Encouraging, Living, Reaching


Emotional Damage and Mental Health

Emotional Damage and Mental Health

This is a post that is part of a series of posts and has been placed here intentionally in relation to the other posts. If this is the first post you are reading, it may be helpful to go back and read the others for proper context. See Eddy’s other posts.

We are fallen people living with other fallen people, so we have all experienced some form of emotional damage caused by other people sinning against us. How we deal with this damage plays a significant role in how much we suffer from our mental illnesses. The ongoing stress from unresolved emotional trauma aggravates the chemical imbalance in the brain that inhibits clear, controlled thinking.

Weakness overload

While this stress is not the cause of the imbalance, it certainly can overload the existing genetic weakness. This was certainly the case in my life. The various forms of abuse in my childhood caused me to erect “self-protective” barriers to try and keep myself from being hurt again. To find a measure of healing, I had to determine what lies I had come to believe about myself, God and others.

It took me 40+ years to realize that my “self-protection” was based on the lie that God could not be trusted to protect me. I had to also realize that because I was not willing to be vulnerable, I could never truly love God and others. Neither could I accept their love because my emotions were numbed and I couldn’t feel deeply loved. This left me with a continual overwhelming sense of being alone and undeserving of anyone’s love.

Protecting self damages others

I will never forget the deep grief when I realized that my attempts at protecting myself had actually done incredible damage to myself and others. Even greater was the grief in realizing that, by my actions, I had been telling God all these years that He was not loving and trustworthy enough to protect me and care for me. I could never have faced this if the Lord had not gently prepared me with a new and thrilling knowledge and experience of grace.

That is why I felt it was important to do a post on grace before looking at some of the things that we need to face and deal with to find the fullest measure of healing in our lives. Without grace these revelations about ourselves only speed up the downward cycle of guilt, worthlessness, hopelessness and despair.

The necessary impact of grace

In the light of grace, it becomes a relief to get rid of all the old lies and efforts at self-protection. In the light of grace, it is not crushing to stand naked before God with nothing to offer Him except our lack of trust, our fear and our messed up souls. Those are the qualifiers for grace, not the disqualifiers.

It is impossible to deal with this process in an article, or even a series of articles. For me it was a process that took months of working through a book written by a godly counsellor who  specialized in working with adults who are victims of childhood sex abuse as well as one on one counselling sessions with a qualified counsellor.

My reason for writing about emotional damage is to bring awareness that there are often deep emotional wounds that need to be healed to reduce the stress that can greatly aggravate the physical disorder.

An environment of disorder

While they need to be addressed separately, they are definitely interconnected. Because mental illness is genetic, most people who suffer from this illness grew up in an environment negatively influenced by its presence. In most Christian circles, it may never have been identified and it did its damage as the “silent unacknowledged destroyer”. There are a multitude of ways that people are emotionally damaged in this sinful world.

There is a great need for us to deal with this reality in compassionate, non-judgmental, gracious and persistent pursuit of truth. The greatest damage is seldom from the sin against us by others but from our own self-protective attempts to deal with it and the lies of Satan that we fall for in questioning God’s goodness and ability to deal with it.

If you recognize yourself in what you have just read:

  1. Tell God the truth, He knows it anyway.

Do you question His love for you? Do you hold it against Him that He didn’t protect you from ______________ ? Are you showing Him by your attempts of “self-protection” that you don’t think He is willing or able to protect you? Do you hate the person who caused your suffering?

  1. If you really want to change, tell Him.

Ask Him to show you the way. Don’t tell Him how to do it or when. Ask Him to provide the right help for your unique need.

  1. Ask others to pray for you.

If you are not able to share any details, ask them to pray without giving them the details.

  1. Look for God’s answer.

Ask God to bring someone to your mind that He could use to help you. Find someone who takes mental illness seriously and will be able to walk with you through the physical, emotional and spiritual reality. You may need to look to different people/professionals for the different aspects but having at least one caring person that will walk with you through the process can be very helpful.

If He brings someone into your life to be of help, be truthful with them even if it is very difficult.

  1. Commit yourself to the process, it takes time.
  2. Trust in God’s grace

Do a search for all the occurrences of “grace” in the Bible. Meditate on these truths.

This is not a magical formula. The power is not in following the steps. If it is a genuine approach to God’s throne of grace, you will find the grace that you need. Trust Him.

 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:16 (NKJV)

 

Eddy Plett

Eddy fellowships at Port of Grace Community Church in Port Colbourne, ON. He and his wife Erna served as missionaries in Italy for 9 years before returning to Canada. His longing is to edify the Church through helping believers overcome their personal struggles in order to be all that the Lord wants them to be.

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