Fighting My PTSD Symptoms

This week our church First Baptist Church of New Braunfels, Texas; suffered a tragedy as one of our church buses was involved in a fatal crash.

The bus carried 14 passengers who were returning from a senior citizen’s retreat. A pick-up truck crossed into the lane of the bus and crashed into it head on; of the 14 people aboard 13 were killed. There were only two survivors of this horrific crash the driver of the pick-up truck and the one person on the bus. I had seen news alerts throughout the day about this crash, but was unaware the church bus was from our church. Around 6:oo p.m. another news alert come over my phone and this time it mentioned the name of our church. My response was like so many from our church and throughout the community… one of shock.

Throughout the night, I was struggling with many different emotions, some emotions changed fast while others lingered. Then it happened, the unwanted intrusive thoughts that are so common to those of us who suffer from PTSD. These thoughts crept into my mind and begin taking me down a path I did not want to go. All of a sudden, I was remembering all the death notification I had made over my chaplain career. I was reminded of our own tragedy in 2001 at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii when two Army Helicopters crashed into each other and six Soldiers were killed. I remember going to the chapel and spending hours with family members as we waited for notification of the casualties. I remember when we were finally given permission to start making the death notifications, which was around midnight. This after an entire day of our families watching CNN every half-hour hearing news of the crash and hoping to get some message that their loved one was ok. I was reminded of the memorial services we held for multiple soldiers killed in action in Iraq. As I went to bed that night, the struggles of my faith return for a time. I had thoughts of just giving up and saying I’m done with this whole faith in God.

The following days, I struggled with a sense of guilt, a sense of uselessness, a sense of insignificants. I fought thoughts that I had no value and that any help I could provide would be rejected and cast away. I dealt with a sense of guilt for feeling the way I did. I felt selfish for thinking about myself and struggling with so many unwanted thoughts and feelings. How could I focus on my own insignificant experience when other people were hurting so bad? I struggled with guilt because I did not immediately get up and go to the church to provide spiritual guidance and comfort to the hurting families. It is now Friday morning and as I write this, my struggle turns to what I am going to do on Sunday. There is a large part of me that screams out, don’t go to church it will not be healthy for you, it will only bring out more emotional aguish and unwanted memories. The other part tells me I need to be there, I am a member of this church, these wonderful people who died I saw every week. I think about our Sunday school class and for some members they have known the deceased for many years. I am reminded that facing this type of tragedy is not new to me, it is something I have experienced many time during my chaplain career. I am reminded that I have something to offer if I am willing to put myself out there. I am also reminded of the fear I face if I go on Sunday, I’m afraid of the memories, of feelings, I am fearful of feeling hopeless and of being overwhelmed by circumstances larger than myself.

I write this simply to help people understand what it is like to deal with the symptoms of PTSD. These struggles are what makes having PTSD such a painful and life controlling issue. When we mention that we would never wish PTSD on anyone. We do not specifically refer to the trauma, but rather the mental, emotional, physical and spiritual struggles we fight within ourselves each day. It is what we struggle with, guilt that we experience, fear that we never want to express or even admit to anyone. It is the assault of unwanted memories, intrusive thoughts, anger, flashbacks and nightmares that in most cases we struggle with alone. Either because we do not want to share what is going on in our thoughts, or because people don’t understand or may even dismiss our feelings and emotions. Sometime it is because we have learned to self-medicate when faced with these overwhelming thoughts and emotions. We chose to hide from them in substances or actions that are harmful to us. Other times, it is simply a desire to avoid these feeling altogether. Having PTSD is a daily struggle; it raises its ugly head when we least expect it and torments us. The symptoms of PTSD will jump out at us at any time and will turn what was a pleasant day into an unimaginable agony that can last for days.

 

Author: Chaplain Doll

I am a retired 21-year Army Chaplain Veteran, I am the founder of "Healing The Storm Ministry" an outreach for veterans and those suffering from PTSD. The focus of "Healing the Storm Ministry" is to help people find spiritual peace in the midst of their life's storms.

7 thoughts on “Fighting My PTSD Symptoms”

  1. A terrible tragedy… my prayers to those souls and their loved ones. Kevin, given our knowledge of one another, I implore you to be the man you want to be… the one you can be. I have seen that man, as he has seen me in my times of pain. You have a comforting soul in you… a true gift. Do what you do. Sit with them and listen, let them share their frustrations, share their stories, and just be there. Then when it is time to speak, speak from your heart. You know the pain, and now they feel a similar pain. But as we learned in our time together, being there and listening to their pain is tough, but the healing for that person is measurable. And your words have been on mark when I had the privilege of hearing them. In helping these people cope, and begin healing, you will also continue down the path of healing yourself. God Speed Brother.

    – Ryan

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    1. Thank you Ryan, your words mean a lot to me and came at just the right time. “I implore you to be the man you want to be… the one you can be”. These words encouraged me this last week to offer my support at the church, to be honest I was expected to be told that they did not want my help. But the opposite happened and I was able to spend an hour with a group this morning ministering to their needs. Thanks for your support.

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  2. Kevin – for what is worth to you – I am praying for you and with you regarding the terrible accident involving those members of your Church. When I heard from Lorie that it was your Church members in that bus my first thought was of how this would hit you-but then immediately of the people and families you know. I felt that God would show Himself to you that He is still with you, the members, and all of of during this sad time. I have to tell myself many times over and over that I’m not alone during the low times I experience. I do want you to remember that I love you and God loves you. I do hope you are able to go to Church this week not only for you but that your faith will help many others!

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    1. Sharon Thank you for your prayers and thought, I too have had to tell myself many time that even though I feel alone I am not alone. God has always been their for me, my immediate family supports me, I have always felt your presences also and knew you were praying for me. I love y’all

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      1. Its a great blogging community for support. So many of us, (unfortunately) understand PTSD and the struggles we have with triggers. Im so glad you feel a sense of peace once its written down. Be well!

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