Staring into the Storm

By David Rosenkoetter © 2012

Photo credit: GregRon Photography
                My stomach turned flip-flops as I counted the doors to the counselor’s office. I stepped inside the waiting room and stared into the storm of my swirling emotions. Tingling anticipation swept over me. Torrents of sweat dripped like rain from my hands. I forgot the words I wanted to use when describing my anxiety.
                My desire to clear up years of angry behavior collided with the fear of disclosing my past abuse. My counselor asked why I came that morning. My blubbering tears and trembling shoulders gave her a one-man reality show.

                “I have an anger problem,” I told her. “My temper has flared several times while at work.”  
                Sure, I understood the bare bones of my job as a collections representative. I talked people through making payments on their credit card accounts. Yet, the audible computer voice that helped me navigate a screen chirped in my left ear. Customers vented their frustration in my right ear. Routine incoming calls turned my head into a buzzing beehive of confusion. My lingering anxiety shot jolts of adrenaline through my veins as managers critiqued my performance.
                “I don’t want to blame my childhood, years of isolation and abuse at a state school for the blind, or anything. I just want this to end.”
                My counselor asked me about the sexual and physical abuse I suffered. Then, she fell silent for a brief moment. I stared at the floor, my fingers pressing into my palms.
                “Anger is a secondary emotion,” she said.
                “What?” My eyebrows rose.
                “Anger starts as a spontaneous or learned reaction to undesirable treatment.”
                Her words made my jaw relax.  Physical and sexual abuse, misunderstood voice tones, and ridicule from my friends did not justify my impulsive outbursts. However, they did provide a background to my behavior and a starting point for my recovery.
                “God,” I prayed sometime later, “I don’t know how I’m going to do this. I’ve offended so many people. My impulsive swearing, clippy tone and flexing my muscles in a defensive posture have confused friends and co-workers’ views of my capabilities. I have made people afraid to approach me with constructive criticism.”
                I thought of the apostle Paul who suffered from a lingering thorn in the flesh. Many Bible scholars think it was partial blindness. Paul asked God three times to take it away. The thorn remained. Yet, the Lord Jesus encouraged him with the words in which I now took comfort. “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” ( 2 Cor. 12:9, ESV).
Because Jesus Christ paid for all my guilt on the cross and rose victorious over it, I knew he now freed me to stare headlong into the trauma of my past.  He renewed my mind toward amending my present and future behavior.
                My counselor said, “You’re suffering from prolonged years of post traumatic stress disorder.” (PTSD)
                When this condition makes the news, we think of combat victims returning home with physical, emotional, and sometimes spiritual scars. Dreams, sights, and sounds take them from an everyday conversation or job back into the battlefield.
                We also hear of PTSD during the holiday season, People face their first Christmas or anniversary, grief-stricken, after a loved one dies. An extra chair remains empty at the dinner table. Fewer presents pile up under the Christmas tree.
                Decades of physical and emotional trauma brought me the same condition many soldiers and surviving spouses experience. Another counselor described me as a “walking open sore.”
                Therapists offer many solutions to help that sore scab over and heal. Some use guided hypnosis. They relax a patient so he can confront some buried, otherwise unspeakable turmoil.
                Other counselors help patients explore socially acceptable reactions to sights, smells and sounds that cause their distress. Psychiatrists often prescribe some amount of anti-anxiety medicine that corrects some chemical imbalance in the brain.
                I shuddered at the thought of taking anti-anxiety pills. A doctor had prescribed something similar when I was in high school. Then, the dosage accelerated my hunger cravings. I gained over fifty pounds in four months.
                This time, the pill worked. Parts of my brain managing my emotions woke up after decades of paralysis. I learned new ways of reacting to words and events that jarred my emotions. My need to always be on the go ebbed away. I found myself enjoying times alone as I reflected on my daily responsibilities. Now, my exercise routine and country music on the radio help my mind relax.
                Post-traumatic stress remains the thorn I cannot remove. Even so, I seek ways of curbing its effects. Instead of seeking to solve others’ arguments around me, I discern when I can lend my advice or when I do well to walk away.
                A beehive of a call center’s activity no longer fits my quieter lifestyle. I now find satisfaction in the life of freelance writing and editing.
                Accepting myself as needing shorter conversations with others, I enjoy Facebook or email as my favorite ways of communicating long distance. I reserve longer phone calls for time with my parents and brother.
                By His sufficient grace, Jesus truly takes care of me. Held in His strength, I now walk through life’s storms with joy.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: David Rosenkoetter is a freelance writer living in Kansas City, MO. He is a regular contributing editor to THE LUTHERAN MESSENGER FOR THE BLIND and directs a Christian caregiving outreach center for the local blindness community. David enjoys reading and writing fiction and nonfiction in a wide variety of literary genres. He also is a sports enthusiast, choral singer, and upstart composer of Christian hymns. You can contact him at He blogs at

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