Once talking with a woman, she shared with me her story. Her husband, a returning Iraqi war vet, suffered from PTSD. She lamented, "He will talk to the dog, hold the dog, touch the dog, and allow the dog to sit on his lap, but he will not do any of those things to me. How am I supposed to feel? It's almost as if he considers me a threat; like I'm the enemy or something!" As the relationship developed, the husband shared that when around his dog it was the only time he felt safe.
So I'm not an expert here, but it seems that traumatic events in a person's life can turn one into someone who is afraid to trust, afraid to open up, afraid to engage, and fearful of vulnerability. That's what it feels like to me with my PTSD. But, here's the thing I think of quite often now. Who or what really is my enemy?
I know this, it's not those who love me the most and are closest to me. It is not that coworker who irritates me beyond measure. It's not your unsympathetic boss, or gnarly sibling, or uncaring society. Or for me as a pastor, that handful of parishioners who make my life difficult; they are not the enemy. Who or what than is exactly the enemy?
There is an enemy that seeks to slay me unless I learn to control it; an enemy which alienates me from those closest to me. An enemy which tells me, "Stay in my safe place, protect me at all cost, and trust no one." This is the enemy I think everyone of us must face and deal with perhaps every day. An enemy which can be controlled at the very least and at the very best defeated. It is a daily battle we must engage in. A dragon one must continually slay forcing it into subjection. And, as we gain the upper hand we gain hope. That enemy is my PTSD and depression. There are few things that I can control in life. But, one thing I can try to control is how I deal with my issues, my problems, or condition.
Might I encourage us with the help of our family, friends, and counselors to look at that thing that slays us a hundred times as being the only true enemy in our lives. This enemy must be dealt with, and as we learn to control it - not it control us - then perhaps we will find that the fangs and claws are not as big as imagined, and in fact the beast we feared is now a companion we can harness and use to take us to a better place, a higher place, a richer place, and a place of better relationships with those around us.
Don spent twenty-two years with his wife, Kathy, serving orphan children and HIV-AIDS families in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa. Towards the last few years in South Africa, close friends and family noticed he was struggling with something. No one was quite sure. So, with a return to the United States Don thought a change was all he needed.