Freedom is a gift we, in the United States, readily enjoy. But, freedom comes with a price. As we come upon the Fourth of July holiday, where we celebrate our countries independence, it is a great time to remember and honor those who have sacrificed for our freedom. It is so easy in our day-to-day lives to forget about those sacrifices.
Many service man and women return to civilian life with injuries. Physical injuries are easier for us to recognize and understand. We see a missing limb and immediately know the sacrifice. Mental illness, as we commonly call it, is a different matter. Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a common diagnosis for those who have been in war or military conflict. It is not the only form of mental illness diagnosed, however. Sufferers of PTSD experience “triggers” that illicit responses that stem from a different time and place.
As someone who was once diagnosed with PTSD, I know the sensation of having something “triggered” within. My response to those triggers usually resulted in behavior I’m not proud of like angrily snapping or yelling at my kids. The trigger is so automatic that sometimes it is impossible to control the response. Another common response to a trigger is fear. A fear that so often seems irrational.
As the military personnel came home from WWII, they were told to forget what they saw and what they experienced. The thought at the time was if you don’t talk about it, it will go away. Except it didn’t go away. It festered and boiled beneath the surface until the next trigger. A loud noise, a child misbehaving or too much to drink could pull the trigger.
Philip Zimbardo in his book “Time Cure” says we should be calling PTSD mental injury not mental illness. I completely agree. I think it helps us understand it better as an injury rather than an illness. Although never diagnosed, I believe my dad returned from WWII suffering from PTSD. His brain had been dramatically altered by the violence he saw and participated in. He had triggers. He really wanted to forget. He thought by not talking about it everything would be fine. When I think of the stories that have been shared about his experience in Okinawa, I wonder if anyone could go through that and not have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder? Today there are more options and services available to military personnel with PTSD. It is still very debilitating.
Scripture tells us that our freedom from sin comes through Christ (Romans 6). This is true and Christ offers even more. He offers a thorough housecleaning (Hebrews 12:25). That means complete and total freedom even from “triggers.” Sometimes that freedom comes through the Holy Spirit and sometimes that freedom comes from treatments like the one offered in “Time Cure.”
Thank you Dad for putting my freedom, our countries freedom before your life. Thank you to all military personnel who have, are and will defend my freedom.