After my husband was shot in a random crime event and was subsequently hospitalized, he improved in body and spirit. His focus was on what needed to be done in rehab. Being a sudden paraplegic, after all, comes with a steep learning curve. Our friends commented on his incredible spirit and determination. His focus was moving ahead.
My focus was stuck in the shooting, the senselessness of it. My focus was on how close my family came to losing him. Overwhelmed with his needs, I lost all sense of my own, especially my mental health. “Just give it to God,” well-meaning friends said.
They were right. I did give it all to God. Those same well-meaning friends instructed me to leave it at His feet. I did — or tried to.
I soon learned that in times of sudden tragedy, Christian friends often give the token statements, the things that should make us feel better. I found myself being irritated by these statements.
Then, a private social media exchange hit me square in the eyes. My friend suggested that I ask a counselor about PTSD — post-traumatic stress disorder. In the past, World War I to be exact, it was called “shell shock.” It’s a real mental health condition with real symptoms.
Christians, I found for the most part, don’t do well with real mental health conditions. People prayed for my prayer life. People told me I needed to increase my devotional time. What I needed was understanding.
Another friend saw in my tear-brimming eyes someone who was on the threshold of losing it. We were cleaning out the house as my church was going to take up the carpets, put hardwoods down — prepare the house for this “new normal” in which we found ourselves, wheelchair and all. While we were cleaning out my bedroom, I found my husband’s golf shoes…the tears came in heaving sobs. She saw me, knelt on the floor beside me and let me cry. She gave me permission without saying a word that it was okay to grieve my husband’s paralysis, grieve that, barring a miracle, will not swing a golf club again or dance with our daughters at their weddings.
My friend held me and gave me permission to grieve for the overwhelming task that lay before me: a season in which I knew blogging was going to have to take a back seat, a season in which homeschooling would have to stop for now, and a time in which everything in our lives would change.
Christians can be horrible at the trite “Just give it to God” statements. In this season, I’ve learned that yes, God is with us and we do need to give these times to Him but I’ve learned that Jesus never healed the same way twice. He spit on the ground and made a mudpie to heal a blind man; another time he just touched a man and restored his sight. He touched a dead girl and brought her to life and spoke Lazarus out of his tomb. Sometimes the “just give it to God” prayers don’t work.
With me, my “give it to God” prayers were hourly and on my face, tears pooling on the floor. It was coming to the understanding that God can use medications to help me and there is nothing wrong with that. It was coming to the realization that PTSD doesn’t just affect soldiers but anyone, and there is no shame in counseling or admitting help is needed. More than anything, I understood that mental health issues after a traumatic event is not about giving it to God but accepting what God is doing and is about to do in my life.
This new normal will bring glory to God. It can’t not bring Him glory, for He is doing some remarkable work here. One of the biggest things He is doing is showing me that being a Christian does not eliminate the possibility of mental health issues — but rather He is Lord over them and can work through them regardless of how overwhelmed we are.
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