Traumatic stress with no “post”?

The Rev. Nigel Mumford is a former British Royal Marine.  His experiences under fire in Northern Ireland contributed to Post Traumatic Stress (I prefer to drop the “D” of “Disorder,” since being truamatized is what naturally follows from trauma).

I just read his book After the Trauma the Battle Begins.  His work in healing prayer ministry has a special focus on combat veterans, but he has a broad awareness of those suffering from PTS (emphasis added):

Can the war veteran, the victim of abuse, or the caregiver reach a point of overload?  Of these three, the caregiver is perhaps the most likely to be affected by compassion fatigue.  Listening to their stories, over and over again, I have heard the cry of caregivers who became saturated with the trauma of those for whom they are tasked to care.

Dali_The_Persistence_of_Memory

The Persistence of Memory, Salvador Dali

The stress of caregiving can be a rolling trauma with no “post” about it.  In my conversations with other care givers – which include talking to myself – I hear plenty of

My life’s been ruined.

Nothing gets better.

I even hear

I wish I were dead.

Care givers can be immersed in the trauma of a loved one for decades.  The condition of the person in their care gets into and changes – if not completely takes over – every aspect of their life together.  This coming week our son’s daily program will expand so that Melissa gains a few hours of afternoon respite, but that won’t suddenly erase the exhaustion of the last several months, which are woven into the preceding twenty two years…

It is hard to know how to deal with such traumatic stress, since it is unrelenting.  Many of us joke about going to the doctor and hearing things like, “Well, you have to take care of yourself” and “Do some things to reduce your stress,” after which we go right back to immersion in situations that overwhelm any “self” we once had.

The Rev. Mumford’s book is self published, and a bit of a stream of consciousness in places.  It’s also overtly Christian in approach.  So it won’t be every reader’s cup of tea.

But it is a kind and compassionate book.  Sometimes the experience of another person recognizing, understanding and caring about what we experience goes a long way.

Here’s A Prayer for a Sufferer of PTS that he offers toward the end of it.  It is focused on returning military personnel, but it might resonate in your soul:

Oh God what is going on in my mind?  I have seen too much.  I have experienced such a trauma.  Please help me – and rewire my brain, train my brain to live at home and not in combat anymore.  Help me with the memories and the shame of reaction to an action that I was trained to react to save my life and the lives of others.  Please help me in the flight/fight caveman instinct that saved my life and the lives of others but now is floating around in my mind, not really understanding what to do.  Jesus my very being is so wounded help me to focus on your wounds.  PLEASE carry me through this that I might know that I might know that I might know that you are slowly healing me from the inside out.  Jesus I put my hand in yours and, even though I might struggle with trust, I trust you.  You know me.  You know when I suffer.  You know when I wake up at night from yet another “Sit rep” [situation report].  You know my wound, physical and emotional.  Please help me.  Bring people into my life on my side that can help me to heal.  Help me Jesus to know that part of my mind as I ask you to sort me out.  PLEASE put your hands on the flywheel [the runaway emotional and physiological reactions to stress triggers] and heal me.  Thank you Jesus.  Amen.

 

Where are we now?

Right HERE.

From which we steal,

Waiting for the kid to go when his bus can come,
or his place to live so our work here’s done,
or some couple time or some sleep’s just fine,
or to travel around to hanging around where friends abound,
or waiting for some hair to grow. [Note: ain’t happening for Tim]

Everyone is just waiting.

Glad February is short.  We are waiting on a program that should open toward the end of the month, which will give Joey a few extra hours out of the house each day.

Lately, he’s taken to a bit of defiance when dad isn’t home, looming over mom because she won’t let him do any manic button pushing on the VCR.  He’s figured out he’s bigger and he is willing to use a bit of intimidation.  So mom is waiting a) to be thrashed or b) for some kind of relief.

We are waiting for a group home placement for the lad, of course.  We know that’s a potentially long haul but the programs here are worth the wait.

I ‘spose one good thing is that when Joey moves out, our sheer relief and exhaustion will temper any grief and anxiety.

There’s a bit of joyful waiting as well.  Our book of inspiration and encouragement for caregivers is rolling along with the publisher.  Just finished a couple of rounds of readers looking for typos and such.  Here’s one nice bit of feedback,

I’m looking forward to giving it to a friend of a special needs child but I would also recommend it for any parent.

Waiting is better if you have something to do.

Which reminds me, a nice meme posted by a Christian radio station this morning:

Waiting

Waiting can be courageous.  You have to hang in there with the hardest questions, like “Why?” and “How long?”

In the Bible, those are frequent themes in the Book of Psalms.  There is opportunity in the &#^**# waiting place, because you can throw those questions at God, with God’s complete understanding and permission, and find out that you’re not waiting all alone.  It can be a time of profound intimacy and spiritual growth.

Or it can just stink.  This is, after all, care giving.

God bless you and strengthen you as you wait for whatever’s on the horizon.