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!



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