This is written by an anonymous friend of mine who has walked through some difficult times while living in community.
Living in community is hard, especially when you have invisible illnesses that aren’t so widely recognised or even understood. It’s also hard when it takes you a few months to even realise that you are sick and need help.
Recovering from a heart breaking ordeal is hard enough. Let alone when a person feels crazy for still experiencing the pain daily. I thought I’d write about my experiences, just to stand with everyone who is going through similar things but unable to share about it. Also to raise awareness of traumatic events and the effect it has on daily life, which is present in every social group, including Christian communities.
What it’s like to have PTSD and depression while living full-time in a Christian community
-Countless times of being in a community meeting, when a trigger comes out of no where and I’m left uncontrollably sobbing, bordering on a panic attack, yet trying to stay discreet in order to not draw attention to myself
-Trying to hide staying awake for hours // crying myself to sleep, in order to not wake up roommates
-Seeing all the fun people are having outside, and via social media, yet knowing that I physically cannot bring myself to go socialise
-Walking around, and suddenly having a panic attack only to have me stumbling into the nearest room, in shock, and hoping no one will walk through
-Trusting less and less people in an environment which is built on trust and relationships
-Being so ashamed to admit that the pain is still as real as when the trauma first happened, and so feeling isolated though knowing deep down people would want to help
-Getting strange looks every time I randomly cry or withdraw, and henceforth increases the need to withdraw
-Yet also knowing (99%) of people have hearts of gold and would help if only they knew
-Rarely being alone and so when I am, alll the emotions come flooding out
-Missing meetings and being absent for a day because of therapy
-Being scared to sometimes even answer phone calls
-Not leaving the base alone for months because of anxiety
-The sudden dissociation that happens midway through laughing with friends, because of a flashback
-The guilty cynicism that plagues my mind daily
-Having 0 self-worth whilst trying to build up other’s confidence
-Constant quiet times, prayer times, worship times; only sometimes there is breakthrough
-Being ashamed when told I should go onto medication, but also feeling like I have no other choice
-Being called an introvert and shy when really your mind is battling life/death
…. And then finally somewhat accepting that my life is changed, how I live may need to be different for a while; It’s like losing a limb and learning to walk again. Truthfully it sucks because trauma is unfair and the repercussions are unfair and so anger is real. It’s hard to be surrounded by the most joyful people, and try to strive for that same happiness though it’s totally not there. I guess joy is more than happiness though, it’s a deep knowing of God’s love. Through this I’ve learned when I’ll probably be triggered. I know what friends to include in my darkest days. I pray knowing that the grace of Christ covers my illnesses and all I’m called to do is trust and love.
What keeps me going:
Is the deep peace, and knowing I have in my heart
That the pain sucks and feels continuous
But God is with me in the pit
Though not everyone around me knows whats going on
God knows and He gently is healing me, slowly but surely
And as I am diagnosed, knowing that I have mental disorders I will battle, I have peace because in the midst of the darkness is the light of Jesus Christ; that there is nothing that I can or cannot do to separate me from his love. Nothing from heaven above or hell below, no illness or disease, nothing can separate from the love of God. Slowly but surely God’s grace allows me to tell people my story, and time after time I’m received with love. Each telling of my story gets easier. I learn to love in the midst of feeling utterly shit and worthless. Seeing someone else’s smile gives strength to keep going. Days are so unpredictable; slowly I am getting better but I’ve learned to not become too discouraged by bad days, as they are expected.
Love the people around you. Those who seem distant and withdrawn may be like that because there is a war going on in their minds. Don’t judge them and withdraw from them. Ask them in a safe place how they are. Don’t think that just because people are in a Christian mission organisation they don’t still carry sorrow. Do pray with them, help them, cry with them and process with them. Ask them what their triggers are so they can be sensitive around you. Don’t force them to open up details. Don’t tell them to fast more, or to have more faith. Sometimes illnesses will never be healed, but that doesn’t mean a person doesn’t have enough faith. Trauma’s may never completely leave the mind; That is no reflection of a person’s relationship with Christ. Come against depression, anxiety, illnesses with a heart to serve and love. A person doesn’t want to be going through the hell they are, and they already will feel like a burden to everyone else. Don’t contribute to the war zone in their mind. Be Jesus to them, be the love.
If you think you have a mental illness, or are not doing ok, don’t be ashamed. You’re not crazy. I implore you to please go to the Doctors and get help. Talk to a trusted friend or leader. Go see a therapist. Don’t make light of your mental health. Buying clothes and other things are all relative when compared to mental health; that is something that will be with you for the rest of your life. Take care of your mind first. Sometimes in order to love others you have to spend some time loving yourself first, in order to come to others from a healthy place. I can say that after 1.5 years of therapy and medication, I can see the light.
All of my love, I am standing with you.