Healing From Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Imagine being constantly on alert expecting at any second to be attacked. You’re not on the battlefield, yet you feel like you’re in a war zone. The reality is that you are in your own homeland, and you are safe. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) led this soldier to attempt suicide, but at the last moment, God saved him, and took him on an amazing healing journey in which he had to confront his fears face to face, before the suffering ended.
He served in Iraq and Afghanistan as an avionics technician, but he was also responsible for playing the bagpipes at ramp ceremonies, piping off the fallen soldiers as their remains were carried onto planes for repatriation. During his first ceremony, he had to say goodbye to a Canadian soldier he’d befriended just three weeks earlier.
For four months, he took part in three ramp ceremonies a week, with up to six bodies in each. But he said it wasn’t until he came home that he began to understand what he’d done and started to grieve each of the soldiers he’d piped off. He explains how he’d be in a shopping centre carpark, trying to concentrate on finding a shopping trolley, and he would find himself scoping his surroundings, every sound is magnified and sounds as loud as a gunshot.
PTSD doesn’t only affect the men and women at the frontline, it hides in our communities.
He explains how, to talk about is still considered a sign of weakness and the disorder carries a stigma, so as you isolate yourself from the world, you feel more and more frightened and alone.
In an attempt to forget everything, he took to drinking five bottles of wine plus a bottle of whiskey a week, just so he could get to sleep. But it didn’t stop the nightmares.
His wife had been a Christian all her life, and lay hands on him, praying for him through the night. But in his despair, he could see the impact his illness was having on her and his children. He felt he could never be the husband and father they needed. “And I thought in my head, if I remove myself from the equation that would give them a better opportunity in life.”
One day he gathered all the pills and alcohol in the house, hoping he could fall asleep, and never wake up. But as he was looking at family photos, saying goodbye, he heard a voice in his head, reminding him of what his wife had shared with him about Jesus. At that point he fell to his knees, and begged God to save him. “If you do,” he said, “I will follow you for the rest of my life. If you don’t, then I know you don’t exist.”
He gave God twenty-four hours to send him a sign. God responded to his prayer quicker than he ever could have imagined. The next morning his wife, who knew nothing of his suicide attempt, met a visiting army psychologist in church. By now she knew how much pain her husband was in, she explained his situation, and asked for help. When she came home and told him what had happened, he knew his prayer had been answered.
The soldier kept his promise, and committed his life to God. His healing journey was long and hard, and God challenged him to raise awareness of PTSD, the illness that had crippled him. But this was to be only the beginning of his road to recovery. The nightmares had been full of the horrors of war and decapitations. News reports of terror attacks had only heightened his fear of Islam since he’d come home to Australia.
So when God ordered him to visit a mosque and to wear his military uniform, he was terrified. But he knew that to keep his promise to follow God, he would have to obey. He gathered all the inner strength he could master and told himself. “He’s your General, He’s your King. You do what you have to. You’re a soldier.”
He arrived, with two friends, at Sydney’s Gallipoli Mosque in the middle of the evening prayer. Faced by hundreds of Muslims, his anxiety escalated, but was surprised when he was welcomed with smiles, and led to a conference room to wait for the Imam.
The Imam hugged the soldier when he entered the room, and listened attentively as the soldier told of his experience in the Middle East, his journey once he returned home, and his hatred and fear of Islam. The soldier shared with the Imam how he was a Christian, yet he’d been tarnishing these people with the same brush as terrorists and extremists. And those feelings and emotions were tearing him apart because he knew, that such judgments were not Christian or of Jesus. “Are you able to forgive me?” he asked the Imam.
“I hugged you when you came in, didn’t I?” the Imam replied. “It’s not hard to forgive you, with what you’ve been through. That’s taken you a lot of courage to come down here.”
They went into the now empty mosque and the Imam prayed for the soldier. Then, the soldier and his two friends prayed for the Imam and Muslims in return. “This is amazing!” the Imam said.
“Three Christians and two Muslims, praying for each other, right under the dome.”
The Imam continued to say. “This has never happened before here, this is what we are about, community, loving on each other.”
The next day, while he was hiking, God spoke to him. “I give you two gifts,” he said. “I give you a new heart, soft as a marshmallow, so you can love other people as I do. And I give you a new mind, free of PTSD. But the memories will still be there, for it’s what makes you the soldier that you are.”
The soldier shares how it wasn’t the mosque that healed him, the healing came from God. It was about God keeping His promise to him, that wherever he sent him, he would keep him safe. “Jesus sent me there to show me how he sees these people,” he explained. “They’re lost, but they’re made in the image of God, and they’re my people as well.”
Since that night at the Gallipoli Mosque, the soldier has had no nightmares, no fears, no need to look over his shoulder. God replaced his fear with faith, and He replaced the hatred towards Muslims with with love.
“Trust in Him at all times, you people; Pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us. Seals” – Psalm 62:8
“He delivers the poor in their affliction, And opens their ears in oppression.” – Job 36:15