Mormon Channel Blog

His Grace: Persevering with PTSD

May 26, 2015

Chris Taylor and his brother, Mitch, both served in the US military efforts in both Afghanistan and Iraq. When they returned from their service, they were both suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Here they share thoughts on and experiences with coping with this condition with the help of Jesus Christ.

What is post-traumatic stress disorder? PTSD is the outcome of the evil invention of war. War is one of the master deceiver’s greatest tools in destroying mankind. The valiant warriors who don’t get killed have to return home and deal with everything they have seen and done. Many of those men develop post-traumatic stress disorder, and many end up taking their own lives. Twenty-two veterans commit suicide daily in America. I was almost one of those statistics until I began looking at my struggle in terms of a spiritual war. I began to see myself as part of the overall war of good against evil—Satan or the devil against God and all that is good. I fought tooth and nail to make it out of Afghanistan and then returned home and did everything I could to destroy myself. It didn’t seem right. How did that happen? I had allowed myself to be deceived.

It is absolutely apparent that Satan and his forces surround us at every turn! His legions are fierce; well trained in the art of deception, espionage, and disguise; able to infiltrate our ranks and dwell undetected in our camps. We are outnumbered and afraid. We are running out of ammunition and supplies vital to sustaining our fight against the enemy. We are pinned down under increasingly effective and overwhelming firepower from close quarters. We are nearly overrun. The combat with Lucifer and his angels has become hand-to-hand. The situation on the ground is as dire as can be imagined; as we look to our left and to our right, we witness our brothers and sisters falling one by one, completely and utterly defeated and destroyed by the great enemy.

What can we do? Who can we call? Who can save us?

In the mountains of Afghanistan when my team and I were in this same position quite literally, we always relied on one thing to preserve our lives so that we could live to fight another day: we would get on the radio and call our higher headquarters and request close air support. In a matter of minutes Apache attack helicopters, A-10 warthog fighter jets, Specter c-130 gunships with howitzer cannons, 2000-pound laser guided bombs, mortars, artillery, and unmanned predator drones armed with hellfire missiles were dispatched and swiftly came to our aid. Engaging the heavily fortified enemy with disastrous firepower and in a matter of minutes would totally decimate the enemy every single time—an enemy that had previously overwhelmed us to the point of annihilation. We would rejoice in the glory, usually screaming out in a primal shout of exhilaration, not for the loss of life on the other side but rather for the fact that we had just been saved. We would now be able to see our families again; we would not perish, at least not that day in the mountainous battlefield.

So it is clear as day who we can call; our higher headquarters stands ready and willing to swiftly fly in to save the day. Our Savior, Jesus Christ, is the only general capable of eliminating Satan’s army in a matter of minutes with His superior firepower; the armor that His gospel provides is vital to our survival. Just as a soldier would not go to battle without his weapon, helmet, and body armor, so should we never attempt to face Satan without the things we know will strengthen us spiritually. The weapon that Satan and his army fear the most is Christ's divine Atonement. It is never too late to request this support, no matter how far you think you have fallen, no matter how dire the situation on the ground really is, no matter how many times your PTSD has beaten you down, no matter how unimaginably evil your sins are or you think they are. He will swiftly swoop in and save the day. I testify that this is true. I also know that the best defense is a solid offense.

We must actively take the fight to Satan daily by doing a few simple things: pray morning and night, read scripture daily, and participate in every option that is available to help you recover. The VA gets a bad rap and for good reason, but they do have very good programs that will give you the tools necessary to live with your PTSD. Seems easy right? It seems small and simple. As a soldier sometimes the most difficult tasks to complete are the most simple and fundamental—cleaning your weapon daily, following the seemingly unnecessary rules and regulations, pre-mission checks on every single piece of gear you have every single day. It's the minute you become complacent that your most essential equipment ceases to work.

I would like to relate an experience that happened to me: the only operation in nearly 16 months of combat that I failed to put fresh batteries in my night-vision goggles before a long mission. They happened to go dead just as the green light came on in the helicopter door at 2:00 a.m., 30 seconds before our air assault on the compound of a high-value Taliban commander. As we stormed forward I was running blind and terrified, and when the bullets started to fly by my head I was bound and constrained to fight the enemy with severe limitations—limitations that very well could have cost me my life—all over a pair of AA batteries.

When we become complacent in our spiritual fight, we are constrained just the same. Our spiritual lives could very well be in danger all because we stopped praying daily or forgot our tools to combat our PTSD. "It's OK," we tell ourselves, “I am cured; what’s the big deal? I can have this one drink or pick up drugs just once.” It might not seem like a big deal, just like the AA batteries I failed to refresh only once. But in time it becomes a very big deal because it never stops with just one little thing. Author Brad Wilcox writes in his book The Continuous Atonement: "What was once considered unthinkable becomes all we think about. What we shunned we soon tolerate, what we tolerate we soon accept. What we accept we soon justify. What we justify we soon crave. ‘Just once won't hurt’ turns into ‘It's not so bad,’ which turns into ‘What's it to you?’ and finally ending with ‘I just can't help it.’” Inevitably it’s now 2:00 a.m. with no moonlight as Satan begins his full invasion. If only we had fresh batteries in our night-vision goggles.

But if this has happened to any of you like it did to me, I can testify without a morsel of doubt that our Heavenly Father will never forsake you. He never forsook me when I was bound in the chains of addiction and PTSD. He still dispatched His angels to spare my life, countless times in direct combat with the enemy and many more times completely overrun by Satan spiritually. Surely it was the Lord who spared me. I know the Lord’s hand was directing my life.

He never gave up on me when I was in the gutter, suffering from the most horrible symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, coupled with a horrible and vicious addiction, which I used to cope with my emotional and physical pain. I had reached the point of no return, unable to even function in everyday life, after years of wallowing in self-pity and pain, beaten, battered, and completely broken by Satan and his mighty army. I had finally had enough; I had finally admitted defeat and finally made that radio transmission to my heavenly commander. Pleading with Him out loud I cried, "Father, I can no longer take the fight to Satan without the help from Thee.” I went on to declare that my life was unmanageable and I needed divine intervention lest I be utterly destroyed by the adversary. Almost immediately the Holy Spirit engulfed my soul. How wonderful it felt to experience that emotion of being rescued, for the enemy was destroyed and I would live to fight another day. Good had prevailed and I finally allowed myself to be healed by Christ's all-encompassing Atonement. How wonderful it felt.

For me it wasn't only my sins that I was not able to overcome, but my afflictions and my sickness, my depression, my PTSD. I came to a realization that the Savior did not only suffer and die for my sins but, significantly for me, He bled and suffered in the Garden of Gethsemane while taking upon Himself my horrible addiction, my traumatic experiences, my nightmares, my flashbacks, my survivor’s guilt, my feelings of hopelessness and helplessness. Every single one of my mortal burdens He already carried and stands willing and ready to carry them again and again and again continuously during my process to perfection—a process that I know will take the eternities if ever to accomplish. And I'm OK with that. My eyes were opened to a new understanding that it wasn't all or nothing. Progression is the standard, not perfection. We all can receive this same help against our enemy. All we have to do is ask.