There Are No Mental Health Shortcuts with PTSD

I’m traveling with my family — a family reunion of sorts, and I’ve had two bad hair days in a row. Somehow I thought if I sort of dried my hair, that the rest of it would fall into line. Not so much. I’m almost completely gray, so my hair is coarse and has a mind of its own now. It’s funny how the damp under layers curl up and poke their way through the shiny well-dried top layer. Add a touch of humidity, and my hair is a hot mess. When will I learn? Today, apparently.

Isn’t this exactly what it’s like with PTSD or other mental health issues? We can try to smooth over or ignore our symptoms, avoid triggering situations, but before we know it those underlayers are curling up and poking their way through. We can only put in a half-hearted effort into our wellness for so long before nothing is sorted out the way we need it to be.

I sometimes get caught in the trap of feeling sorry for myself. “It’s not fair that I have to work this hard to keep it together!” Fairness isn’t relevant for a sorted out life with PTSD. It’s better to avoid this trap of envying what other people (seem to) have that we don’t. Self pity is different than self compassion. When I feel so sorry for myself, I sow anger and discouragement into my day. When I give myself some compassion for enduring the struggle, I sow seeds of mercy and grace into my life. (PS. It’s so much better to be graceful than pitiful.)

Photo by nappy on

One of the most important aspects of wellness with PTSD is acceptance. Acceptance that there will be challenges. Acceptance that there will be victories that are hard fought for. Acceptance of ourselves in our new understanding of “normal”.

People with PTSD have work to do each and every day to keep what lies beneath the surface in good working order. There are seasons that PTSD seems to fade into the mist that can lull us into complacency. The mist tricks us into letting our guard down, slowing up on our wellness routines. Then the mist dissipates and we can see it’s still right there, catching us out of practice and unprepared.

In fact we all have this work to do, in season, out of season, whether we have PTSD or not. God’s word says as much.

1 Peter 1:13 NLT says “So prepare your minds for action and exercise self-control…”

Philippians 4:8-9 MSG says, “Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.”

Photo by Gary Barnes on
  • Meditating on things true about God — he is love, his love is amazing, his grace helps us overcome all of our challenges big and small, we don’t have to do this walk without God because he’s always with us.
  • Putting into practice what we’ve learned, like our coping skills and scriptures that give us stability and comfort, and reaching out for help from our support community we were diligent to build.
  • And God — He will make our lives sing in excellent harmony together when we walk in the strength he provides.
Photo by Monstera on

When we choose to put in the work each day to be prepared, still “a little humidity” might get into the mix. Be encouraged! Even if our plans fail us today, even if we forget all about those skills we’ve been practicing… what happened is still better than what would have happened if we never worked on ourselves, our wholeness, our relationships, our scriptures, our skills, and on building our support community.

Let me try to say that again. Be encouraged! Whatever happened today, no matter how much it feels like defeat or failure, is still a victory for the person who’s working on living their life in Christ…because today could have gone worse, but it didn’t.

Philippians 4:9 MSG: Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.

…and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.” Get ready for this blessing, friend! You got this! If your life isn’t singing in harmony yet, keep connecting with God and putting in the work. See yourself like a guitar, God plucking each of your strings one by one, going about his work of tuning. Working you into his most excellent harmony!

Today I dried all of my hair, put in all of the products, brushed it into shape, spray-spray-spray, hair clip is clipped…today I did my hair all the way. Today will be a great hair day! I’m ready for impromptu photos now. How about you?

Keep the conversation going! What’s one thing you’ve learned about God and his grace?

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