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When PTSD tries to derail my day…

It is not the right time of the year to plant seeds.

I had two farming grandfathers. I know this. I have also lived in the Midwest most of my life. The farmers are getting ready to pull out the combines, not the plows or planters.

But I have found that planting seeds in potting soil and seeing the seeds germinate has a healing quality to it. Tonight, after we wrapped up our evening meal at Olive Garden, I told my husband I needed some more seeds.

That is code for I need a distraction.

I have no reason for PTSD to surface today. But, it does that sometimes.

We stopped by Rural King, and I scanned the low stock of seeds. Even the rack had a label on it that said, “Do not inventory.” Basically, there is no need to reorder this product until 2018.

Nobody wants seeds right now — except me.

John suggested jalapeños. What the heck. Jalapeños it is.

I have a counselor who is a specialist in sexual trauma and delayed onset PTSD. I see her every other week. She asks me frequently what I do for fun.

Sometimes, you don’t need something that is fun.

Sometimes, you just need something that is different. Out-of-step with everyone else. Something that grows and doesn’t know that bad stuff happens to children. Something that isn’t going to control you. It will just shrivel up if the soil isn’t right or it gets too much sun.

Sometimes, you just need to watch things that have a cycle. Something that grows for you. It gives. That is what it was created to do.

As night falls and it is almost time to go to bed, I wish I had more daylight–especially when I have a new packet of seeds.


It doesn’t matter very much that I won’t be eating them. It is just a positive action. Planting. It heals something that died, something I am trying to resurrect.

Seeds are good.

And sometimes, they grow and defy the odds–especially when they have a little pot indoors where they are protected and nourished.

I suppose that is how my counselor feels when I dig in my heels and determine to get better and stronger.

There is a difference between me and my plants. I am not growing for her.

I am growing for me.



Wounded, but put me in coach

This has been a rough year.

I was at the top of my game. Syndication going well. Published author. Travel writer. Catholic Liaison for Israel. Yes, Israel.

Traveling Catholic speaker. Keynotes and everything.

And wham. PTSD. Quit my job. I had stopped writing the year before–all but the blog. I still traveled to Israel, but on my own, a kind of personal and mostly quiet retreat.

The speaking engagements kept coming. And the Holy Spirit always showed up.

But in between, I was dry. No. That’s not quite right. I was broken. Hurt. Wounded.

I didn’t faint and collapse in the middle of the fifth inning, but it sure seemed like it. It seemed like they whisked me off the field and I found myself on the bench, disoriented, a little incoherent, but wanting to brush aside their arms and say, put me in. Come on. I’m okay. Just put me back in.

Only I wasn’t okay.

I wrote about this in my book. One day, I would be out of the Catholic hustle and bustle. God would call me to “higher elevations,” I wrote, “where the crowds don’t gather but the view is amazing.”

Only the view didn’t seem so amazing.

I just wanted to go back to what I knew. The familiar. And being busy made me feel like God liked me at least a little. He took joy in using me.

“Just sit there for a while. I’m taking you out of the game. Cheer on your teammates all you want. But there is no way you are going back out there for a while.”

That’s what it is like when you are a writer and you have absolutely nothing to write. You love the Eucharist, but you can’t seem to get yourself to be around people.

You go to Mass on Sunday and Adoration because there is nobody there but you and the Lord. The rest has become practically impossible.

You aren’t depressed.

At least you don’t think that’s it.

Only God knows. So He is telling you to sit there on that bench. It’s like you have the “Mysterious Malady” that some baseball players get. You suddenly can’t do all the things you once did. You don’t have the it-factor anymore.

Just fix me and put me back in. But that’s no good. That won’t work.

In the spiritual realm, God needs to spend some time on you, and you need to let Him do it. It isn’t that you are suddenly ill, you were a little screwed up the whole time. The Mysterious Malady is not so mysterious.

Once it gets quiet, once you are pulled out of the game for a bit, you begin to see the wounds. You remember the day a young man had a knife and sexually molested you. You realize it made you fear anyone who could overpower you.

You remember the nights your husband in the non-Sacramental marriage waited for you to fall asleep so he could take you without asking. You think of the night he did it on purpose because he knew you were in the middle of your cycle and you would get pregnant. He did it to control and manipulate fate – and you. You became angry when anyone did things behind your back that seemed to take advantage of you or sabotage your life in any way.

You have trust issues.

Yet you say, Jesus, I trust in You.

Let’s get to that. Let’s analyze it for a while.

And the only way to do that is to take away everything that keeps you busy — until you see.

Practice setting good boundaries on everyone you need to, except Jesus Christ. Learn that He can be trusted…even in the quiet. Even when writer’s block shows up for a whole year. Even when you aren’t sure about anything except Jesus and His Church.

You get back to your motel room, shut the door, and cry. Still wearing the team uniform, you stumble to the mirror.

I have a few wounds.

But the good news is that the coach is also the ultimate healer. He knows how to heal these wounds, and He also wants to put you back in more than you want to get back into the game.

You sit on a chair. Alone.

And then someone knocks on the door. The healer wants to come in. And you realize you desperately want that, too.

Can the Catholic Church Have the Best Response to Sexual Trauma

Not that Church. Not the one with all the scandal.

Yes, that Church.

She could have the best response to sexual trauma. The secular world is addressing it, even though rape, molestation and incest have found a way into every corner of the secular world.

Fatherhood is still good, even if some fathers have not been good.

Coaching is still laudable, even though some coaches have been disastrous.

Teaching is still a wonderful profession, in spite of the fact that some teachers have misused their positions of authority.

When each of these is at its best, it is quite beautiful.

So, while the secular counselors and coalitions have done a tremendous job of helping to heal the wounds of sexual trauma, the Church could (and should) be the home for the greatest healing of all.

What we have going for us.

  1. We believe in the power of a fiat. A yes. God, being omnipotent, didn’t demand anything of the Blessed Mother. While He could have, being her creator, He didn’t. He was the perfect gentleman. He asked for Mary’s permission. And she said yes. She gave her consent. A few years ago, the Department of Justice changed the law. Assault and rape are no longer defined solely by force. The legal definition now includes the issue of consent. One must be able to give a yes. Children aren’t old enough to be able to do that. Sleeping wives, exhausted by raising children, aren’t able to do that. A young person who has had too much to drink… not able to give consent. In most places, spouses and intimate partners must have freely-given consent. We call that Free Will. It must be respected. It cannot be coerced. Not even in marriage.
  2. We believe in the Theology of the Body. It all has to make sense. It has to be rooted in dialogue between husband and wife. Sexual intimacy requires the highest degree of respect. Let me be clear. It requires marital love.
  3. We believe in redemption and healing. Our whole faith is centered upon the Person of Jesus Christ. He came so that we might experience the ultimate healing. He came to heal us from Original Sin and liberate us from Personal Sin. We are taught a new way. A Way of the Cross. An offering up of ourselves for another. Embedded in the whole Gospel message is the teaching that no damage or trauma is so great that God’s love cannot overcome it. Obliterate it. We don’t believe in the possibility of transforming from a victim to a survivor. We believe in the reality of transforming from a victim to a victor. Through His stripes, we are healed. He can redeem anything. Where sin increased, grace overflowed all the more.

Freedom. Love. Healing.

These have become part of my journey. I am learning to set boundaries, that I possess a freedom to set boundaries and to firmly stand my ground. I am learning to love and sort through what love is and what love is not. How love acts, how love does not act. And I am learning how to heal. Up to 80% of those who have experienced sexual trauma have some form of PTSD. For some, it is a delayed-onset PTSD. Nightmares. Difficulty with relationships and boundaries. Addictions. Social anxiety. Generalized anxiety. Struggles in the workplace.

This brings me to the final reason why the Church has the potential to be the best response to sexual trauma.

4. We believe in Confession and spiritual direction. When these two come together, the soul experiences something miraculous. It is Easter morning kind of stuff. You see things more clearly than you have ever seen them before. You have strength to sweep away the hurt and those who have hurt you and receive the greatest love of the universe. You begin the amazing journey where every experience past, present and future is connected organically to the One who made you and has called you into His glorious Life. You are no longer feeling like you are being swallowed up by memories and hurts and horrific experiences and people who assert control and power and are masters at gaslighting and secrecy. You are able to walk into the Light and bring all of it with you. There, in the Light, the darkness flees.

5. We believe in new beginnings. You take baby steps at first. You keep going back to the Sacraments, especially Eucharist, Confession with spiritual direction and perhaps even Anointing of the Sick. You find that Truth has set you free, is setting you free, will set you free. What is Truth? Jesus Christ is Truth. And His Church has the best response to the wounds you carry.

Our wounds are offered up and placed in the Wounds of Christ, and talk about power! This power has overcome the world.

Get creative. Turn to the Stations of the Cross and make your own booklet. Include the fifteenth Station. (Or I will come to your group and share the Stations of the Cross that I developed for my own healing.) His Resurrection has made a way for your redemption. He redeems all things.

Go to Adoration. Write down what happened to you, the wounds you have, write them down and lay that paper on the Altar.

Light a candle, and burn the paper. Say this prayer:

Jesus, I give it to You. Now is the time. Change my wounds into scars that are healed and redeemed. Let me walk in Paschal Power. Let me know joy once more. Amen.

Denise Bossert is a nationally-recognized Catholic speaker, author, syndicated columnist and convert. She is a survivor/victor over sexual molestation as a child and rape in marriage. She is the mother of four children. One of her children was conceived in rape. That child was also a victim of sexual molestation. Use the contact form in the menu to reach Denise and invite her to speak about the Catholic faith and how true healing is there.


Space to Grow In

Free will can look a lot like teenage rebellion–

if the people who dislike your choices are manipulative or gossipy or judgmental or think your faith is some kind of cult.

Not kidding. Some people think that about the Catholic Faith.

You will get resistance. Breaking family and cultural mores can get you more consequences than backtalk did when you were twelve. There are times I would rather have a slap across the face for being a bit of a smart alec to my parent.

Or a fly swatter to the butt. Done and over. Stings for a moment and the sting is gone.

Or a lecture that I could hear and then walk down the hall to my room and shut the door.

So how do you know if you are who they say you are? How do you know much of anything when you decide to stop factoring in and even responding emotionally to the sanctions, both covert and overt?

You know that passage, lean not on your own understanding? Get a priest. A very good spiritual director.

And get it all out there – like you just threw up all over the place.

He is used to that.

And he is used to seeing the bigger picture. God’s perspective. If he gives you the green light to carve out space from those who make you feel crappy, then it is not rebellion, or angst, or vindictiveness. No matter what anyone else says (or whispers to another).

It is you just doing what you should have done a long time ago. Congratulations, you just embraced the gift of free will.

And if you frequent the confessional and seek spiritual direction, chances are pretty high that you are actually making a solid decision. Be willing to say, Get behind me satan.

It will still feel uncomfortable. You know how your old friends or family respond to your tentative attempts to extricate yourself from their frowny faces.

Rebellion is not bad. It just depends what you are rebelling against.

You are loved by God. He delights in you. He wants you whole. He wants you fully living the life of his divine grace.

Anything that threatens that beautiful gift needs to be told to stand down.

So now that you can choose to live any way you want, choose to live well. Choose the life God created for you.

Welcome home.

Here, you really do get to be you.




I Love You, Denise.

I haven’t written in a long time. Not truly. Not the deep, raw stuff that is my trademark.

For many weeks, I have thought about one phrase. One sentence that should be the ultimate pledge. The healing balm for the world.

I love you.

And yet, how often this phrase leaves one empty. Or worse, it leaves us shaking our heads and saying, “No. I don’t think that is so.”

I just read a book about St. Theresa of Calcutta. Again, the question of love presented itself.

If I can just figure out this phrase, what it really means, I think so much will be clear — or clearer.

It is easier to pinpoint what it is not than what it is. Until today. It is my father’s birthday. He is deceased, but the memory of his love is as clear as ever.

There was so much love in him that there was room for little else.

He loved. He liked being loved, but that was not his primary goal. I was his primary goal.

And everyone who encountered him could say the same thing. I was his primary goal. To show me how much he loved me.

You really do remember how someone made you feel, far more than what they said.

It is the essence of what drives us to see some people canonized. They made us feel…
God’s Presence.

They exuded Incarnational Love.

So many people have said the words to me in my 53 years. But I am learning to pay far more attention to how they make me feel.

This is the true test of love.

Never arrogant.
Never demanding its own agenda.
Practicing divine hospitality.
Keeping a guard on the tongue.
Not seeking to control.
Embracing another’s free will rather than orchestrating a manipulation that masquerades as mother, brother, sister, friends, husband.

And you begin to understand Our Lord’s words. Who are my mother and my brothers?
The one who does the will of the Father.

There is no guile in him.
No falseness.
No turning.

And the question of love and all its characteristics becomes a personal one.

Who and how must I love?

The littlest. The wounded. The forgotten. The ones Mother Theresa would have loved. And how must I love them? I must become an oblation.

A libation.

Incarnational Love made manifest through me.

He has permitted a wound within me that has turned my heart to the wounded ones. And I am learning to find them in the Wounds of Christ, where scars replace a festering wound. And all is made new.

A Secret From Mount Arbel

Only 9 days. She has waited for thousands of years. Nine days is all that remains.

A post shared by Denise Bossert (@denisebossert) on

Bookmark with Doug Keck

Wherein I meet Jim and Joy Pinto at EWTN

Wherein I meet Fr. Mark of the Franciscan Missionaries of the Eternal Word

Fr. Mark of the Franciscan Missionaries of the Eternal Word interviews Denise:

ANNE With An E

Marilla says what so many have said.

“I don’t understand her.”

This Anne is not like the Anne played by Megan Follows. Both characters are the Anne from the book, but the Anne in the recent series is hard to understand…

…unless you are a grown-up.

…unless you have experienced trauma.

Then you understand her, and you feel many things when you watch her. You feel a little sense of vindication.

This Anne has a hidden trauma. She has known domestic violence and bullying. One scene suggests she has known the deception of a predator and has learned to run, really fast.

Emotional flashbacks plague her. She has the kind of flashbacks in which she is taken to the moment in the past, and sees it all again, like she is right there, like it is happening to her again.

But she also has emotional flashbacks. What is that? It is an experience in the present, the now, in which one feels old emotions welling up inside, over the top emotions, but the very emotions one felt in the moment of violation. When bullied. When victimized. When suffering due to control or the misuse of power. And all that old emotion is flung at a person in the present moment. The response doesn’t seem to fit the offense, and others are horrified.

Poor Anne is judged.

She is stuck.

She is in a world where then is now and now is now. And all of it is mixed up.

She pours her sorrows out to Belle, Matthew’s horse, and the horse is a kind of therapy animal. She can receive the words and nuzzle closer. There is no rejection. There is no judgment or misunderstanding. In Anne’s mind, the horse understands – even before Marilla begins to understand.

And thankfully, Marilla does understand in time.

As a victim, Anne knows well the fear of getting too attached if it is going to all disappear. Or if affection will be withheld. Or if opinion will change. Or if others will be affirmed. Or if she will be made the scapegoat.

Anne speaks of things one should not speak about. This Anne is for those of us who are no longer impressionable children. We know this Anne.

Seen too much.

Experienced too much.

Been in seasons of life when we lived out what we knew-but-did-not-understand.

We have felt the same when we didn’t fully understand the Pandora’s Box we opened. We have received punishment. And nobody thought to ask why we talk like we do or act like we have acted.

Nobody stopped to wonder why we would be so foolish as to be caught in such a trap.

This is an Anne we know–even if she is one we worry will be unpredictable and test our resolve to be merciful. We know this Anne, this one we have judged harshly.

We need to consider this Anne, contrary to what some are saying. Don’t let the kids watch it, but for the love of all victims and survivors of trauma, don’t dismiss this Anne.

There is something to her. Her predicament is far more likely than the precocious Anne with a slightly mysterious past and a whole lot of charisma.

It says something about us if we refuse to admit the more likely scenario. This Anne has PTSD, and she is everywhere. She is all around us. One quarter of the women we know have been victims in childhood. Some were victimized as adults.

Before you decide to boycott this Anne, pause. Ask yourself if you have boycotted girls and women like her. Be Matthew. Be Marilla. Go beyond sayng, “I don’t understand her.” Try to understand. To be patient. To let her work though the trauma.

Don’t reserve all your love and pour it out on the Megan Follows kind of Anne.

A bruised reed, he will not break. Isaiah 42:3