It has been hard for me to go to church lately because of my PTSD. There is a new person in my ward (in the LDS church, local congregations are called wards) who is unknowingly a huge trigger for me.
When you have PTSD, anyone and anything can be a trigger. Someone could play a song that is a trigger because it reminds you of the time you were in a car crash. A man could grow a mustache which could remind you of the facial hair of the man who raped you. A loud noise could remind a veteran of the war zone. When you get triggered, your symptoms spike—the extreme anxiety, the hypervigilance, etc.
The first week I saw this individual at church, I had the leave early. Since that first week, I have been able to go and stay the whole time, but it has been physically and emotionally draining.
I was feeling pretty discouraged about this, because church is supposed to be a renewing experience. But I’m trying to remind myself that God has often required people to do difficult or painful things in order to be obedient to Him, and I can’t expect to be an exception.
I read a comforting speech though, from one of the Apostles of my church (The Church of Jesus of Christ of Latter-day Saints, or “Mormon” church), and wanted to share it, in case it may help any other Christian, or anyone else who is suffering in any way at this time.
Here is a link to the talk if you want to read or listen to it: https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2006/10/he-heals-the-heavy-laden?lang=eng&query=heal+mental+illness
In his speech, Elder Dallin H. Oaks talked about how in his mortal ministry, Jesus Christ not only healed those with physical ailments, but also those with mental illnesses and other afflictions:
“Jesus…expressly affirmed that He would heal those with physical ailments and He would also deliver the captive, liberate the bruised, and heal the brokenhearted.”
“Matthew writes that He healed every sickness and every disease among the people. Great multitudes followed Him, and He “healed them all” Surely these healings included those whose sicknesses were emotional, mental, or spiritual. He healed them all.”
Elder Oaks then talked about how we read in 3rd Nephi (One of the books in the Book of Mormon) that when the resurrected Jesus appeared to those in the western hemisphere, He “called for persons to come forward who were lame or blind or had other physical ailments. He extended the same invitation to those “that are afflicted in any manner”…This must have included persons with every kind of physical or emotional or mental affliction, and the scripture testifies that Jesus “did heal them every one”
Then Elder Oaks said “when the Apostle Paul sought to be healed from the “thorn in the flesh” that buffeted him (2 Corinthians 12:7), the Lord declined to heal him. Paul later wrote that the Lord explained, “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness””.
I realized that for me, this current problem may be an instance where God is trying to show me I need to rely on His strength and not my own.
Elder Oaks then further explains that we may not be healed or delivered from our affliction in the way we wish, but that God will still help us with whatever it is:
“Healing blessings come in many ways, each suited to our individual needs, as known to Him who loves us best. Sometimes a “healing” cures our illness or lifts our burden. But sometimes we are “healed” by being given strength or understanding or patience to bear the burdens placed upon us.”
He gave another example from the Book of Mormon. In Alma 24 it tells the story of a people who were captured by their enemies and extremely burdened by the oppression heaped upon them. Elder Oaks then said:
“When they prayed for relief, the Lord told them He would deliver them eventually, but in the meantime He would ease their burdens “that even you cannot feel them upon your backs, even while you are in bondage; and this will I do that ye may stand as witnesses … that I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions”…At times we may despair that our burdens are too great. When it seems that a tempest is raging in our lives, we may feel abandoned and cry out like the disciples in the storm, “Master, carest thou not that we perish?” (Mark 4:38). At such times we should remember His reply: “Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?” The healing power of the Lord Jesus Christ—whether it removes our burdens or strengthens us to endure and live with them like the Apostle Paul—is available for every affliction in mortality.”
At the end of his talk, Elder Oaks said: “The Atonement…gives us the strength to endure “pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind,” because our Savior also took upon Him “the pains and the sicknesses of his people”. Brothers and sisters, if your faith and prayers and the power of the priesthood do not heal you from an affliction, the power of the Atonement will surely give you the strength to bear the burden.”
Wherever you are, and whatever your burden or affliction, whether it is a mental illness or something else, just try to trust that God is going to help you, and then move forward doing your best. I know that as I have done this, I have experienced more peace as I deal with my own mental illnesses and the trials they bring to me.