Monday Musings: Battle Fatigue

 

 The US Army makes this statement in reference to Battle Fatigue:

“It is a normal reaction to an abnormal situation.”

I don’t know about you, but I have been so stressed that my body and mind reacted in the same way as a soldier experiencing battle fatigue. Chronic, prolonged, repetitive stress will do that.  The quality, quantity and timing of sleep and nourishment have an affect on our tolerance to stress.

I’ve been an insomniac for years- not the kind that can’t go to sleep but the kind that can’t stay asleep. I fall asleep easily, sleep 3 maybe 4 hours, then I wake – for various reasons. I can sometimes fall back asleep, usually not. This happens 3-5 nights a week. I can take meds but they make me groggy the next day-if I do take medication for a week or longer the symptoms do lessen for a period of time.

When I wake up in the night the brain is going ninety miles an hour and suddenly comes to a complete halt around 6 a.m. (yeah, that’s the time I’m supposed to be getting up). My eating habits over the years have been sporadic, depending mostly on work and whatever curve ball has been thrown at me.

Other symptoms of battle fatigue: irritability, headaches, back pain, digestive upsets, lack of concentration, nightmares, inertia, indecision, tiredness, depression, anxiety reactions, memory loss have all been experienced by me at one time or other.

Instead of hearing guns going off and bombs exploding I got phone calls and visits at all hours of the day and night from a very dysfunctional mother. She was predictable in her unpredictability.  Until the day she died. 

Small examples: she decided that my children needed cats because they wanted one.  Didn’t matter that we had just given away a cat and I was glad to be rid of the litter box.  So did she talk to me about it? NO. Ya know what she did? She brought three kittens and left them in a box on my front porch. That’s what she did. 

She could never let anything go that she had given us- old furniture, appliances, etc. Once she wouldn’t speak to me for a week because I gave an old chair away and she wanted to know if I could get it back for her. (there were no conditions or stipulations on the chair when she gave it to us). Then there was the gas stove she bought us that we used for six months and then when we moved and didn’t need it anymore, she said “I’ll store it, you may need it later.” So she did for almost 15 years. Then one day she got tired of having it sit there. Instead of selling it or giving it to charity, she paid someone to move it to where we were living 3 ½ hours away- and had him leave it in our driveway at 2 in the morning without notice. Just left it there.

Ok that’s a taste, and enough for you to realize that she was either really eccentric or functionally crazy. ( It’s the latter if you need help determining which).

There were times- really gaps in time- where she wouldn’t call or come over for several days to weeks in time. I just left it then- I didn’t call her. I would sometimes check her mailbox to see if she was getting her mail or maybe had gone out of town.

The answer to your question is: NO, she didn’t tell me when she was picking up and leaving. Didn’t even leave a note most times to tell me she was going somewhere.

Those times, few and far between that they were, were the respite I needed, the short period away from the front lines. To re-align, re-group, and re-coup.

The Army calls their treatment for battle fatigue: BICEPS

  • Brevity-brief respite up to three days,
  • Immediacy– identify need for intervention early and intervene quickly,
  • Centrality-treatment separate from hospital and proximal to the soldier’s unit decreases the self-identification as being sick,
  • Expectancy– expect to return to duty after several days; reinforce that this is only a normal stress reaction to exhaustion and recovery is assured,
  • Proximity-provide care as close as possible to one’s assigned area to maintain unity and support from friends,
  • Simplicity– goal of treatment to return to combat.

{As I look back on that stress, and I didn’t even touch on the every day stress of being a nurse, a school nurse to boot with a pediatric population that on any given day might or might not be able to tell me what was wrong and why they came to see me; no, I didn’t tell you about that, did I?

Or the fact that my teen age children suddenly decided to be independent and make their own decisions without letting me in on them. There were some pretty poor choices made during that time, let me tell you. They are all better now and about to embark on that experience for themselves with their own children. Smile.

I also didn’t tell you that there was a younger sibling with ADHD making enough poor choices of his own that theirs were the choices that looked like child’s play.}

The Army definitely has a good plan. I needed brief breaks to survive, to recover a bit, and to know I wasn’t losing my own mind. I needed someone to realize that I was nearing the end of the bloody rope I was clinging to with torn fingernails.  I needed that break to be at home where family was. And I needed someone to tell me I was going to make it through yet another foray and I’d be as good as new – hopefully. And to tell me it was normal to react the way I was reacting to the stress. I just needed a break; to rest up, fuel up and take a breath before going back into the thick of it.

And how in the world do I relate that to my faith? I can tell you I kept journals, I wrote long letters to God, I sat up and cried in the night, I didn’t sleep, I ate for comfort, I medicated the headaches, I did my work, I went to Bible Study and just when I thought – “no more”, my precious Savior would redeem the time, shift the circumstances, my kids would shape up for a bit, my mother would quit calling and I would wake up one morning realizing that I’d slept through for 3 nights in a row.  And the sun would be shining again.

And where was that darling husband of mine, you ask? He was dealing with his own frontline stress with a mentally distant, mentally deteriorating mother and a mentally disabled sister.

Quite a pair, aren’t we? There was no one else to share the load. No siblings, no other close family. Just us, in that boat, frantically bailing to keep from sinking altogether.

Only God.

There’s a quote by Oswald Chambers that is very timely for this subject:

“The fiery furnaces are there by God’s direct permission. It is misleading to imagine that we are developed in spite of our circumstances; we are developed because of them. It is mastery in circumstances that is needed, not mastery over them.” –Oswald Chambers, in The Love of God from the Quotable Oswald Chambers.

By giving me respite from the battle fatigue I was experiencing God also developed a mastery in circumstances in me that contributed to who I am;  the person He designed me to be.  

I told you in my little tag line at the top of my blog, we are still fighting battles even though the war is already won.  Just remember, the angels are fighting for you as well.  Chapter 10 of Daniel has a very clear picture of the reality that the angels are engaged in battle on our behalf. It’s a long chapter and better read in context and with the rest of the book. There’s only 12 chapters- if you haven’t read it, do. It’s a relatively short read and a good reminder when I feel like I’m on my own.

One last thing that the Army says:  it’s not only the soldier on the front lines who experiences battle fatigue, support personnel experience it too.

Have you gone through your own bout with battle fatigue? Care to share?

‘I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint.’ At this I awoke and looked around. My sleep had been pleasant to me. Jeremiah 31:25-26

I am claiming this verse for all of us who are experiencing the fatigue of the battle. He will refresh you!

 

 

Feeling Stretched???

 Are there days you feel like there’s no way you can take another thing? Like one more broken dish, one more glass of spilt milk, one more toddler tantrum, one more trip to the grocery, one more argument, one more slammed door, one more late for school day, one more overdue bill in the mail?

Do your prayers sound like this: Ok, Lord. I can’t take another thing today, I have no endurance, no strength and for sure no patience. Help! Please? I just don’t know what to do or how to do it anymore.

Mine have. 

If you will re-read that prayer in a whiney voice, add some tears and just imagine that I’m in the bathroom with the door locked and someone is knocking on the door, and someone is yelling from the other room that they can’t find something or other and another someone is yelling they are “going to be late, gotta go, see you tonight”… oh and while you are sitting there imagining that, see me sitting on the toilet lid gritting my teeth and my fists are clenched and white knuckled, and I’m looking up at the ceiling and thinking that prayer.

Oh and just to flesh out the picture – I’m not dressed for work, nor is my makeup on. Someone still needs breakfast- hence the knocking on the door.  And, the homework is the something that is missing. So I exit the bathroom to help with the homework search.  There is no time for a pity party.

I enter the kitchen.

It looks like a tornado just went through it- dishes and open boxes of cereal sprawled on the counter. The carton of milk is sitting out, the dishwasher door is open and the racks are hanging out. The closet door to the washer is open. There are clothes piled on the lid and the dryer door is open and the clothes are spilling out onto the floor into the kitchen. The dry cleaning is piled up by the door to take to the cleaners. The dog food is standing on the floor in the middle of the room and the cats rush toward me because they are hungry. {actually, it looked much worse most days}

I have about 5 minutes to slap on the makeup, throw on the scrubs and shoes, find the homework, thrust food into a hand and get everyone out the door and moving toward the car. Top all that off with the grandmother/mother call, at the exact wrong moment, who chose that second to rip my heart out with some well-honed comment that had been fermenting in her mind.

{That was before caller id and answering machines…. When you actually answered a ringing phone}

Now that’s a great start to a day.                   NOT.

There were times when I thought I was losing my mind. I was so entrenched – literally in the trenches. Holding my breath, constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop from the grandmother/mother.

I would get so bogged down in the here and now and develop myopia of the mind; I looked around and saw only what was on the surface. But those were precisely the moments that the Holy Spirit would pray for me because I had just lost the ability- I had no words left to describe the turmoil nor to ask for what I really needed at that instant. I was stretched beyond my ability.

Little did I know… But God did. He knew that He was developing in me an endurance and patience beyond myself. Below is a quote from Oswald Chambers that describes pretty accurately what was happening in my life.

“Patience is more than endurance. A saint’s life is in the hands of God like a bow and arrow in the hands of an archer. God is aiming at something the saint cannot see, and He stretches and strains, and every now and again the saint says–‘I cannot stand anymore.’ God does not heed, He goes on stretching till His purpose is in sight, then He lets fly. Trust yourself in God’s hands. Maintain your relationship to Jesus Christ by the patience of faith. ‘Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him.” – Oswald Chambers

If you are there, being stretched beyond what you think you can endure or stand, open up your grip on whatever is in your hand and heart at this moment, look at that open hand, take a big deep breath and know that you can trust Him. He does not stretch us to the breaking point, but to the point where we can be most efficient for His purpose.

“For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.” Romans 15:4

“For this reason ,since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption,the forgiveness of sins.” Colossians 1:9-14

  “Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father?” Hebrews 12:7