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  • Writer's pictureAdrea Tilford

A Strategy for the next time Complex PTSD tries to Steal My Joy...

After my blog post last week, a friend reached out. We had a short conversation about how PTSD and past trauma can sometimes still impact our lives in unwanted ways. In an effort to avoid the symptoms - the disassociation, the overwhelm, the remembering - we sometimes choose to not go. You see, if we don’t go, the triggers can’t affect us - or so we think. Because in reality, when we don’t go sorrow seeps into our souls because this is not the first theft. It’s a moment stacked upon other moments we wish we could have enjoyed, but that joy was stolen. Another chance to enjoy - my children, my husband, my friend, my colleagues, a new learning experience - hijacked. So either way, if we go or don’t go, it feels like we lose. I've been reflecting on this conversation over the week. I wondered, if the person I didn't want to encounter had been going on Saturday, would I have attended? I really want to tell you yes. That I would have met the challenge with courage and determination, that I would have faced the fear.

But if I’m being honest, I’m pretty sure I would have chosen to stay away - avoiding the pain, the encounter, the memory. And I only know this because it is what I have done too many times before. The time I turned tail at the stop light, fear invading my focus. The time I backtracked, right back into my classroom when I saw her standing in front of my school. Even with encouragement from my King to have courage and to remember He stands with me… I avoided, and who knows what I missed out on.

This time, I know what I would have missed out on had I stayed home last Saturday.

Because I went.

And that truth might just set me free.

It's a new day. His mercies are new every morning.

I experienced an incredible day of growth and fun for my girl. A resilience building day - the kind of day she most definitely needed her mom to be a part of. A day she needed to experience at this stage in her life. I also cheered on my middle school team, and sat with our family besties watching our kids compete. Mia and I watched robots move dinosaurs and we cheered -full lung capacity cheers - when Nella’s team earned awards.

Look at that smile...

What heartbreak the truth holds that I would have chosen to miss it all, and would have allowed her to miss it too...

What power I was willing to give away - in that honest space I feel undone.

John 10 says that the thief comes to steal, to kill and to destroy. Jesus comes to give life, life abundantly.

Ephesians 6:12 says that the struggle is not against flesh - or other people - but against the principalities, powers and rulers of darkness. A spiritual enemy - not a human one.

If I let the painful memories win - I let the enemy win. This isn’t about a person who caused harm, this is about an enemy who wants to keep me stuck in victimhood and fear.

If I stay home, I do not get to experience the abundance of life. If I trust and surrender, I remember that God is in the story. In the room. Letting light shine into the darkness of the past.

I wish this was easy. It’s not. The only thing I am certain of today is that I don’t want the trauma of my past to control my enjoyment of the present anymore. I've wanted that for a long time, and in this week I've discovered again how much I have still to learn.

I want to embrace abundance, no matter who or what is at the party. I want to remember that Jesus is in it. My shield, my protector. I want to surrender the journey completely to Him.

But how? In these types of overwhelming circumstances? I’ve been working on this all year, for four years really, and I’m still not quite sure.

A Strategy I want to Try:

My spiritual director Megan and I talked through a different event. She asked, what would it be like if you saw the people through the eyes of God?

For a few seconds, I imagined Jesus sitting with one of these people in a moment of struggle. Like Jesus sits with me. I started to cry. Hope. Healing.

In April, I listened to an episode of the BEMA discipleship podcast. Marty Soloman said that forgiveness is the greatest form of surrender. Forgiveness has been a prayer echoing from my heart to the world for many years - an echo that bounces off triggers, and nightmares, and a longing for someone to get what they deserve.

I met a new friend, Vickie, at the Center for Children event. We chatted forgiveness. Forgiveness is not about saying what happened is okay. It’s about saying I give this to God and trust that God is taking care of it - way better than I ever could trapped in echo canyon.

I have latently wished for vengeance for too long- a dark desire hidden in the depths.

Thankfully, I serve a God who longs for reconciliation, for repair.

My Thanksgiving prayer: May I see the people - including myself- who desperately need God’s loving repair the way God does - even if it’s for one event, one meal, one moment in time.

God sees me. God with me. God sits beside me. God all in. God holds my hand.

God catching the prayer so that it no longer echos against the horrors of the past, but can be laid down with the hope of the cross. If it happened easily or in quick timing, I wouldn’t need to write this post. Instead of fear, I hope for abundance. I trust in the grace and truth of the Light.

And I have a strategy - try to see them the way God sees them.

How is that? It's the same way God see me. The same way God sees you.


- With mercy made new every morning

- Made in the image of God

- Beloved, Precious, Cherished

- Daughter or Son

- Wanted at the table

- Worthy to be sought after and found

- Worthy for relationship

This strategy does not mean I have to remove all boundaries and allow a person to treat me in a way that feels inappropriate or misaligned to my soul. I can still leave the table, the room, the house or workplace because sometimes leaving is the exact right thing to do. This strategy just means that when I am in situations that might cause my PTSD symptoms to flare, and might also hold incredible joy should I try to attend, I can hold onto the truth that God sees every person in the room.

And while I'm in the room, I can try to do that too.

What are the ways you’ve made it to the event? What strategies have worked for you?

Need a song to listen to? How about Burn the Ships by for King and Country.

I made this little printable reminder to carry with me to my next event. Let me know if you want one! One for "them" one for "you."

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