Trauma and Healing
Dena Johnson MartinDena Johnson is a former single mom to three amazing kids: Blake, Cole, and Cassie and wife to her high school friend, Roy. She strives to follow Christ each day and to lead her children to do the same. She delights in taking the every day experiences of life and turning them into biblical lessons for her children. Dena's daily prayer is simple: Lord, my life is yours. Live through me. Love through me. Parent through me. Let me decrease that you might increase. Dena is the founder of Dena Johnson Ministries, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping people find beauty through the brokenness of this life. Her heart's desire is to use her own pain to point others to the power of God who redeems every hurt, every pain. You can contact Dena at Dena@denajohnson.com. You can also find her blog at Dena Johnson Ministries.
- 2018 Oct 09
I’ve had several people comment on the dark tone in my posts recently. I’ll be honest: this last month has been excruciating. I have not struggled with such pain and fear since my divorce. This season might have even been darker and harder in some ways.
Over the years, I’ve been very blunt about my ex-husband’s divorce. You can actually find our divorce decree online and see that our divorce was granted on the basis of his infidelity—a fact that was never disputed. But I haven’t always been as open about some of the other pain my children and I experienced in my first marriage and the years after the divorce.
It took me several years to realize that I had experienced verbal, mental, and emotional abuse throughout my marriage…abuse that got worse the farther he walked from God. I am only now beginning to understand some of what my kids experienced in those years after the divorce.
But those are stories for my kids to tell.
I say all of this to explain what I’ve been walking through recently. I thought I was healed, untouched. I’ve read so often about people suffering from PTSD after abusive marriages, but I never felt that I had been affected.
Until a little over a month ago.
When my body completely shut down.
When my efforts to pray and read the Bible did nothing to change my heart or my mindset.
When I found myself spiraling into a deep, dark place I have never known before.
When I couldn’t even muster a smile or find a moment of joy.
When I felt as if the walls were closing in on me and there was no escape.
When I was mindlessly walking through my days just trying to make it to the bed at night.
When I was locked in anxious thoughts that wouldn’t go away no matter how hard I tried.
When nothing could penetrate the darkness surrounding me.
As I found myself in this dark, painful place—a place I didn’t know and couldn’t explain—it put stress on my new marriage. I lost my ability to see from someone else’s point of view. I lost my love and compassion for others. I found myself fighting for survival—for my survival—no matter the cost.
I became someone I do not know, someone I do not like.
Sadly, my battle brought out the PTSD in our entire home. My daughter has asked me if she could suffer from some level of PTSD. My husband confessed that he felt like he had been fighting an exacerbation of his war-induced PTSD.
We were all fighting demons we couldn’t see, we couldn’t name, we couldn’t understand…and at some point, we began fighting one another.
Yes, it’s been a bitter, excruciating place in which we have been living.
Even in the midst of the darkness, I heard the sweet voice of my Father.
“I will fight for you. You only need to be still.”
“This season is the gateway to something more beautiful than you can imagine.”
“I’m her and I’m working.”
But as much as I tried to focus on His voice, the darkness consumed me. Consumed us. Nearly destroyed us.
Nothing has changed in our situation. We still have some hard decisions to make. We are still faced with a custody battle. We are still facing Roy’s daughter’s behaviors. We are still struggling to move forward, to find our footing.
Somehow, I feel the darkness lifting and His love beginning to penetrate my heart again. I am beginning to see His hand moving around us. I’m trying to focus on loving my husband and my kids, letting them know how much I care. I’m trying to give of myself instead of being so absorbed by the pain and the fear. I am hoping to see a few rays of light shining through the darkness.
Here’s the thing: I didn’t change a thing in this season.
I kept reading my Bible. I kept praying…probably even more. I kept going to church. I kept listening to Christian radio. I kept pushing forward…one step at a time. I reached out to friends in similar situations, friends who understood what I was walking through.
It wasn’t immediate…maybe not even completely over. Slowly, step-by-step, moment-by-moment, God penetrated my heart and mind. He brought all of us—continues to bring all of us—together where we stand stronger together than we do alone.
Maybe I now I have a new depth of understanding of what so much of the trauma I have experienced over the last decade has done to me—and to my kids. Maybe I will have an even greater empathy for those walking through the pain and darkness of abuse. Maybe now God is ushering a new season of growth.
I know we have a long way to go. I know we have many difficult days ahead. I know the darkness is not completely gone. It may be a darkness I battle throughout my life.
But I know my Savior lives and loves. I know perseverance and continuing to do what He has asked of us eventually causes the darkness to give way to light. I know His way is good and perfect and transforms us from the inside out. I know His light penetrates even the darkest of nights, the deepest of depressions. I know He is still the answer to our every problem.
And I pray you continue doing the right thing until you begin to see the rays of His light penetrating the darkness surrounding you.
Lord Jesus, I thank you. I thank you for carrying me through some of the darkest days of my life. I thank you for showing me the depth of the pain I have experienced, for opening my eyes to a darkness I didn’t know existed within me. I thank you for loving me enough that you didn’t leave me lost and wandering in the pain and loss. We ask for your presence as we move forward, as we try to figure out how to move forward in the painful circumstances still surrounding us. Help us to put aside ourselves and seek your face, your wisdom, your direction. May these painful days draw us to you and to one another, making us into something more beautiful than we could ever imagine. Make us like you. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.