I sat in church listening to the man on stage sharing a testimony of how God delivered him from his battle with anxiety. His story was genuine, joy-filled, and shared articulately. I clapped, but at the back of my mind a small child’s voice spoke up and wouldn’t quiet down.
But why not me?
Haven’t I also prayed? Haven’t I also sung the same worship songs? Hasn’t my life also been disrupted and thrown into chaos? Why him and not also me?
Back Up Two Months…
Earlier this summer, I was reading a book that somewhat described how I managed life. The author talked about how some of us (maybe more of us than we’d like to acknowledge) live compartmentalized lives. We have a work self, a church self, and we drag home a tired family self at the end of the day. And those compartmentalized selves remain separate, they don’t spill over or influence one another.
Instead, the author encouraged readers to live fully integrated lives. Be the same person at work as you are at church as you are at home, but additionally, let what happens in one life or box spill over into the others. Live whole-heartedly was her battle-cry. It would mean that what you heard in church would change your work self, and maybe you bring your family-self problems to church and ask for prayer.
That all sounded lovely, but would that really work for me? I have PTSD. When people discover that you have a mental health condition, they look at you different, they treat you differently. I’ve learned to manage my PTSD by compartmentalizing my life. My anxiety stays locked in a box in my head. That’s my life, my leg chained to that blasted box keeping the lid tightly shut.
Even if I could never be free of the shadow that’s PTSD, could I really be free of the box I was chained to? Free of the fear that PTSD would escape its confinement and wreak havoc on my neatly ordered life? What if I could enter a new situation and not worry about how the hinges on that box rattle because I was accepted as I am? What would that be like? Could I really give up the box and just accept that PTSD is a constant shadow–a part of who I am?