Emerging from the Shadowlands of PTSD

Emerging from the Shadowlands

By: Susan Deborah Schiller

This is a story for those who feel like they have fallen through the cracks – misunderstood by peers, shunned, or even exiled. It's for those who the doctors have not been able to help. It's for the quiet ones who stay at home, preferring not to engage with the world just yet. It's for the ones who describe feeling as though they are miles and miles below the surface of the earth, in deep, dark places – catacombs, pits, and coffins. These are words we use to describe the aftermath of living with a sociopath.

And it's for the brave friends and family who support these fragile survivors. I'm going to get naked once again, and share with you part of my own adventure into freedom and fullness – a journey I am on with God, my friends and my family.

I want to show you how powerful YOU are and how much your story can lift someone who has fallen through the cracks.

We understand when a diabetic has eye problems or a soldier with missing legs can no longer run. We don't often understand why the victim of a sociopathic husband is can no longer function. Her wounds are invisible and her scars cannot be seen.

Pathological abuse causes brain damage as well as damage to your soul. To me, the damage looks something like these hills my husband and I explored last Spring. Whole hillsides have eroded, forming cracks and fissures dozens of feet deep, in places.

On the surface, all appears "normal" because we are survivors, after all – we know how to behave for the public eye. But it takes a lot of energy, and those crevices will grow wider and deeper if they are not tended.

I recently read that a survivor of narcissistic abuse frequently experiences 50-90% loss of brain functionality. From the hundreds of stories I've heard from survivors this is sadly accurate.

Many good people advised me to "move on," to "get a job," or to relocate to a new town. I've done all of those things, but it didn't make me "normal". Can life ever be normal again, many of us wonder!

Outwardly, I worked like a champion. I moved. I made a new life for myself. I bloomed like these flowers, but the crevices in my soul would soon pull them down into dark canyons of depression and despair.

Dr. Rhonda Freeman describes the neuroscience of pathological abuse in scientific terms simple enough for laymen to understand. She does a fantastic job and I'm not going to repeat her words here, but you can listen in at "The Neuroscience Behind Pathological Love Relationships.

For me, it begins as a vague sense of living in two worlds at the same time. It's difficult to describe but it's like a dark hole is opening up, subconsiously. There are flashbacks. I cry, and it's sort of like a boiling pot bubbling over because there's no room inside to contain the tears.

I'm so busy trying to live "normally" and be productive in the conscious world that I tend to push self-care to the bottom of my to-do list… so the pressure builds up.

I hope these pictures help – they have captured, to me, what has happened to my innermost being.

The crack merges with other cracks and a landslide of emotions erupt. There are decades of layers all intermingling. It's chaotic and confusing.

I have chosen natural and relational remedies instead of medical treatment because what God and my friends have done for me really works. Empathetic presence and listening to each others stories is elemental and effective. It's ancient wisdom: Love God, love people.

My husband is a scientist and his speciality is forestry – timber, in particular. He's a veteran of the Vietnam war and has been a mountain man most of his life. He is a good man, solid, secure, and safe. He has his work cut out for him, in me, though.

At least once a month the pressure builds up and what I described above happens. It's like I'm living in past and the present at the same time. Rationally, I understand what is happening and I can talk myself through it.

But rationality is not the cure. Love is. Love disarms the landmines and dilutes the toxins.

The challenge is perception. When I'm caught in a crevice, my scientific husband has tried rationalizing to jumpstart me into thinking logically. For awhile he tried separating himself from me, during those episodes, thinking that it would knock sense into me. He was afraid that empathy or compassion would chain me to the pain instead of liberating me.

Through a year of trial and error, what we have found to work is both childlike and simple… it's empathetic presence combined with healing touch. My body is a living library of memories. Our cells store emotions. Abuse buries its toxic poison into our bodies. We need a remedy that touches all three parts of us: body, soul, and spirit.

Empathetic presence connects us spiritually, emotionally, and physically. Healing touch doesn't cost a penny.

There are so many outstanding methods and techniques for healing these days. Most of the healers that I've found charge money, which isn't necessarily wrong.

I'm not against those healing modalities. But the majority of suffering people in the world don't have enough funds to buy their healing.

Often in our pursuit of healing we forget our about bodies and the connection between all three parts of us: spirit, body, and soul.

Healing touch defuses the bombs lying hidden beneath my skin, inside the tendons, ligaments, nerves, muscles, and cells of my body.

Last year, my husband massaged me from head to toe, backwards and forward, and all around, for two and a half hours. As he touched various parts of my body I experienced flashbacks. Now I know which memories are buried in which places. At least, some of them. I lift these memories out of my body by re-framing them. For a long while I began to get healthier, stronger, and to feel "myself" again.

My friend Therese Grant recently published a book called "The Sixth Miracle of St. Magliore" and it illustrates how these simple gestures can restart a person's life. One of the main characters, Aurelia, had slipped into the abyss of despair. Set in the early 20th century in rural Quebec, she had no access to health care. Her family fell into the hole with her and it went from bad to worse.

One day three of her friends persuaded Aurelia's husband to convince his wife to come to one of their houses for lunch. Over the course of several hours, Aurelia's story tumbled out amidst gallons of tears and piles of handkerchiefs. The empathetic presence of her true friends broke the spell and Aurelia found herself smiling again. That was the first miracle, which led to a chain reaction of life-starting… and it created an abuse-free zone throughout the community.

You may be stuck inside the abuse right now, with no safe place in sight. It's a season of fire. I was, too, for quite some time. You're not alone – ever. Even when I had no one to help me, God was there. In dreams and visions of the night, even, he showed me what was really happening and how to be free.

"In the stillness, in the silence and the solitude we will walk and talk together, right through the muck and mire of these shadowlands. You are beginning to remember who you are. You are running to the Light. If only you could see youself as I see you. Your wreckless faith, even though it seems like you're hanging on by a ragged thread, makes you STUNNING in My eyes!" — Papa God to me, Fall of 2013, recorded in my journal. Full prayer published in "I See You".

Like most people, my husband has never had experience with abuse survivors. The past two years his job took him away for several months of the year and there was no more "healing touches" for a year or more. Then he became involved with an abuser, himself, through the course of his work. Although it's not quite the same as living in an intimate relationship with an abuser, he began to discover the deep psychological pain that accompanies any level of engagement with pure evil. Perhaps this is one way God is helping him to have empathy, I don't know. Right now it's just painful for our whole family and there have been major setbacks in my own healing.

The family is the backbone of society and that is where the healing begins… but what if you don't have family support? So many of us don't. I don't have the answers for that yet. All I know is that God has just been asking me to share my story, and as I do, women write to me with their own stories. And we discover together that we each have traveled the same path. It helps immensely to be connected and to be understood. If you don't have family support, I hope in some small measure, this website can be a source of support for you!

My Full Story     What I Believe    Contact Me

With all my love,

Sue

Susan Schiller knows how it feels to lose everything: marriage and family, church and reputation, finances and businesses, and more. Susan's upcoming, interactive memoir, "On the Way Home," tells the story of how she came to be known as "the most abused woman" her counselors had yet met and how she learned to navigate to freedom and fullness.  
 
Today Susan helps people write their life stories, unearthing the treasures of their past and sowing them into their future, creating new family legacies.
 

Copyright © 2015 Team Family Online, All rights reserved.   For reprint permission or for any private or commercial use, in any form of media, please contact Susan Schiller

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Kelly January 4, 2016 at 4:04 am

Thanks to everyone who has been telling their stories. I've only told bits and pieces of my own for fear of not being believed and for also fear of my life and that of my family's. I was in the place recently in which I had become so overwhelmed with the tragedy (my son was removed from our home, my husband almost died on the 20th anniversary of my own near death, my home was broken into and I was rushed to the hospital with septic shock all within four weeks) and I completely became disoriented and forgot why these things happen. They happen because I am an avenger! They happen because I love Trurh more than comfort and yes, even more than life! Thank you for reminding me! I'm ok now. I'm not a victim. I've chosen this adventure as hard as it is because Truth and Life are better than lies and the shallow existence of pretense. 

Reply

Susan Schiller January 4, 2016 at 3:36 pm

Wow, KELLY!!!!

Thank you so much for sharing this perspective – you are so RIGHT! I identify with your statement about being an avenger, one who pursues Truth without concern for comfort. We volunteered, or rather, responded with a ‘yes’ to the invitation to this adventure. Wow, I don’t often meet people like us, Kelly, and it’s pure pleasure to hear your words spoken here. It’s like hearing someone speak your home tongue when in a foreign country! 

Praise God! I’m so glad you have survived all that you have. Please continue to share more, if you desire, or email me privately, if you wish. 🙂

Reply

Linda Honea March 25, 2014 at 7:34 pm

Hi there Sue!  🙂
I read 'Emerging…' last night; and, when I opened my computer today, March 25, there it was…
http://www.bing.com   —- ferns sprouting from a crack in lava rock, Hawaii Volcano National Park.

IMAGINE THAT INTENSITY!  From molten lava-to solid rock-to pressurized cracks-and finally-a place where the fern grows.

According to livescience.com:   "Ice melts at 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Chocolate melts at 90 F. But rock? Now we're talking a lot more heat.  Lava, the melted rock that shoots out of volcanoes, can flow at temperatures of thousands of degrees Fahrenheit."  We know the heat of circumstances!

My body is a living library of memories. Our cells store emotions.

Our bodies can be like lava turning into rock… frozen emotions and memories solidifying in our very cells.  We protect ourselves, and it is often the only way to survive.

           for a time…

At the perfect time, supernatually ordained, pressure builds to crack the rock, the iceberg cells.

We don't choose the method of applied pressure, just as Joseph didn't choose a prison sentence as a method to save the known world.  It's a paradox.  What satan intends for evil, GOD makes it into good.

Team Family Friend, don't worry if you can't see any "good" at the moment.  And, if you don't have any hope of seeing "good", well, you can borrow some of mine.  Today, I overflow with hope!  And it still surprises me!

In 2009, I was frozen in despair, deep, dark, hopeless despair.  I laid on the floor and beseeched God to "do something" or I could not survive ONE-MORE-HOUR.  He came through for me and He will lovingly come through for you too.

I have more life to give, as well as to live… We can all be life-starters, you know.

Sue, you are right!  We have more life to live!  And in the crack of the rock a fern grows.

xoxo
 

Reply

Susan Schiller March 26, 2014 at 6:52 am

Linda, what an amazing parallel and an outstanding picture of “emerging”!

I love how God speaks visually and directly to you and through you! How beautiful to see that Hope springing up and flowing through you, Linda. You are pure lovely, Linda – thanks so much for sharing!

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