Excerpt from the chapter on Anger.

…The anxiety in my life isn’t continuous. Sometimes it’s manageable. In fact, sometimes I don’t think about it that much altogether.

But it’s always lurking.

Stoked by an argument, or criticism, or a problem at work—or something else entirely—anxiety manifests itself in a physical way for me. My heart may start beating so hard that I feel it in my chest and in my ears. Or it might be so fast that I feel dizzy and short of breath. Even if I am sitting completely still, I might feel this shakiness inside of me, and all over my body—from head to toe, down my arms, rushing out of my fingertips.

Other symptoms accompany my anxiety: goosebumps, jaw-clenching, pacing. Perhaps the goosebumps are a reaction that my outside body has to the chaos within me. It’s as if the anxiety is physically trying to leave my body through any way possible.

Once the anxiety kicks in, it can turn into stress, then frustration, and then—finally—anger. For me the anger sits just below the surface. It’s invisible until my anxiety escalates, and I reach a point where I can no longer deny it or hide it.  Before that happens, I usually go into avoidance mode. I stop engaging. I shut down. Especially when the conflict I’m experiencing is with someone I’m close to, like my wife. To her this must feel as though I am dismissing her or ignoring her, which is upsetting to us both, but it’s just one of the many fallouts of living with PTSD.

I don’t like feeling this way. Like I am like a red-hot exposed nerve just waiting to snap. It is against my better nature. I love people. I love communicating and sharing. I am angry at my anger, that this seems to be my new normal. I am angry that PTSD has stolen so much from me—that it has irrevocably altered the very essence of my being—and that feeling makes those moments when my anxiety spills into anger even worse…

Excerpt from the chapter on Triggers.

… Many of those who have PTSD explain it as going away or zoning out. This is certainly cause for concern. It means the brain can’t process everything it needs to process. Imagine driving on the road and forgetting that you’ve passed where you want to go. You were “zoning.” It’s not that we don’t realize what’s going on. Our brain is always connected, tuned into where we are. It’s just that our conscious side isn’t relating to the surrounding events. Everybody’s had that kind of experience. I will reiterate that those who have a disorder revolve around fear and depression are more likely to lose this connection from time to time.

When my wife is talking to me, sometimes I recognize what she’s saying, but I’m focused on something else. Even though I hear, I don’t listen. That frustrates and can even irritate the person who is trying to communicate with us. When my wife and I moved to the seminary campus, we lived in a trailer in the campus trailer park. Our trailer butted up against railroad tracks. Trains came through day and night, often clacking on the tracks, screeching with brakes, and surprising us with horns. We said we didn’t know how we were going to live like this. It was literally ten feet from the back of our trailer to the tracks. Of course, our bedroom was in the back, at the end with the tracks. It was very difficult to try to sleep and have a restful night. Focusing on anything in the trailer could be difficult. I’d be trying to study, and my wife would be trying to read, or we’d be trying to see something on TV. But over and over again, there was a noisy disturbance.

I wouldn’t have believed it, but in time, my mind would begin to shut out some of the unwanted sounds. Before long, we got to the point where we could sleep better. The noise and disruptions continued, but our acute focus became less aware and compensated by our hearing it less and less. We finally reached the point where we could hear it but didn’t continue to notice most of the time. Friends and family came to visit us from out of town, and when the first train would come through, they’d be shocked.

Inevitably, the first things that came out of their mouth were something like, “How in the world can you live here? I don’t know how to do anything. I could never live where you live.” For them, the noise and disturbance were what the brain focused on.

The same is true of hearing and listening. Hearing is inevitable. When there is a noise, you hear it. Whether we pay attention or listen to it is a different story.

Some triggers are impossible to avoid. If our surroundings cause triggers, it is more difficult to alleviate. The ones we can do something with are generally based on relationships… 

Excerpt from the chapter on Faith.

…It is challenging to be a person of faith when dealing with an ailment or circumstance that seems to take more and more control of your life with every passing day. We learn early on in our faith journeys that God alone is in control of our lives. There is a notion that if I pray harder, trust God more, or surrender all to God, all pain should cease. While I know with my mind that this is not the way God works, my heart has a harder time understanding why I have yet to feel much relief from my condition. As a person of deep abiding faith, I seek Him daily. I pray to be healed. I cry out to him to answer me and take my suffering away. His answer thus far has been “no.” This is difficult to swallow. I know He loves me. I know His plans for me are good. I just don’t understand why he hasn’t offered the littlest bit of relief. I may never understand. This challenges me and my faith. I have to fight harder to stay close to God. I have to rely on what I know of His character and how He works in people’s lives.

I’ve been asked hundreds if not thousands of times over the years how people without faith in God make it through life tragedies and trauma. You would think the answer would be simple. The answer I usually give people is this: “It’s actually easier for those without faith.” That may sound ridiculous since faith can be such a positive influence when people are suffering from PTSD. But in many ways, this unresolved pain may be easier for people of no faith at all. In this, they are able to blame God for all they have been through and all they are feeling. Placing the blame on God makes it easier to bear somehow—the weight of it all feels a bit lighter. They don’t have to take responsibility for anything. It’s God’s fault. If He were a loving God, then He wouldn’t make good people suffer. Diverting their pain and anger onto God offers some false relief for those with no faith in Him…