Over the past number of years I have had the honour of being friends with some of the bravest folk I have ever met. These folks struggle with issues of mental health and society’s stigma attached to mental illness. Their bravery has inspired me to share a bit of my own story. I share with them issues of mental health but I have carefully avoided the public stigma. Lately I have found such a measure of relief that I feel emboldened to join my brave friends.
Twenty some years ago I was diagnosed with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). Pardon my layman’s explanation but PTSD occurs when the brain does not properly process the memory of a traumatic event or events, and the memory triggers all the emotional and physical reactions as if the event was happening in ‘real time’.
One of the powerful memories for me was that of discovering the limp lifeless body of my son Jamie. This truly awful event happened over 30 years ago but I have relived it countless times over the years. Rather than being stored away in the ‘memory bank’ as a sad and emotionally laden memory, this memory ‘floated’ just below my awareness all the time. All the events of my life were seen through this prism. Ordinary day to day kinds of experience were unaffected but any experience (event, sight, smell, taste etc.) which was reminiscent brought the feelings back with a great rush of adrenaline!
Since that diagnosis I have received lots of counsel involving coping mechanisms designed to help me live a normal life. (My friend Jillian says normal is only the setting on a dryer.) Coping is no fun! Coping is relatively easy when things go well but in times of heightened stress it can become very difficult (read impossible!).
Recently I learned that there was hope to move beyond coping and experience real healing. A new, to me, therapy EMDR https://emdrcanada.org/emdr-defined/ held out hope for real relief. Again as a layman allow me to describe my experience. EMDR is a means of engaging the whole brain, both hemispheres, at once in recalling the details and emotions of an event. The brain which is “fearfully and wonderfully made” heals itself by processing and ‘filing’ this event. It is as if the brain ‘gives itself a shake’ and the memory becomes unstuck.
In the space of one hour what had haunted me for 30+ years had been healed. Therapists can give technical explanations of how this works but I simply thank God. It has been a marvellous experience. It has been a mystical experience!
I describe it like this. It is similar to the experience we have in the optometrist’s chair. We initially look through the opaque lens. We do not see clearly all is confusing and frustrating but the optometrist begins to click the lens until suddenly the world comes into focus!
I suspect that there are others who like me are suffering silently with mental health issues. I am so delighted to know His healing in this area and I would urge all people to take mental health out of the dark and discover the healing God may have for us.