I want to touch on a controversial subject. What comes to mind when I mention the words: counselors or mental health? Many at BGBC don’t want to touch that subject. Mental health professionals were talked down as if they were evil and would brainwash you. Even Biblical Christian counseling was not respected. The only kind of counseling that I remember which was acceptable was the kind in pastor’s office. We’ve talked about those “meetings”. I’m trying to remember positive results from those counseling meetings and can think of none. In fact, in our experience, they only induced anguish and emotional turmoil – some that has lasted for years.
As I have been writing blog posts, talking with old friends and now new friends who were former members of BGBC, I am hearing a lot of stories – stories that remind me of my experiences that were long forgotten. Hearing these stories takes my mind back to my former days at BGBC.
Your might be thinking back through those experiences, too. Last week, I mentioned that after hearing someone’s story, that I had a low-grade headache for a few days. This is normal. Sometimes my brain just won’t stop thinking about that former experience. This is normal. Sometimes I wake up in the morning with this stuff on my mind. This is normal. Sometimes I get a tight feeling in my gut. This is normal.
What we experienced was emotionally traumatic. Sometimes there are physical responses to these emotional issues. Sometimes our heads can be bogged down with the craziness of it all. Overall, I feel very positive and confident about my legal case, but sometimes thoughts about it still enter my mind – again, perfectly normal.
Medical doctors look at physical symptoms to diagnose ailments. Meteorologists study patterns in the atmosphere and sky to determine weather forecasts. Farmers rely on those forecasts, fishermen plan their trips around those forecasts, the whole East coast is glued to their reports during hurricane season. Mental health professionals can identify patterns of behavior or symptoms of people who have gone through physical, emotional, and spiritual abuse. The patterns exhibited in people who have gone through these experiences remain similar.
After experiencing something like this, I think it’s helpful to know what is a “normal” response. I remember a number of things I went through after experiencing a huge earthquake in the Philippines which killed thousands of people. I saw so much destruction, some personally and some from the local television news. The news there was unlike the news we have here in the States. In the Philippines, they zoomed in on the tragic scenes showing bodies, close-ups of their dead faces, etc. That was very disturbing to see. It was hard to sleep, I kept getting flashbacks of the experience, I found my jaw clenching unconsciously when I slept, there was a sense of nervousness, sense of fear about the next aftershock, sometimes I would actually “feel” earthquakes that weren’t even there. It didn’t matter if I played praise music all day, devoured the Word, prayed, those feelings and physical symptoms did not go away.
There are so many ways to respond to a traumatic event: fear, anxiety, loss of appetite, physical symptoms like headaches, GI issues, feeling sadness or depressed, loss of hope, etc.
I know from being at BGBC that mental health was not looked upon highly. Keep in mind, your former pastor who balked at mental health got his degree in mental health. Now tell me, if it was that bad, do you think he would have done that? No science is perfect. We all know that. Medical doctors misdiagnose ailments, forecasts are frequently off. In my 25 yrs of being a mother, medical experts have told me it is best to put my babies to sleep on their sides, back, and tummy. They can’t seem to make up their minds. After the birth my last babies (after over 15 yrs of mothering), I figured I had enough with science and put them to sleep the way they slept best. I figure mommy science and personal experience is worth something! But there is a lot of truth and good information we can learn from experts. Those patterns of behavior, patterns of common responses to trauma – those patterns remain relatively unchanged over time. We can use them to help us identify problem areas. That information is helpful just as the information from a weather forecast helps us to know that we need to bring a warm jacket for our trip.
I wanted to post this info from Mayo Clinic about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. PTSD can be caused by any traumatic event. Most of us are familiar with it used with regard to our troops in combat – they can have difficulty because the “war” can sometimes still be “alive in their heads” even after coming back home. This same response can happen to victims of earthquakes, or any form of abuse. Not only can adults deal with it, our children can, too.
By Mayo Clinic staff Post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms typically start within three months of a traumatic event. In a small number of cases, though, PTSD symptoms may not appear until years after the event.
Post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms are generally grouped into three types: intrusive memories, avoidance and numbing, and increased anxiety or emotional arousal (hyperarousal).
Symptoms of intrusive memories may include:
- Flashbacks, or reliving the traumatic event for minutes or even days at a time
- Upsetting dreams about the traumatic event
Symptoms of avoidance and emotional numbing may include:
- Trying to avoid thinking or talking about the traumatic event
- Feeling emotionally numb
- Avoiding activities you once enjoyed
- Hopelessness about the future
- Memory problems
- Trouble concentrating
- Difficulty maintaining close relationships
Symptoms of anxiety and increased emotional arousal may include:
- Irritability or anger
- Overwhelming guilt or shame
- Self-destructive behavior, such as drinking too much
- Trouble sleeping
- Being easily startled or frightened
- Hearing or seeing things that aren’t there
Post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms can come and go. You may have more post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms when things are stressful in general, or when you run into reminders of what you went through. You may hear a car backfire and relive combat experiences, for instance. Or you may see a report on the news about a rape and feel overcome by memories of your own assault.
Chuck seemed to be against any sort of outside counseling. I know the stigma with mental health and counseling that all of us experienced. If, however, you are not able to function well and are experiencing physical or emotional symptoms that you cannot seem to get rid of, it may be appropriate to rethink that message that was taught. Is it appropriate to see a Christian counselor?
Where there is no counsel, the people fall;
But in the multitude of counselors there is safety.
For by wise counsel you will wage your own war,
And in a multitude of counselors there is safety.
What does the Bible say about counseling? Were those man-made rules or actually Biblical guidelines? We’re having to rethink a lot of things now. What about counseling in the church? Go talk to your pastor. Talk to a friend or loved one or trusted person from church. I know for me, the key to my healing was talking. I needed to share my story. The more I shared my story, the faster I healed. This passage below sure lays out the beautiful illustration of how we can serve and encourage others who are going through difficult times.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ. Now if we are afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effective for enduring the same sufferings which we also suffer. Or if we are comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation. And our hope for you is steadfast, because we know that as you are partakers of the sufferings, so also you will partake of the consolation. 2 Cor 1:4-7