Monday, February 04, 2019

What Happens When You Tell People You Have PTSD?

There's lots of encouragements these days to be open about mental health problems. but what happens when you're open? I think it varies on who your friends are and how clued up they are. In order to help other sufferers and their friends, here's my experience. I tried sharing my PTSD symptoms with friends and pastors over a period of around 20 years, and got a variety of responses I wasn't ready for. Hopefully these responses will help get you ready :)

1. Puzzlement. For years I tried explaining my PTSD symptoms to a few people (even seasoned pastors), but no one seemed to get what was going on with me. It meant that I almost gave up trying to explain it or get help for it. But don't give up, ask God to help you find someone who can help you.

2. Rebuke. After sharing some of my childhood abuse for the first time ever, a lay counsellor told me that Jesus would want me to repent of having a tough exterior that deters abusers. I still had tears in my eyes, and was taken aback that the first response to my story, was a rebuke. Maybe that's happened to you, but don't give up looking for help, there are better counsellors out there. And if someone shares their abuse story with you, start by telling them how sorry you are that this happened to them.

3. Ridicule. One pastor friend laughed at me, and told me I didn't have PTSD. Unless they're a psychologist, ignore their diagnosis!

4. Suspicion. Once I told some people I had PTSD, they then viewed me with suspicion. Even if they'd trusted me for years (whilst I had those symptoms and demonstrated sound judgment), the mention of PTSD caused distrust. Perhaps they confused hyper-vigilance (a PTSD symptom) with paranoia (not a PTSD symptom). Being treated this way can gaslight you and make you wonder if you're even worse off than you thought. So make sure your health professional assesses you, rather than your friends whose understanding of PTSD might come from either the movies or a quick google search. Conversely, if a friend tells you they've got PTSD, assure them that this is a normal response to trauma, and that they are not falling apart.

5. Abandonment. Some people just ignored me when I told them. Its painful when you've opened yourself up like that, but don't let that stop you from seeking out help, coz it'll be worth it in the end. Bear in mind as well that God will never abandon you, and that Jesus knows what its like to be abandoned.

6. Encouragement. A couple of people said they were glad I'd got a diagnosis and was getting support. That was encouraging! I think that these days, there's more awareness, so you'll probably get even more of this than I did.

7. Safety. When i found a professional counsellor, they first said, 'we need to get you feeling safe before we can do counselling' and then they made accommodation arrangements so that this was so. This also meant avoiding contact with the people who did some of the unhelpful responses above that didn't make me feel safe. If a friend tells you they've got PTSD, help them get and feel safe. Now is not the time to practise your lay-counselling skills on them - now is the time to get them safe!

8. Space. Some people gave me the space I requested because they knew I needed to focus on counselling. My amazing wife was key in making sure this happened. In one instance this even involved her trying to stop someone getting on my case about something, because it would be too much for me. If you can, get someone to help create space for you. If you've got a friend having counselling that stirs up deep pain from the past - hold back from telling them all their character faults - you've got the rest of your life to correct them, it doesn't have to happen during the most vulnerable season of their life :)

9. Helpful Counselling. A Christian psychologist diagnosed me and then gave me amazingly helpful counselling. In a few months, they helped me get through something I'd tried most of my life to deal with but didn't know how. They did it without the puzzlement, rebuke, ridicule or suspicion. They truly acted like Jesus to me, who does not crush a bruised reed (Is 42:3). It was life-changing, and so worth it.

Interestingly, my counsellor told me to not tell more than 5 people that I had PTSD symptoms and was having counselling. This was for 2 reasons: 1) People have different understandings of PTSD, so you don't know what you're really communicating to them (too many people think of movies they've seen, or how the media associates PTSD with killers on the rampage). 2) It gets exhausting to have to keep updating a large number of people about how you're doing when you're going through painful counselling sessions. I also had an unrelated potential legal battle, and the symptoms might have been used against me - so it was best to keep it private. I didn't properly take the advice however, and told more people, thinking that openness was the way forward. In the process, however I've learned that we need to be careful about who we open up to when we're vulnerable. I'm glad I opened up to some people, but wish I'd kept the circle a bit smaller. Don't throw your pearls before swine when you have PTSD, you might be too vulnerable to take the trampling (Matt 7:6).

Monday, January 21, 2019

Why repentance is so hard

Have you ever tried doing Matthew 18 with someone and saying that you feel they wronged you? How did it go? Chances are they got defensive, and never admitted any wrong. Why is this so common?
The following from an article in the Observer is helpful: 
“If I see myself as someone who is smart, competent and kind, and you give me some information that I have done something foolish, immoral or hurtful, I have a choice,” says US social psychologist Carol Tavris, co-author with Aronson of Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me). “I can revise my view of myself, or I can dismiss the evidence. Most people take the least painful path and dismiss the evidence.”So, if someone says we've done wrong, we might discount them because its easier than considering that we're not as good as we thought we were. 
This makes me think: 
1) We really need God to do a work on our hearts to see any repentance. This means praying for ourselves to repent, and praying for those we loving confront.

2) If we view ourselves too highly, we won't accept people's correction. We need to have a biblically based, emotionally intelligent, and socially informed, sober judgment of ourselves.

3) Having a strong view of who we are in Christ, with Christ's righteousness, but also ungodly (Rom 4) will make it easier for us to accept correction.

4) If we grow in love for others and God, we might love them enough to not avoid the pain of discovering we're worse than we thought.

5) We need diverse friends who disagree with us. If you read that Observer article, you'll see how we tend to do group think, and our reason fails us unless we have people in our group with differing ideas.

6) Repentance requires God's supernatural work on our hearts (2 Tim 2:25).

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Listen to Urban Hymns Vol2 now for free

The album is finished, and we'll be sending out CD's on Monday and Tuesday. If you want to stream it for free, you an listen to it here

If you want to order a CD in time for Christmas, email asap (before the end of the weekend) with how many copies you want plus your address.
here's my email:

Here's the costing:1 CD £5 Postage & packaging: £3 for between 1-9 CDs, for larger amounts, email me.

Thursday, December 06, 2018

Order Urban Hymns Vol 2 in time for Christmas!

Its been a bit quiet on the blog lately because I've been working on our new album, Urban Hymns vol 2. If you want to order it in time for Christmas, email me asap with how many copies you want plus your address.
here's my email:

Here's the costing:
1 CD £5
Postage & packaging: £3 for between 1-9 CDs, for larger amounts, email me.


Monday, October 01, 2018

When our Discipleship efforts are in Vain

I was reading today where Paul talked about being worried the Thessalonians had left the faith and his gospel work amongst them had been in vain.
'I was afraid that in some way the tempter had tempted you and that our labors might have been in vain.' 1 These 3:5 NIV
If you've been making disciples for a minute, then there's plenty of times that you look back and see it was in vain. The two lessons I've been trying to learn for years (I'm still not there yet) are:

1) Do everything for the glory of God (1 Cor 10:31). If all our discipleship efforts are done primarily for God's glory, even when they fail, it still counts, because God was glorified, and my motives were to make much of Him.

2) Do everything from faith and love - this is the only thing that counts (Gal 5:6). The type of discipleship that really counts (for the discipler at least), is when I'm motivated by faith in God and his promises: This faith leads to a love towards God and others that results in discipling in a loving way. This counts - even if the person I'm discipling backslides.
'For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.' Gal 5:6

Monday, September 24, 2018

Happy storm that wrecks a man on such a rock as this!

In seasons of severe trial, the Christian has nothing on earth that he can trust to, and is therefore compelled to cast himself on his God alone. When his vessel is on its beam-ends, and no human deliverance can avail, he must simply and entirely trust himself to the providence and care of God. Happy storm that wrecks a man on such a rock as this! O blessed hurricane that drives the soul to God and God alone! There is no getting at our God sometimes because of the multitude of our friends; but when a man is so poor, so friendless, so helpless that he has nowhere else to turn, he flies into his Father’s arms, and is blessedly clasped therein! When he is burdened with troubles so pressing and so peculiar, that he cannot tell them to any but his God, he may be thankful for them; for he will learn more of his Lord then than at any other time. Oh, tempest-tossed believer, it is a happy trouble that drives thee to thy Father! 

Charles H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings, Complete and unabridged; New modern edition. (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2006),,                           Aug 31.