February 17, 2012

When healing is a long process

Cute little saying, but isn't it the truth! The world is crazy scary these days and it's hard to keep from dwelling on fearful things. I saw this on the internet this morning and laughed. But as God often does, He showed me later on in the day how He is a God of bringing all things together to teach us things and catch our attention.

Today I listened to a podcast of GirlfriendIt radio and it was this very principle (not feeding your fears but putting on a brave face) that led Sandy Tremp into a  total mental breakdown. She had emotionally and mentally distanced herself from some horrible childhood traumas. She locked it away, not knowing how to process it as a child. Then one day the repressed memories came flooding back. She collapsed and had to be hospitalized, incapacitated by fear and shame.  Through years of counseling and support, she says that she not only survived childhood abuse, but has finally learned to  thrive in God's healing and victory. She and her husband Scott wrote a book about actively pushing through Sandy's healing process instead of repressing it. It's called Surviving Life.

I encourage you to listen to this GirlfriendIt session and then ......maybe listen to it again to catch what you missed. If you have discovered repressed trauma or have trauma that haunts you every day; if you have friends or loved ones who are going through this or want to know how to respond in case anyone ever confides this kind of thing to you, I really hope you'll listen and gain more understanding about how to be sensitive to people with this issue.

As a minister's wife, I see a glimpse of the damage childhood abuse does to a person's life and I think it's something that really needs more attention, response and action from the church.

I have a young friend who asked if she could talk to me one day about 4 years ago. She was exhibiting some outward signs of inward troubles. Cutting herself was becoming a habit that she could no longer control and she was afraid. After many meetings to talk about the cutting, and encouraging her to tell her parents, she told me one day that she needed to tell me something. We sat down and talked about a few things and then she began to cry. I told her to take her time. I had no idea what the words were that she needed to release from her mind. Then she took a piece of paper and wrote on it, then she handed it to me and turned away weeping. "I was raped," the paper read.

She had carried this secret in her head for 7 years, from the time she was 10 years old. It was her shame and her curse. I was the first person she ever told. After we cried and hugged, I asked her how she felt. She said she was glad she told me, glad it was out there.....glad to have someone to share the burden and help her. There is freedom in confession, even though it wasn't her sin (not at all!), it was her burden. But that isn't the end.

A friend's sympathetic listening ear is a great gift to someone who is processing a trauma, but they usually need to find professional help as well. Often times after they confess the event out loud, they go through even more turmoil and outward self-defeating behaviors as their mind tries to understand and process it. That is what happened to my friend, and in late January we said goodbye to her for a year as she goes to an in house treatment and counseling center. She was excited to go though. She was ready to push through and begin really healing and getting the help she needs. I am so proud of her.

Allen McCray also gave some great tips on developing a healthy and positive self identity while you face the traumas in your own life. One of those is to be more "self compassionate".  Extend to yourself the compassion that you would to a friend who also had past issues to deal with. That way we are not sliding into self condemnation as we process our past, but letting God work powerfully in our lives to give overcoming victory and healing. Wouldn't that be something.....if we could help each other, give each other the permission to not have it all together, and go from trying to put  a brave face on top of our mess, into truly abundant life and freedom in Christ?

Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.  Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.  Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. Colossians 3: 12-14

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