, and if the bell rings and I can answer it, I will.

There will be a part of me you’ll never be allowed to know, unless you were there.

But I can be your friend. I sure want to. After all, I’d die for you.

#DoNoHarmAndrew Budek-Schmeisser blogs about being the recipient of caregiving, marriage and life over at Blessed Are the Pure in HeartHe and his wife are owned by rescue dogs who assist him and inspire him. He has published one novel (you can find out more on his website) and a short book.  For your FREE copy of his latest book Faith in the Night-Finding God When All Seems Lost, visit his blog. 

Inspire Me Monday Instructions

What’s your inspirational story? Link up below, and don’t forget the 1-2-3s of building community:

1. Link up your most inspirational post from the previous week.

2. Vist TWO other contributors (especially the person who linked up right before you) and leave an encouraging comment.

3. Spread the cheer THREE ways! Tweet something from a post you read, share a post on your Facebook page, stumble upon it, pin it or whatever social media outlet you prefer—just do it!

Please link back to this week’s post or add the button to your post so that we can spread the inspirational cheer :).

I'm joining my friends @blestbutstrest and @caregiver mom for an #inspirational link up. Check out the great stories! Click To Tweet

So, go ahead! Take the plunge and share your most inspiring post with us!

 Loading InLinkz ...

Anita currently teaches English to 7th-12th graders. She describes herself as a 'recovering cancer caregiver' who gives thanks daily that her husband has been cancer-free for ten years.

Please note: We reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Anita, thank you so much for the honour of guest-posting!

    I’ll be following the comments, and if I can answer any questions, dear readers, please feel free to ask.
    Andrew Budek-Schmeisser recently posted…Your Dying Spouse 148 – A Book Arriveth; A Lesson LearnedMy Profile

  • Andrew, thank you for this eye-opening post. And we do, literally, need to have our eyes opened to see the need and pain of others. I recently read Mindy Belz’s book about the scourge of ISIS through the Middle East, and I really didn’t want to know how devastating the situation is, but I have been moved to a more intelligent and informed level of prayer because of it.
    Thank you for doing the same thing for me!
    Anita, thanks for your creative curating of this weekly space!
    Michele Morin recently posted…Borrowed Strength for MothersMy Profile

  • Andrew!!! You’re guest posting! I don’t know anything about military combat, I have several Uncles that served, but I was a thought in God’s mind back then. I’ve never had to say goodbye, never been close to anyone that didn’t come home, never tied a yellow ribbon. Shane and I do very much appreciate those men and woman that have sacrificed their own freedom and their lives to serve our country.

    P.S. I LOVE that we get to see a great picture of YOU complete with Hawaiian shirt…you and Shane must be kindred spirits. He LOVES his HI shirts.
    Christy recently posted…He Will Be There When I Pass Through the WatersMy Profile

  • Hi Andrew … yes, sometimes we need those 1-2-3 steps. Most of us are well meaning but fairly ignorant when it comes to understanding PTSD and thoughtfully relating to one who has gone to hell and back again.

    Is it me or is your writing just getting better and better? Go figure, man …

    Meanwhile, thanks, Anita, for inviting our friend to speak some truth to us. Good stuff here, as ever …
    Linda Stoll recently posted…April * The Fun Stuff!My Profile

    • Linda, thank you so much! You just made my day!

      The vital thing in understanding PTSD, and helping those who deal with it, is realizing that you DON’T know what it feels like, but that you want to help in the way that’s best.

      Just having a hand to hold can be a lifesaver, Linda. Seriously. You come out of a nightmare, disoriented, and a warm hand and a voice that says “I am here” is worth more than a battalion of pshrinks.
      Andrew Budek-Schmeisser recently posted…Your Dying Spouse 148 – A Book Arriveth; A Lesson LearnedMy Profile

  • Andrew, this is golden. Truly. While I recognize many PTSD symptoms, mine’s not from military combat and I have so many friends/acquaintances who struggle through the return to civilian life. This is a really great list of advice! Thank you so much for guest posting with us – your writing, as always, gets to me!
    Carol recently posted…What I Wish Christians Knew About PTSDMy Profile

  • “But I can be your friend. I sure want to. After all, I’d die for you.” This gives me chills, Andrew, because I know it’s true. All I really know to say is Thank you, friend! But I’ll add anyway that I continue to learn so much from you. I have friends with PTSD, some it’s obvious, some it’s not. I want to learn more how to be a friend back to them; you help me with that. Blessings to you, brother!
    Lisa notes recently posted…Links, Books, and Other Things I Love – May 2016My Profile

    • It is true, Lisa, and it’s really the reason, deep down, that most guys and gals volunteer. No one wants to face death, but someone has to, and in the end it’s, “well, why NOT me?”

      There may be, I think, a Christlike humility there. Something I have seen in people who did not otherwise remotely resemble Jesus…except that they were willing to die for the innocent.

      Thanks so much for being here!
      Andrew Budek-Schmeisser recently posted…Your Dying Spouse 148 – A Book Arriveth; A Lesson LearnedMy Profile

  • Andrew, such good information friend! Glad to see you here!
    Tara recently posted…Sunday Blessings 125My Profile

  • Andrew, thank you for your words here, for giving us a glimpse into your world. And thank you for giving us those helpful tips as well. No, I will never be able to understand what it’s like to live in the battle zone and to come home to a different world. But now I know how to pray more specifically for you and what not to say/do and for that I’m thankful to you.

    BTW I’ll be guest posting on Anita’s blog soon too: also about PTSD, but not combat-related (although some of what you share here rings true to me too).
    Anna Smit recently posted…His Goodness Is Passing Before UsMy Profile

    • Anna, thank you…even in not sharing the experience, you can definitely make the combat veteran’s life easier, and better, by knowing what underlies the manifestations you see.

      I almost said ‘symptom’…but I think it is perhaps not appropriate, in the end, to call a scar a symptom.

      There are many causes for PTSD; combat trauma is only one. I’ll be watching for your post, Anna.
      Andrew Budek-Schmeisser recently posted…Your Dying Spouse 148 – A Book Arriveth; A Lesson LearnedMy Profile

  • Andrew, you have blessed my heart today. You have commented on my blog several times and with today’s words here, I appreciate you so much more. I also appreciate my husband even more for he is a Viet Nam veteran. He does well, yet I know that there are things that he has told me over our 23 years of marriage that were a part of his year in combat that still affect him to this day. Your words reinforce and remind me of ways I can be there for him. He served in the Army 101st Airborne combat infantry for 13 months in 1968-69…a hard year.
    I am thankful for you, Andrew and hold you and so many others in my prayers.
    Caring through Christ, ~ linda

  • Andrew, thank you. xo
    Susan Shipe recently posted…what i learned in april 2016My Profile

  • Thank you for sharing this info for us on PTSD!! As Christians – as well as non-Christians – it is info that we all need to remember when we are around those who have come back from battle…so true about the home-front and accepting those who are returning…I remember the Viet Nam years; which my dad served one term and missed his family greatly. He was also in Korea, but I was too young to know those years.

    I was happy to see that you were guest posting on Anita’s blog and wanted to take an opportunity to read your post. Thank you for your words; and as always, praying for you and Barb, and your dogs!!

  • Andrew, thanks so much for your helpful post! it was very helpful. i also enjoyed seeing your picture:) i hate thinking of you as a dog:) that’s the only picture i see in association with you:) i know you are happy about it, but i like seeing your face! great post.
    Martha Brady recently posted…MY CONFIDENCE IS IN HIS FAITHFULNESS AS I ENCOURAGE…My Profile

  • Thank you for sharing Andrew’s story here, Anita.

    Andrew, first of all, thank you so much for serving and for the huge sacrifices you made. I’m so sorry for what you go through. Thank you also for this amazing insight into PTSD in veterans. God bless you!

  • Thank you for these helpful insights.

  • Andrew, thank you for sharing a glimpse into your experience and heart. I am a Marine (retired) spouse. PTSD is part of so many lives. I really appreciate specific things to keep in mind. I’d like to share this post on a military oriented ministry that I work with, PlantingRoots. May God truly bless you. I’ve interacted with you before in blog comments, but I didn’t know of your military service. I’m grateful for your commitment to our nation. Thank you.
    Ginger Harrington recently posted…14 Things I’d Say to My Younger Self About Being a MomMy Profile

  • Pingback: What I Learned in May (aka Mental Health Awareness Month) | Blessed (but Stressed)()