Friday, February 21, 2014

Marrying into Trauma

I said that as I have been going through this, I've had some thoughts about my husband and trauma.  Really, even me and trauma.

I will say clearly, though, that I have been mentioning PTSD to the mission and to others working with us for years.  Literally years.  They have brushed that aside.  For awhile they focused on my husband's travels and said our marriage must struggle because he travels a lot and that leaves me feeling resentful.

Could have asked me how I felt about it....

I'm fine with his travels.

Then they said that it is a communication issue, so we need to work on that.

I'll agree that communication is poor.

But that is like pulling the top off a dandelion.  It'll reappear.

Not once have they listened to my theory.  Not even when after a severe trauma things began to fall apart again with both him and me.  Nope.  Moral failure it must be... you are not living right before God, that is why you have problems.  Even questioned my husband's salvation.

The doctor they sent us to questioned PTSD, although he did not focus on it much.  He said he should be treated for it.

I went and did more research on PTSD.  It makes a ton of sense.  And if you knew my husband's life, you would not be surprised.  A child of war, lived through more than we can imagine.  Ok, now he is a happy-go-lucky laughing person in public, helpful, fun, the life of the party.  But what I have noticed since early on in our marriage is his reaction to people's pain.  He runs.  He can't handle pain, so he jokes, he laughs, he gets the giggles, or he refuses to go to houses where people are hurting.  Which is odd since he is not an unsympathetic person, not really.  He just doesn't like to see pain at all.

I lived through trauma as a child.  Very different trauma, but trauma.  I suffered at the hands of people.  I also lived for a time at the edge of a war, so saw war second hand.  I have my own weak points with it.

Then we went through about nine months of very traumatic time as a family following a week of personal trauma where we thought we would lose my husband.

And were given no care.

Things went really bad after that.

I've begun to think more about it, and I have come to the conclusion that marrying people like my husband - people who have suffered severe trauma - is like contracting chicken pox.  (but far worse)  Chicken pox is one of those diseases that everyone used to get as a child and it was no big deal.  Some got it bad, some barely got it, but once you were an adult, you don't think about your exposure to chicken pox. 

Until you get shingles.

See, chicken pox is a virus, a herpes virus, that lies dormant up in your brain.  It can be there with no symptoms whatsoever for fifty years or more.  But if you hit a stressful time in your life, that nasty virus can travel down the nerve path and break out in almost uncontrollable pain and suffering in an area of your body.

PTSD, I think, is like chicken pox.  You can have it, and seem to be over it, but it lies dormant, and when you hit more stress, waa-bang!  There it is again!

Realizing this means that I have to be aware in our lives.  I'm not only pointing fingers at my husband here.  I got a good case of it after that awful nine months four years ago, and truthfully, the way my mission leadership have treated me has surely not helped.  That treatment borders on abusive and has itself become a source of more traumatic stress.  We need help for that.  We need debriefing and some good listening ears to help us sort through it all.

Then we just need to be aware, and we need to work within a mission and team who is aware of our weakness and prepared to help us.  We need a mission that reacts to any trauma by pulling us away from the front lines for awhile and getting us appropriate crisis debriefing.  We need a mission that schedules regular debrief, listening sessions.  Maybe every year or so.  Let us talk it out before it builds up.

I think we might thrive in a mission like that.  One with appropriate member  care.

Ours doesn't have it.

My husband is a valuable person.  People want him.  He comes from a group of people who have few believers and he has skills and God-given abilities that make him a huge asset.  But he also has weaknesses, and people have to be aware and plan for those.  It is like a person with a limp.  You're going to have to make sure that they have a cane over the rough ground.  Doesn't mean they are not good people, but just that because of a past injury, you have to help them on rough ground.

Honestly, my mission doesn't see me as valuable at all.  I don't have as many skills and abilities as my husband.  Well, ones they see.  I have giftings and abilities that are very different.  I'm good at some things.  I haven't been given the opportunity to do much of what I am good at since for ten years I have served under Dick who has devalued me in his own mind and to others.  He has questioned my mental sanity and really made my life difficult.  You can't go to a leader who thinks you are the worst person in the world, impossible to live with, and ask to do a ministry in your gifting area.  He would have rather shoved me in the closest garbage can and put the lid on tight! :) 

But I still serve under God, not under Dick.  And God has a story here.  And I believe God has a purpose and calling for my life.  See, unlike my husband, I deal with people's pain well.  I am drawn to suffering and am able to be there for people.  I have a deep burden for women and those who have been abused.  I am also an awesome teacher/coach of kids and school or Sunday school.  I am not a teacher, but a nurse, but I am good at teaching, too, and can work patiently with those who struggle until they get it.  Even if it takes us three years to get it, I'll stick in there.

Actually, my husband's giftings and mine compliment each other and fill in the gaps for each other.  Together we are stronger.  But together, we are also both weak in one area.  If we suffer a trauma, we will both need care. 

It is really that simple.

So what now?  Well, we are beginning to talk.  We love our work.  We love our team.  But it may be that this is not the place for us in the future.  We both have dreams.  There are some other places that are doing very similar work that would better fit who my husband is.  Where I could also serve.  And most importantly, with a mission who might be able to understand that they would be working with people who have a limp and will need help over rough ground.

This week, we are beginning to send some initial feelers out to two places....  

It's hard, though.  You want to leave well.  You want to wrap up ends and leave well.  But at this point we don't know if it is possible.  Dealing with Dick was dealing with a man with hopefully good intentions, but one who never lived near us, and chose to judge without hearing or seeing.  Dealing with Harry has been dealing with a man who says, "this is what you have, and this is how I am going to treat it, no questions allowed."  And he also is not living near us, and not seeing.  I'm not sure that leaving well is going to be an option.

We're going to try one last time.  To go in and say, "listen, we both feel we have been through some really rough times (ie, that nine months of trauma), and that it has really affected us (I won't mention that they apologized for not doing anything for us after it..... and still did nothing...), and that we feel that it would be beneficial if we could have some personal debrief time with people who are trained in that area. (we have a place in mind)."  If they allow us to do that, then we may have a chance of recovering enough to leave well at some time in the future and still maintain working ties with individuals.  

We will see. Pray that they hear this time.  

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