PTSD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, is a mental health condition resulting from a traumatic event, either experienced or witnessed., usually with incapacitating symptoms. PTSD affects every aspect of one’s life, such as health, relationships, work, everyday activities, etc, and may cause use of alcohol or drugs to cope. May even cause suicide.
Many people who go through a traumatic experience are able to cope with symptoms and, over time, adjust and move on, and not be diagnosed with PTSD. However, those with PTSD may have difficulty functioning, and without treatment may suffer with symptoms for years. According to the National Institute of Mental Health there are 3 categories of symptoms: Re-experiencing the event in various ways, Avoiding reminders of the Event, and Hyper-arousal.
Since each of us is unique, each would have different ways of coping with trauma. My PTSD involved a car wreck in December, 2004. I spent 4 days in the hospital and 2 months in a nursing home for rehab, and went from wheelchair to walker to cane. I still needed the walker when I got home, couldn’t drive for a year, and screamed when I saw a car wreck on TV. My treatment involved learning to walk again and learning to trust my surroundings. Months after the accident, writing memories of the accident helped me release and cope. The following is as I remember it.
Oh, no. Look out. Slam on brakes. Can’t stop. Sliding. Skidding. Push on brakes. Harder. Harder. Keep pushing. Hold on. Can’t stop. I close my eyes. Help. Oh, Lord. Bang. Crash. Smash. Metal collapsing. Glass breaking. Deafening. No airbag. I lunge forward…then backward. Arms flying. Head bobbing. Helpless. Round and round, a limp rag swirling in a crazy washing machine. Oooh. Please, stop. Aaah.
Thud. Stop. Gripping silence. I open my eyes. The morning sun is too bright. Look around. Dashboard fell apart. Can’t breathe. Can’t breathe. I lean back against the seat. Gasping for air, but can’t stop screaming. Help. Help. Release my seat belt. Get out. Get out. Run. But I can’t move.
Someone opens the door. A man’s voice. “Are you all right?” I reach out and yank his shirt. “No,” I scream. “Can’t get my breath. Please help me. Help me.” He says, “Don’t move. Calling 911.” I lower my head and watch blood gushing onto my beige jacket, dripping down the front across the zipper. Blood everywhere.
Sirens. I hear sirens. Hurry. Men rush to my car. Questions. Questions. “Where do you live? When is your birthday? How many fingers am I holding up?” I rattle off numbers and dates I see in my head. Dot, dot, dot, like a robot. I don’t sound like me. Horrible pain in my chest. Something pulling my hair. So scared. Can’t stop screaming inside. Get me out. Get me out.
Policemen. I hear policemen talking. The other driver made an illegal turn. His car is wrapped around a pole. He’s not hurt. Two EMT’S put a brace around my neck and lift me onto a stretcher. They’re gentle. Thank you. The ambulance rushes through streets. I bounce up and down on the board beneath my body. Siren blares in my ears. I’m rushed into ER. People surround me. They call my family and my friend. When I get back from x-ray, my friend is there. She takes my hand and wipes my tears. Oh, God, I’m not alone. I’m safe.
Voices. I hear voices. Fractured ribs. Bruised sternum. Ankle fractured in several places. Multiple bruises all over my body. My forehead gashed open. The doctor stands over me sewing it up. “Close your eyes,” he says. “There’s a lot of blood.” My friend winces and turns away. I squeeze her hand and feel the sutures moving through my skin.
My friend follows me to my room. She hugs me goodbye, and I wipe her tears. She leaves. Now medication dulls my brain. How many hours have passed? It’s night. My family comes into the darkened room and hovers around my bed. I don’t hear what they’re saying. I cry when they leave. I float in peaceful mist and watch pink bubbles dance through white clouds. Now I sleep.
Tune in next week for PTSD Causes, Symptoms, Treatment. Part 2
I wish you peace in heart,
Marilyn Fowler, Author