Spiritual abuse can leave damaging scars, some resulting in real difficulties, including anxiety, PTSD, panic attacks, etc.
Longtime SSB reader, Refugee, left a comment with questions regarding the difficulty she is facing after having experienced spiritual abuse. Because she responded to an older article and I really want her to get answers (and likely others reading will benefit from this discussion), I’ve decided to make a post out of it.
Here is the quote to which Refugee was responding:
“We can not know everyone’s trigger, but we can be consistent in the areas we are called to. I am also sensitive about the “Where do you go to church?” question that many Southerners ask newcomers. I think this makes a huge assumption about the choices and values the newcomer makes. For all they know, the person may be the abused child of a charismatic pastor. For that newcomer, church could represent the most unsafe place in the world. Not everyone understands that. And that is OK, as we are not mind readers and we all come from different experiences. So I guess we try to stay true to the things God puts on our hearts, try to be empathic to others, and understand that we will make mistakes at times and be open to offer repentance when we screw up!”
And here is Refugee’s comment:
Is it a sign of PTSD, to wake up sick every Sunday? I think that stress and anticipation can cause our bodies to respond with real, physical illness (not just churning stomach or splitting headache, but actual fever). Or is PTSD too strong a term?
And can someone who wants to go to church, especially a new church, very different from the old, abusive one but still “corporate worship” as in joining with a group of people to pray, praise, read scripture, hear a message — can they ever get over the anxiety attacks, or is it better just to give up on “church”?
We are seeking help from a therapist, it’s on the schedule, but not yet begun. Have never done this sort of thing before. It’s unmarked territory on my mental map — you know, that blank space beyond known lands.
While Refugee is in the process of seeking help from a therapist, can we encourage her? How have you dealt with these kinds of issues? Do you have anything you can share to Refugee that might give her some hope? Whenever I do posts like these, I know that Refugee represents many others who are going through similar circumstances and are also looking for answers.