Suffering from PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) makes living in the present moment not only challenging but very often impossible. My brain and my body spend a great deal of time “living” in the past or perhaps re-living the past, is more accurate. Flashbacks and body memories in the form of chronic triggering pain pull me physically, emotionally, and spiritually back into the darkness from which God has already rescued me. I know, intellectually, that in this moment, here and now, I am safe and free, but it is exhausting, soul wearying, to have to continually remind myself that what I am feeling in my body and seeing in my mind are just memories. PTSD has literally forced me to practice (and practice and practice…) Mindfulness.
Therapy and spiritual direction are essential to my healing. Naturally, my Catholic faith has integrated into the work that I do with my therapist. As I speak with my spiritual director about the work of reprocessing my traumatic memories, he has often named what I am doing as “sanctifying memories.” What does sanctifying a memory look like for me? The short, simple description is: finding Jesus in the darkness. This I know to be true… Jesus has been with me, within me, at every moment of my life even in utter darkness, even when I had no awareness of His presence. Through the use of prayer, art therapy, EMDR therapy, and Catholic guided visualization I am able to relive these painful events but not alone this time. Now I can see where Jesus was all along. He never abandoned me, and in the darkest moments, He provided the greatest graces. This gift of sanctifying my memories is Jesus’ way of not only healing my wounds and PTSD, but He is literally showing me how He has taken what was meant to harm me and using it for good.
As I reflect on God’s power to sanctify my memories of the past, I realize that this power is here for me in the present as well. I can sanctify every moment by asking, “My Jesus, show me where You are in THIS… this mess or tragedy or joy or boredom.”
And my Lord is a gift-giving, prayer-answering God and He does show me His loving presence moment to moment, day by day.