DEALING WITH MY FLASHBACKS

Dealing With My Flashbacks
(The Jan Swanson Story)

Jesus Did It!

By: Jan Swanson

My name is Jan.  My father was county coroner in the city I spent most of my early childhood.  He was a powerful man, a very intelligent man.  Good looking, charismatic, some people loved and even admired him.  But he was also very, very good at showing others only what he wanted them to see.  Unfortunately, he didn’t show his family the side he was so good at showing others.  Many people over the years have asked me to use one word to describe my father.  The word I would choose to use would be “evil”.  Because to me, my mother, and my brothers and sisters, that’s what he was.  Evil.  He loved to scare us, apparently enjoying it.  He was cruel and abusive, mentally and physically.  I recall many nights of terror, wondering what might happen next, fear of him coming home, and praying to Jesus that he wouldn’t come home.  This happened until I was about nine years old.  However, one night he made his big mistake.  You see, he was an alcoholic and into drugs.  He had lost his job and had no more money to support his habits.  My mom was working two jobs to support us kids and she surely wasn’t going to give him any money.  So he broke into a doctor’s office and was caught while trying to steal drugs.  He was arrested, convicted, and put away for a while.  I remember that night when I went to bed, I knelt and thanked Jesus that we wouldn’t be scared any more.  I slept so well that night.

Years passed by.  Mom remarried, I went through my teens, twenties, and into my mid-thirties just trying to repress all my memories, pain, and feelings from my past.  There were many times my mom, sisters, and I would talk about things.  We would revisit the past and try to figure out what made him what he was but there were no answers to forthcoming.  We would all part from those conversations with a stronger bond and love for each other.  However, I would also leave with something they didn’t have inside.  I would have a profound nagging feeling that there was something there I wasn’t remembering, something horrible.  I recall having the need within me to thank God that I did not remember everything.

Then one night several years ago while I was sitting in my living room, God let me know that it was time.  That night I had my first flashback.  It frightened me to death.  It ripped through the core of my being.  It sent me running out my front door and I never wanted to stop running.  I wanted to run and never come back.  But I came back and I had day after day of more and more flashbacks.  I started having panic attacks, sometimes ten or fifteen a day.  I started sinking into a very deep depression.  I pulled away from my family and my God.  I was so, so scared.  I remember thinking I was going insane.  And those flashbacks were horrible.  I had not envisioned my father’s evil eyes in some time.  To see them again as he was looking into that little girl’s face, while on top of her, was more than I could bear.  So one night I tried to take my own life with the medications I had for my panic attacks.  As weird as it may sound, the act of trying to take my life actually saved my life.  I was taken to the hospital.  My stomach was pumped.  I spent the night in the psych ward, was put on numerous medications, and started praying as I had never prayed before.  The next morning I had two wonderful “angels” fly into my life, a wonderful Christian therapist and one of the best psychiatrists that ever was.  One was Dr. Menniger’s grandson.  Those two men, God, and I worked very, very hard over the next three months.  Probably the most important thing I learned and was able to see was that God was in those flashbacks.  We looked at each one of them, one flashback at a time.  Yes, they were ugly.  That little girl was scared, crying, hurting, and in pain, all the time asking why her daddy didn’t love her like he should.  But God was there also.  He was wiping her tears.  He had His hands over her heart and His light glowing in her soul, protecting who she was inside.  Her earthly father took her body but her Heavenly Father kept him away from her important parts, her spiritual part, the parts that make up who she is and who He wants her to be.  It was also during this time that God led me to write poetry.  He told me to pick up a pen and start writing for Him, to share His love with others, and I did.  And I haven’t stopped yet.

At the end of those three months, I was off all my meds.  The panic attacks were down to just one or two a day.  My depression was gone.  I was finally able to feel the sun on my face again and the wind at my back, God’s love lifting me as I walked on.  I also knew at the end of those three months that writing was going to be a big part of God’s plan for me.  I knew He was going to use my words and my past to enable me to reach out to others, to share His love and give them hope.

These last several years, that’s what I have tried to do.  It has been an honor, a blessing, and a privilege to be His servant.  He has taught and shown me so much about love, hope, faith, and trust.  About what it is that is truly important in this life…and that, my friends, is love.  To love and be loved.  And when we look through His eyes, it just makes the love we give and receive so much more precious.

I will close this with my most favorite prayer.”God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”  God bless you all.

Blessings and smiles,
Jan


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