A reader commented on my recent post, Suffering doesn't mean tolerating abuse.  What she says is very important, and adds urgency to what I've said before.

I really appreciate the awareness you're been fostering concerning mental illness, especially depression. It's something that is highly stigmatized and misunderstood, and too often dismissed in church communities. I would like to bring up another mental illness that is also misunderstood, dismissed, and often not even believed to exist: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PSTD).

Your description of an abuse victim suffering from an internal abuser after the external abuse has stopped is, I believe, a classic description of PTSD. And though I don't think you were at all trying to imply in your post that abuse is something one should just be able to "get over", and I agree that the process of getting out of one's thoughts can be helpful in the healing process.  But I think that a sufferer of PTSD usually needs a lot more.

Too often in our culture communities tend to deny the abuse itself, as well as the fallout---the reality of the symptoms of PTSD, which are the normal human response to trauma. The further tragedy is that PTSD is highly treatable with a number of therapeutic approaches, but most abuse victims don't get the treatment they need, either because they don't know about it or because it's really expensive.

The big thing I would like to stress is that the symptoms of PTSD, including the feelings you describe in your post, are not the result of any kind of failing on the part of the victim, and that to imply that they are does further damage to the sufferer.

I don't think you're implying this, but a reader who suffers from PTSD might misunderstand you---since one of the symptoms often related to PTSD is the way the sufferer feels responsible for and guilty of the things that one suffers, even though that's not the case.  And given the pervasiveness of abuse in our culture (statistically more American women have been raped than hold college degrees), it's probable that you have quite a number of PTSD sufferers among your readers.

Again, I greatly appreciate your engaging in discussion of mental illness. It's terribly important and necessary, and we can't have healing in our society without such discussion.

For an excellent treatment of the relationship between spiritual practices like meditation and emotional distress like PTSD see this brief article by Dr.Robert Scaer.

Posted
AuthorChris Neufeld-Erdman