Tag Archives: trauma

Veil of Tears 97: Frozen

97 frozen epicioci pixabay

Terror and dread fall upon them; because of the greatness of your arm, they are still as a stone, till your people, O LORD, pass by, till the people pass by whom you have purchased.” Exodus 15:16 ESV

Fear and terror can be numbing. We use the word “petrified” meaning turned to stone to describe that feeling of being so frightened that we can’t even move; we say we were so scared that we were frozen to the spot. Like a rabbit in the headlights, the fear overpowers us and although our only hope is to move, we simply cannot do it.

There is a phenomenon called sleep paralysis which is surprisingly common. This is where we wake during the night to find that we feel weighed down and unable to move. It is very frightening, but is a neurological paralysis caused by the body’s own self-defence mechanisms. It is put in place to stop us acting out the dreams we are having during REM and actually is quite normal. It is just frightening when it carries on over into waking. But it does pass and is usually nothing to worry about.

Likewise, the frozen reaction to fear happens for a reason. It is an age old response to overwhelming danger, the third option after the well-known “fight or flight.” If neither of these options is possible or credible, we may freeze. It is a lot like playing possum, a way of trying to convince the threat that we are not there, or not alive, or not worth chasing. Victims of violence often feel ashamed that they froze when attacked, but in actual fact, they were beyond their rational selves and only doing what the ancient survival programming was telling them to do. Sadly though, the frozen experience can become an ingrained part of the trauma.

Thank God that we serve the Lord who knows all this and made us just as we are. He understands the parts of us that need healing and knows that there are times for keeping still, things too scary to be faced, parts of ourselves and our histories we need to protect ourselves from, things that cannot be outrun. Gently he will lead us to the cure.

Like Aslan breathing warm life into the statues frozen in front of the White Witch’s palace, he comes with a gradual freedom that will enable muscles to move again; hope that will help us find the determination and courage to stretch, and an abundance of grace and mercy that as we take it in, will enable us to forgive, to begin again, to come back to life.

 

©Keren Dibbens-Wyatt

Photo from Pixabay

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74: Night Terrors (trauma trigger warning)

 

74 night terrors CORRIDOR 13

When I think my bed will comfort me and my couch will ease my complaint, even then you frighten me with dreams and terrify me with visions, so that I prefer strangling and death, rather than this body of mine.” Job 7: 13-15 NIV

Given that Job had been through a set of traumatic losses, it is perhaps no wonder that he began to exhibit the symptoms of what we might well recognise today as PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). Two of the worst parts of this distressing condition are the reliving of the trauma, like a waking nightmare, and what we call night terrors, which are horrifically realistic nightmares, of such power that shake and scream in your sleep. In a bad phase, getting any real rest, let alone refreshing sleep, is nigh on impossible. I can’t help but feel this is what Job is describing here, it sounds so similar.

In any case, there is no rest from the horror of what he has been through. We might think he is mistaken in attributing this part of his suffering to his body, as it seems a straightforwardly mental disorder, but this is not the case. More and more we are finding that the body holds the memory of traumatic events and replays them, reacting in fight or flight modes. An episode triggered by a memory (this can be anything, even a song, a phrase, sound or taste that has some kind of connection to whatever happened to us) is intensely physical as well as emotional and mental. Trauma sufferers experience their pain holistically and it is one of the reasons it is so horrendous.

Another effect of great suffering and loss is that we lose our hope. “My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle, and they come to an end without hope,” says Job, “…and my eyes will never see happiness again.” (Job 7: 6-7 partial NIV). Thankfully as we read Job’s story, we find that it does have a happy ending, since the second half of his life is doubly blessed and he receives a great deal more than he ever did before. But, perhaps tellingly, there is no mention of healing. I personally believe that Job’s wholeness is restored by and in his encounter with the Living God. Such an encounter, which chooses to meet us where we are without answering our myriad of questions; which chooses to show us the great I AM in all the Lord’s glory (and therefore goodness), is powerful beyond all measure and redeems all our suffering, perhaps just as much by a healing of our perspective as of our wholeness as physical, mental, emotional and spiritual beings.

©Keren Dibbens-Wyatt

Photo from morguefile

If you or someone you love is affected by PTSD do check out the help available via your medical practitioner/GP  Here is a useful link: http://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd/#.V2P6m8vSnIU

68: Violated (NB Trigger warning!)

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But he refused to listen to her, and since he was stronger than she, he raped her. Then Amnon hated her with intense hatred. In fact, he hated her more than he had loved her. Amnon said to her, “Get up and get out!”” 2 Samuel 13:14-15

The Bible is so full of violence, much of it happens in battle, or in hot-blooded rage, or even the coldness of deceit, but there is something unspeakably wicked about the violence done by one human to another in the act of sexual violation. Here in our text from the second book of Samuel, is the sad story of Amnon, who rapes his half-sister Tamar, ruining her life and paying with his own, for although he is unaware of it at the time, Tamar’s brother Absalom will later murder him for this act.

We saw yesterday how Amnon had become obsessed to the point of illness, and probably beyond reason. The attack is premeditated, and because his action is waiting to be played out, nothing Tamar can say will save her. A violation is not only one of the body, it is one of the will. It says, you do not matter, my will is more important than yours, my pleasure matters more than your pain, my desire is more important than your wellbeing, my actions negate you, and make you less than human.

When Amnon summons Tamar to his room he has already made her an object. He has doubtless made her an object in his imagination, and certainly in his plans. He has, therefore, no desire to listen to her, or treat her in any way like a human being.   At the time of writing there is a news story about a father defending his son for sexually assaulting a woman at Stanford university. The father does not understand what rape does to the victim or the perpetrator, saying his son shouldn’t go to prison for “20 minutes action.” Whilst this is sickening, it is an example of complete ignorance that is deeply shocking. If that is what some men really think, no wonder they have taught no respect to their sons. They truly “know not what they do.” I hope and pray that we will all begin to understand one another’s humanity in such a way as to never inflict such huge pain on one another.

Let us not play this down. Rape is a most terrible thing. When you are no longer in control of what is being done to your own body, to your own sexuality, to your own private places, to the parts of your body that are supposed to be yours to give love to one special person, to have those places forced into a painful physical encounter than negates your worth, takes away your choices and makes you into a thing instead of a person, that is a horrendous, traumatic, deeply violent event that leaves long-lasting physical, emotional, mental and spiritual scars. As with any kind of assault, it stays with you, usually for life. Forgiveness and healing are terribly hard in this area, tied in as it is with innocence, betrayal, and the abuse of parts of us made for love.

And as with any violent act, the perpetrator is also damaging themselves. The scripture says that immediately, Amnon hated Tamar intensely. Of course, he is really hating himself. He is projecting his own vileness outwards, in just the same way that men do when they say a woman was “asking for it” or shouldn’t have worn certain clothing or should cover herself up. It is their own sinful natures that are being displayed in these cases, but it is much easier, much more comfortable to blame the object of our wrong or unwanted desires.

As for Tamar, the attack leaves her “a desolate woman.” I can say from my own experience that an assault, especially perpetrated by someone who claims to love us, shatters our trust, our confidence and colours all our ideas about love, leaving us feeling adrift in an ocean of pain and confusion.

Usually when I write these pieces, there is a glimmer of hope in the story, a cry of desperate praise hidden in the Psalm, something in the Scripture to give us a reason to hope for healing, for restoration. But sometimes it takes longer for the light to dawn in the darkness. The only hope I can find here is that “Three sons and a daughter were born to Absalom. His daughter’s name was Tamar, and she became a beautiful woman.” (2 Samuel 14:27 NIV) Tamar’s niece and namesake is therefore also given the gift of great beauty, and perhaps this is a kind of rebirth, or redemption. Maybe for some crimes and wounds, it will be on the other side of the cross that we eventually find restoration. But I am sure that it will one day be given to all who have had their bodies, hearts, or trust violated.

He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Revelation 21:4 NIV

©Keren Dibbens-Wyatt

Photo from morguefile

If you need to find help to do with rape or sexual assault, please do visit the Rape Crisis website in the UK. http://rapecrisis.org.uk/

163: Pothole

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Collapsed under the sheer weight of traffic, implosion caused by heavy loads that were never yours to bear, not for you to carry, even for that one moment in which they passed over, rumbling in thundering juggernauts. Now you stand, cracked and broken, dug out to the composite core, fissures filling with rainwater, and see no way out. There is no budget for repairs, no end to the emptiness, and you sink down and spread out in your misery, and even your edges are lost to you.

Road pock now avoided by all, leper of the lane, I pray might you now find a calm in the centre of the highway that you grace. Might you now relax into your frayed borders, new crow’s feet cracks forming as you take the time to laugh in the rain. Might you now, perhaps, sometimes sing of what lies beneath the smoothness and teach all of us how to make ponds and gardens out of the sinkholes in our lives.

 

© Keren Dibbens-Wyatt 2016