This is a continuation of a previous post, sharing of my personal deliverance from decades of recurring nightmares. I am sharing out of obedience to my Deliverer, believing that my story will be an encouragement to others who may be tormented by nightmares, as well as those who may suffer from PTSD, or anyone that is plagued by panic attacks and/or paralyzing fear.
But before I begin, let me start out by pointing out what I trust is already obvious. I am not a counselor, pastor, or therapist. I do not profess to have all the answers. I am simply a woman with a past. Dealing with that past was hard. It was scary. It was very painful. But true to His promise, God walked me through every difficult, scary and painful step of the journey, and in the process of doing so changed me from the inside out. He will do the same for you!
So as long as we’re clear on the fact that the only qualifications I have to offer is that of my own personal experience, I shall continue.
Fear not, for I have called you by name; You are Mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, Nor shall the flame scorch you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior;” (Isaiah 43:1-3 abbreviated)
Years before I called my Pastor that night, I had seen a counselor. Ironically, when my marriage was at its lowest possible point, the very last thing I wanted to do was see a counselor! You see, by that time, my abusive ex had 7+ years to thoroughly convince me that everything wrong with my life and our marriage was a result of my childhood. I bought it hook, line and sinker. So when the words “I want to see a counselor” came out of my mouth during a heated argument, I literally slapped my hand over my mouth as if to somehow silence whatever was in me that was calling out for help! But the words were out there, and much to my surprise, my ex said OK. Crap! Now I was stuck!
Isn’t that funny? I mean, the very thing that led to my rescue -confronting myself and my past- is the thing I was most afraid of doing. In that moment, if I could have sucked those words back into my mouth, I would have done it in a heart beat. I would have picked the hell I was in (that was known and in a perverse way, secure) to the risk and terror of having my worst fears confirmed … that my ex was right, and that I really was crazy.
Anyways, we did start seeing a counselor. He went 3 whole times (wow!). But I didn’t care – because by that 3rd visit, that counselor gave me a drink of living water that satisfied a thirst so deep within me that all of hell could not keep me from going back for more. And over the course of about 3 years (starting roughly 2 years before my eventual divorce, and for 1 year during the divorcing and resulting custody battle), that man of God helped me face what I would not face before. I acknowledged my childhood, and forgave myself and my abuser for it. And I learned that while dissociation is a helpful coping mechanism for children who are unable to protect and defend themselves, trying to live as an adult in complete denial of what is true is not helpful at all. I had to learn to deal with my life – past and also present – to stand up and say no.
STEP 1: Prepare
That seems like a very long lead-in, I know. But before I can speak to dealing with tormenting dreams, nightmares, and/or panic attacks, I feel it’s important to cover the basics of warfare. After all, no serious warrior goes into battle without preparation and protection – and neither should you! Friend, make no mistake – there is a spiritual battle for your soul in play, whether you acknowledge it as such or not. You’ve got to put your protective armor on if you want to stay in the battle long enough to win the victory!
Prepare for battle by putting your armor on!
Within those first few visits with Counselor John, he gave me a resource to ‘suit me up’ for the journey of going through the valley of the shadow death. And not just a list of Bible verses, but a several pages of typed out scriptures that I could tuck in my purse, shove in the glove compartment, stick on the refrigerator, etc – so that wherever I was (with or without a Bible in hand), I had a lifeline with me. I had armor, and that is the starting place.
About 4 years ago, I reconstructed that list (adding more to it) and shared it with my now adult daughters. They thoughtfully listened to me as I talked them through the list, sharing with them the deep personal meaning and significance of each passage and promise, recalling and celebrating God’s victory through it all. I am now sharing that list with you through the attached PDF entitled “Love Letters“. I invite you to meditate on these verses. May they comfort you and embolden you, and lay a spiritual foundation in your life upon which the grace of God can build, to bring you to the point of complete deliverance.
And while you take these love letters into the secret places of your heart, I shall continue writing – next time to share what my Pastor told me that night.
In Christ, be blessed