I have just had one of the worst weekends in my life. The trauma experienced this past weekend has left me feeling battered and bruised (emotionally and Psychologically).
I feel like I’m at the end of my rope right now. The events of this past weekend has just been too much for me. It has left me feeling frightened and helpless.
Please allow me to briefly take you through my journey. Looking at this post, it seems long but it is important for you to read everything in order to understand how I’m feeling and why I’m feeling this way right now.
10 October 2015 – Driving to relatives not too far from home, I am involved in a motor vehicle accident. After more than 30 years of driving, the first time ever that I drive into someone else (through no fault of my own).
First part of trauma. I’m deeply disturbed by this occurrence. For some it’s no big deal, just another accident. For me, it’s major. I’ve never made contact with another vehicle – ever except for them colliding with me.
At the same time, someone smashes into the back of my vehicle. Second part of trauma in one day. This is a reminder of the anger and helplessness I felt when it happened in March this year. Anger that someone dared to damage my vehicle and helplessness that there was nothing I could do to prevent it.
Third part of trauma – while getting my cellular phone out of my handbag, it is snatched out of my hand by a thief who runs off with it and leaves me standing there totally powerless, unable to chase after him.
This leaves me angry and feeling totally helpless. It is a reminder of an incident when I was 7 years of age and a thief dared to rip my brand new wrist watch off my arm in broad daylight and ran off leaving me crying my heart out for my loss and feeling totally helpless because not only was it impossible to run after him but even if I did, he would knock me over like a feather with one finger.
This last motor vehicle accident is the last straw, I cannot take it anymore. I feel like I’m broken in a thousand pieces. Messages of support pour in . . .
• “You are so brave”
• “You are so strong”. “You can get through this”
• “You won’t be given more than you can handle”
• “This too shall pass”
• “Just another knock my love. You are a strong lady”
• “He won’t give you what you not strong enough to conquer”
Why do these words sound so empty and meaningless? I know these words are meant to bring me comfort, but somehow they don’t comfort me.
When I can’t sleep because of ongoing flash backs and the voices in my head that will not shut up . . . The minute I close my eyes, my brain replays everything bad that has happened.
A mixture of the actual contact made with the car in front of me and the one smashing into the back of me mixed with the face and the touch of the person who grabbed my cellular phone out of my hand and ran off with it – my brand new cellular phone which I had only purchased the week before and was still struggling to learn how to use it.
This is intertwined with the entire 14 months of mom’s illness (from diagnosis to death) and now includes this last incident (motor vehicle accident). When will it end?
What exactly is Emotional and Psychological Trauma?
Emotional and Psychological trauma is the result of extraordinarily stressful events that shatter our sense of security, making us feel helpless and vulnerable in a dangerous world.
Definition of trauma:
It’s an individual’s subjective experience that determines whether an event is traumatic or not.
A traumatic event or situation creates Psychological trauma when it overwhelms the individual’s perceived ability to cope, and leaves that person fearing death, annihilation, mutilation or Psychosis. The individual feels emotionally, cognitively and physically overwhelmed. The circumstances of the event commonly includes abuse of power, betrayal of trust, entrapment, helplessness, pain, confusion and/or loss.
Traumatic experiences often involve a threat to life or safety, but any situation that leaves us feeling overwhelmed and alone can be traumatic, even if it does not involve physical harm. It’s not the objective facts that determine whether an event is traumatic, but our subjective emotional experience of the event. The more frightened and helpless we feel, the more likely we are to be traumatised.
A stressful event is most likely to be traumatic if . . .
• It happened unexpectedly (mom’s Cancer diagnosis and my two Motor Vehicle accidents and theft of my cellular phone)
• We were unprepared for it (moms diagnosis, surgery, caregiving duties and subsequent treatment – chemo and radium)
• We felt powerless to prevent it (moms treatment – chemo and radium, my motor vehicle accidents, theft of my cellular phone)
• It happened repeatedly
• Someone was intentionally cruel
• It happened in childhood (the theft of my brand new cellular phone brought back memories of how my brand new wrist watch was ripped off my arm at the age of seven years old). I experienced the same sense of deep loss and feeling of total helplessness.
Commonly overlooked sources of emotional and Psychological trauma:
• Falls or sports injuries (my fall in 2007 which resulted in my hip replacement)
• Surgery (especially in first 3 years of my life) – my surgery aged 2 – 5 years
• The sudden death of someone close (my grandmother’s death when I was 11 years old)
• A Motor Vehicle accident (every time someone goes into the back of my car and my recent first time experience of going into someone)
• The breakup of a significant relationship (my parent’s divorce)
• A humiliating or deeply disappointing experience (had a few which I’d rather care not to mention here)
• The discovery of a life-threatening illness or disabling condition (mom’s Cancer diagnosis)
Trauma Reactions: There are three primary reactions (domains):
• Reminders of the exposure (flashbacks, intrusive thoughts, nightmares)
• Activation (includes hyperarousal, insomnia, agitation, irritability, impulsivity and anger)
• Deactivation: (including numbing, avoidance, withdrawal, confusion, derealisation, dissociation and depression)
For most people, these reactions are transient and will diminish in a month. If these persist for longer than a month, it is considered to be Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and should be treated as such.
I will leave you to draw your own conclusions about my experience of trauma.
How about you? Can you identify with any of this?
Let me know your thoughts.
Source of information: Joanna Beazley Richards South Africa February 2013: Trauma and Recovery