Winning the Battle

My initial reason for starting a blog was to tell my story. When I began I had a general notion of the impact the blog would have on me, but I realized a few days ago that telling my story brings up emotions and memories that I have not dealt with in years. A couple of weeks ago, my daughter, Korine, asked me a question about something I plan to share in the next few weeks. The question was innocent but answering it triggered a brief visceral response. The response startled me. While such responses were common in the early years of my healing from PTSD, I have not experienced a bodily response in years. The feeling of ice coursing down my esophagus to my stomach frightened me for a second, but the sensation disappeared almost as quickly as it began. Korine reminded me that I should probably get used to the reaction. “People will ask questions,” she warned, “So you need to be ready for triggers.” Her words reminded me how quickly unexpected triggers can derail my inner peace.

Triggers come in all shapes, smells, and sounds.

At the height of my dysfunction, triggers surrounded me 24/7. Some days it was difficult to breathe for fear a new trigger was just around the corner. I reacted instead of acting. I lived in constant fear that I would not survive the next triggered episode. For several years everything in my life seemed to trigger dissociative episodes where I regressed and became the little girl who was abused every day. Experiencing a trigger feels like something sharp pierces my soul and disrupts the core of my being, like a dart hitting a dartboard. Sometimes the darts catch me by surprise. When that happens it takes me a few minutes to regroup and get grounded. In the past, I rarely felt grounded. The sensation lasted days, sometimes weeks. I felt bombarded by fiery darts and had no way to stop them. I lived in constant fear that one of those darts would kill me. The experience far exceeded emotional reaction to the trigger. I felt under siege by spiritual forces that I could not see.  While identifying potential triggers is essential to healing, understanding the spiritual component of the battle is also essential.

We Have the Protection We Need to Stop the Fiery Darts

As I worked through the emotional and spiritual damage of childhood abuse, I realized that in Ephesians 6:10-18, Paul provides a plan for combating the triggers (fiery darts) that distracted me from God’s plan for me. Paul writes:

             10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. [1]

Daily Preparation

While I do not think every bad thing that happens to me is a spiritual attack, I do think that I am better prepared to face the day when I remember to put on the armor of God as outlined above. How do I do that? When I feel attacked by a trigger, I recall Paul’s counsel, “In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one.” I imagine holding a shield that is soaked with water so that the flames of the darts are extinguished before they reach my heart. When a trigger causes me to regress to the hurting and frightened child, I recall, “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” I say a scripture such as “I am a child of God and the evil one cannot touch me.” I imagine a sword slashing through the image of the frightened child. Triggers lose their power when I use the protection provided by the armor of God.

However, thinking about the armor in ancient military terms is not always beneficial. A few years ago I decided to try something new. I decided to make the armor relevant to my daily routine. As I thought about my morning routine I selected an activity that matched each piece of armor. For example, brushing my hair represents putting on the Helmet of Salvation. I do not do this every day, but I notice the difference when I do.  The armor represents the protection that God provides to all believers, but we must take it up and put it on before it is effective. The armor is only part of the solution for stopping triggers or minimizing the impact of triggers that catch me off guard. However, I find that remembering the armor helps me when an unexpected darts are hurled at me. I no longer live in fear of triggers. Instead, I am prepared to stand firm because I have my shield ready to extinguish the darts that come my way.

Challenge:

At least one day this week, think about the armor when you get ready for your day and proactively associate the armor with your routine. How do think putting on the armor might help you combat triggers?

[1] Ephesians 6:10-18, ESV

Related Posts:

Stop the Spiral

What Kind of Love is This? Part I

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