A Word About Trauma – Day #8 & #9

A Word About Trauma – Day #8 & #9

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Three years ago, I was involved in a car accident that changed my life  forever. Driving 65 mph on a heavily traveled highway,  pelted by the torrential rain of a tropical storm that was moving up the northeast coast,  a pickup truck pulling a trailer entered the highway from a rest stop on the opposite side of the highway from where we were traveling. Driving at excessive speeds, he lost control, crossed the highway, and after one near miss ultimately  landed a perfect strike with his trailer, hitting us broadside and drop kicking us six ways to Sunday.  We rolled four times, my side hitting first and absorbing the force of the initial impact.

I did not see it coming. I had not been paying attention as my husband was driving. In those seconds that we tumbled violently and relentlessly,  I thought I was dreaming. I was confused. Just as fast as those thought flew through my mind, the realization that it was real and not a dream followed quickly, though still deeply enmeshed in feelings of unreality. Disoriented.

Our external injuries were minor, thanks to the many safety features cars have these days. The side air bag deployed, and the structure of the car folded like an accordion. Besides the shattered glass enmeshed in our arms, faces and heads, and a severe laceration that later required surgery to my hand, we were “okay”.  My husband was able to get out of the car. I was removed with the jaws of life and we were both transported by ambulance to a trauma center nearby, where I spent several days.

What was never addressed, either by the hospital, or subsequently, by the medical professionals who oversaw my healing and rehabilitation process, was the TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) I received and the PTSD I have lived with ever since. I received no treatment of any kind for either from the medical community, nor was my insurance company willing to acknowledge or compensate me adequately for same, a subject warranting attention at a later time.

This life circumstance has led me on a three-year journey in search of my health, both mental and physical, and a means of reestablishing some sense of security in the world. Largely a hit and miss endeavor,  that depended on my health and mental clarity at any given time, I found my way, step by step, bit by bit, to a growing understanding of what had happened to me and the nature of trauma and the healing process.

I learned from professionals of all kinds, both face to face and through books, lectures and research. Each in their own way has helped me add a piece to the puzzle and to carve out a path of healing that involves the healing of all of me. If one’s body is healed, but an inability to enjoy and embrace life remains, healing is not complete.

A decade or more ago, PTSD was viewed as a “soldier’s ailment”, and not something the average person might experience.  Trauma, however, comes in many forms and guises. The war veteran carries one type of wound, the woman who has experienced a violent rape another, and an individual who has been the victim of verbal abuse over an extended period of time another.  What all hold in common is a deep, abiding sense that life is not safe, that what they have experienced does not make sense. There is no rest. There is no life without fear.  

Scientists of all types have made enormous strides in the study of trauma and its treatment, in part because of the war in Mid-East, aided by the technical advances that have fostered the dissemination of information and research results in recent years. This research, while incredibly valuable for the future treatment of PTSD and trauma, has not yet filtered down to the average person or the majority of healing practices.

The program that I began ten days ago with Crystal, is a necessary piece of my healing puzzle. I have made enormous strides, but in many ways the trauma of the accident, layered on top of previous life traumas, has become locked in at the cellular level and has not been an easy thing to overcome. I may never completely regain the view of life I had prior to the accident, and in some ways I hope I do not.  It was a gift, insofar as it forced me to take stock of myself and my life at a very deep level. I might never have done so otherwise. What I do hope is that I will learn to live without chronic fear, and with the ability to face of whatever life has to hand me with resiliency.

I owe a deep debt of gratitude to a whole band of professionals that have supported, educated and inspired me throughout this journey.

D. Sander 2014 copyright

Day #1 – I’m a Coward

Day #2 – The Morning after the Night Before

Day #3 – There are No Words

Day #4 – Coming Full Circle

Day #5 & #6 – Hyped Up and Nowhere to Go

Day #7 – The Body, Mind, Spirit Connection

0 Replies to “A Word About Trauma – Day #8 & #9”

  1. Dorothy, this is the first time I’ve read the details of your accident, and WOW! As you wrote, sometimes it takes a monumental occurrence to change our focus in life, and sadly, that “something” is often not a pleasant thing—an accident, the death of a loved one, losing a job, suffering a health crisis. The fact that you look at the results of that horrible experience as a gift says so much about you; I’m honored to know you, and I learn so much from reading your blogs. Thank you for sharing such heartfelt musings.

  2. Let me say first of all, the trauma you suffered has not interfered with the creative area of your brain where expression through language resides. This post was so filled with sensory detail I felt I was there with you during the experience. I think it was a blessing that you did not see it coming; otherwise, you would have tensed up and probably caused more extensive damage.

    Over 10 years ago, I was re-ended by a distracted driver at 45+ mph, and suffered a less traumatic form of injury, but I know the feeling of fear and unsteadiness that precedes regaining equilibrium once again.

    You say “This life circumstance has led me on a three-year journey in search of my health, both mental and physical, and a means of reestablishing some sense of security in the world.” I know you would never choice this circumstance, but you are helping all who read to relate to their own past wounds, giving hope for recovery.

    1. Thank you, Marian, for your kind words and uplifting message. My thought processes have improved greatly in recent months. I’ve always been a bit scattered, but after the accident it was so much worse I accomplished very little external forward motion in my life. It was all going on inside! I hated it at the time, was frustrated and discouraged, but it has given me so much. If it can help others it will have been worth all of the agony.

  3. Three years ago I was given an injection to remove a small varicose vein. An inexperienced, young doctor working in a large HMO with no guidelines for this procedure, severely and permanently damaged my leg. A lawyer I contacted about a malpractice suit told me that since I had not died, and could still walk, there was no chance of winning the case. The doctor that confirmed the damage to my leg completely changed her story when I filed a complaint with the HMO. I have had PTSD since the day of this injection and can no longer trust anyone in the medical profession. I get that this condition does not just happen to soldiers. Thank you for bringing this to light.

    1. How horrible for you! Our culture is flooded with such experiences, ones that deny the truth of the situation in order to pursue profit and gain. When I decided to settle after three years of battling “the system” I accepted for myself that it was no longer worth the fight, largely because what I was fighting was a bigger battle, one of principle, ethics and simple right and wrong. One would think that could be settled in the court of law, but in our country the legal system does not easily serve the individual when faced with corporate America. This has been shown again and again. The people with the most money win. I decided that if I were to continue the ethical battle, I would do it with the written word. We must change the beliefs and mindset of the people who allow such a system to continue, if we are to battle the unethical practices of the triumvirate that is destroying our health and economy: Insurance/Pharmaceutical/Legal. They are the ones making the money, controlling our health care and wreaking havoc on our lives.

      1. More and more, I am seeing that the legal profession in this country has lost its moral compass, and that most trials are a charade for money. We need to start over. Thanks for speaking out against the “triumvirate.”

  4. Thanks for sharing this, Dorothy. There are so many traumas we shunt under the carpet and say are not a big deal, happens all the time, everyone has something, etc. etc. I know from my own life that most of us carry some residue of PTSD – or as my therapist said, P little t SD. The important thing isn’t the size of the T, but recognizing the impact it has on your life and working through that. I’m glad you can see the effects and are getting lots of loving help. Your story encourages others to do the same. Keep walking tall.

    1. Carolyn Myss defines it this way: “A trauma is something that has happened to you that your reason can not comprehend.” How many have not experienced this? How many are able to even recognize that they are not comprehending what has happened to them, and blame themselves instead? There is a way through. I love your therapist’s perspective!

  5. THank you Dorothy for sharing your story. You continue to amaze me with your written word. You have touched me on many occasions with your writings. My heart goes out to you. I hope you continue to write as you have helped so many while doing so. God bless.

    De De

    1. Thank you, De De. Your words mean so much to me. If sharing my life experiences makes a difference in just one person’s life, makes things a little easier for them, or helps them to feel less alone, then it will have all been worthwhile. Blessings back to you. Dorothy

  6. Your words continue to touch me in ways that also scare me. Ever since I was a little girl life has felt extremely fragile to me and over the decades I’ve built an equally fragile support structure around me, mostly made up of comfort eating and distractions, all created to numb out the fears. While your journey is very different, your words echo a resonance on a deeper level. I am not so good at articulating it all so I am grateful that people like you are! xo

    1. Thank you, Kerstin. I hope by “scare” you mean challenge, at least as much as, fear! I’ve been scared most of my life so I totally get that. I’ve written another post on support that I might just post today, in spite of the fact, I’ve barely touched the surface of the topic, and keep wanting to re-write it. Support is essential to the healing process, and the right kind of support can make it all possible. I am grateful for you as well, as it’s always good to know that we are not alone.

  7. You wrote :” Trauma, however, comes in many quises…What all hold in common is a deep, abiding sense that life is not safe…There is no rest. There is no life without fear. This life circumstance has led me on a three-year journey in search of my health, both mental and physical, and a means of reestablishing some sense of security in the world.”

    This is how I felt at a cancer diagnosis for both myself and my husband, on the heels of the sudden loss of my mother, health crises of both my children added to personal financial devastation due to corporate dishonesty … the multi year series of assaults that left me traumatized and unable to relax. No one understands the validity of anxiety I felt/feel the changes it has wrought in my life and my inability move on without fear. I will be following this series…thank you.

    1. I hear you. Devastating. Turned your inner world on its head no doubt. I have come to believe, more and more every day, that if we can stare down our demons and wrestle with the darkness that arises from such heartbreak and trauma, allow the circumstances of life not to destroy us but to transform us, we can come out, not only a different person on the other side, but a better one. I’m glad you found your way here. I needed to hear what you wrote. DS

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