She couldn’t stop shaking. Some unknown terror had gripped her and was taking over her body. The eight-year-old had no idea what was happening to her. She only knew one thing: it always started when they drove by a certain house.
She couldn’t explain her reaction, even to herself. The house was the home of her grandparents. Why would that make her shake?
Over the years, she began to piece things together little by little. She realized she understood things about male bodies that, even as a child, she felt she shouldn’t know. She was afraid to be alone with men. There was a deep sense of shame that colored every aspect of her life. Although she had no memories, she knew there was something really bad about that house.
Stories like this have given Dr. Heather Mirous a real compassion for those who have suffered from stress or trauma. Her doctoral studies in cognitive neuropsychology have given her insights that can help people who are dealing with the aftermath of traumatic circumstances.
During grad work, Heather read The Wounded Heart by Dan Allender. When she shared her research with him he asked her to write a chapter for a book he was working on, Healing for the Wounded Heart.
“Our bodies were created to handle stress well,” she shares. “Our brain triggers each organ of the body to change its process during times of stress. Once the stress is over, the brain tells the organs how to function in a way that helps the body recover.
In cases of chronic stress or trauma, however, changes in the brain prevent the body from going through the process of recovery. The holistic unity of brain and body is broken as the brain deals with fragmentation and broken connection. Or as she explains it, your mind “spits off.”
She shares that recent research is showing that virtually all disease begins with some kind of inflammation. Concurrently, studies are showing that shame actually causes inflammation in the body. So our emotional experiences continue to affect us in many ways, including our health. This is significant to all of us, since statistics show that one in every three women (some sources say one in two) has suffered some kind of sexual abuse before reaching the age of 18.
Heather is glad to be able to tell us that there is hope. She offers some beginning steps toward restoration for those who have suffered trauma or abuse:
- Begin to name the damage. Tune in to what has really happened to you. It may be difficult at first; your brain actually needs to grow new pathways to access what it has tried to hide from for so long.
- Be on the lookout for the attempts to divert you from identifying truth. Evil will use accusation (self-doubt, hopelessness, illusions of control) and threats (failure, powerlessness, minimizing the effects) to sidetrack you from resolving this issue God’s way.
- Start somewhere! God has many tools for healing. Keep exploring and learning about options. Ask God to show you what He is calling you to look at and deal with.
The opportunity to interview Dr. Heather Mirous was arranged by Amy Shirk, who ministers with her husband John in inner-city Chicago and is involved in a “Wounded Hearts” group there. Amy shares her concern that often the church doesn’t understand the consequences of sexual abuse or know how to help victims toward restoration. She encourages women, especially leaders, to be informed about the opportunities to provide help and healing. A large population around us needs it! — from wgusa.org