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