Post traumatic stress disorder is a mental reaction to any traumatic event. It most often makes the headlines after a soldier returns from war, having witnessed the horrific events that were associated with it. There are other instances that may bring it on. For instance, PTSD may occur from events resulting from natural disasters, kidnapping, assault, child neglect or a loved one’s sudden death. A traumatic car accident, such as my case, left me suffering with PTSD for several months. It makes it difficult to cope with the situation, but have faith because it won’t last. It will get better.
Nightmares are extremely common with PTSD. Our brain takes in thousands of images and thoughts each day, both consciously and unconsciously. It was my second day in the hospital when I woke up from a dream that my car was spinning all over again. I had broken my ankle in five places and had a foot cast on. When I pressed my foot down in my cast to stop the car in the dream, I woke up screaming in pain. It’s been over a year since the accident now, and these nightmares have since gone away. (Mayo Clinic)
Guilt or Shame
It’s easy to allow that negative self-talk into our minds. This was my fault. I’ve never done it before. It’s too hard to change. I’m not gong to get better at this. Many that have PTSD are desperately trying to rationalize their situation. They have to forgive themselves for being a lone survivor of an accident or another situation. They have to make sense of why the events happened to them. In my case, I had to forgive myself for wrecking my car 26 days before my wedding. I was in four body casts and cheated myself out of walking down the aisle. It was a hard pill to swallow, and there are days that I still think about it.
It’s important to note that everyone reacts differently to a situation. For instance, there are those that may never get over a traumatic event. They relive it over and over again. When they close their eyes to sleep, they visualize it instantly. This is common with PTSD, and involves intense distress each time they recall the event. Then, there are those that go emotionally numb to the event, detaching themselves from it and its components. (Mayo Clinic) Each has its pros and cons, and each has its own outcomes. In my case, I let the waterworks run for months. The more I cried, the better I felt about myself and the situation. I had a lot of anger in the beginning, however, and I taught myself to work through that.
Traumatic events have a way of messing with our brains. It’s reasonable that soldiers don’t want to remember the horrific images and events of war. There are some memories we have to let go, even if we are forced to do so. Then, there are repressed memories that we have buried so deep that we have to dig them out. These are traumatic memories we don’t want to think about again, but we have to in order to get better. I had to think about my accident. (Mayo Clinic) I had to rationalize it in a way that made sense to me, and so should you. You don’t have to do today, or tomorrow–but soon. Wait until PTSD has subsided and your mind is clear of the fogginess. This is the best time to dig out those old memories and hold them accountable.
Sense of Limitations
Again, this goes back to that negative self-talk. It’s easy to tell yourself that you can’t do something anymore. These may be activities or places that remind you of the traumatic event. If it was an injury, then there is no excuse to not get back in the saddle. Find the motivation and encouragement to do what you once loved prior to this experience. Life does go on, and you will get better. For me, I’ve been struggling to get back into writing since the accident. I’ve done it on occasion, but not too much. You should never let your PTSD dictate your future. Be the person you were born to be–you.