Imagine being involved in a terrifying incident where you were physically harmed or threatened. Then imagine reliving that awful memory over and over again, each time as fresh and horrific as when it happened. This is the essence of PTSD.
Carrie was standing on the corner, waiting for her friend to pick her up. She still didn’t feel safe driving, and Joel had been so good about getting her back and forth to work over the last several weeks. One minute, she was standing in the sunshine, waiting for Joel, and the next minute the sunshine had vanished. The corner had vanished. Carrie found herself right back at the scene of the accident. She could feel the blood dripping down her face. She looked down and saw it spreading down her shirt. She screamed, feeling again the pain of her dislocated shoulder. Frantic, she looked around for David, seeing again his crumpled form wedged in that impossibly small space left between the left-hand side of the car and the steering wheel.
A small part of her clung to the tenuous understanding this wasn’t real, that she was just experiencing it all over again. Down the street, out of sight, she had heard a minor fender bender, and the sound of metal hitting metal had sent her into a full-blown flashback. By the time Joel reached the corner and stopped the car, Carrie was coming out of memory. Shaken and crying, she hastily pulled herself together, shrugging off Joel’s obvious concern by saying she didn’t want to talk about it. How could she ever want to talk about it? If she could feel it again, so real, so immediate, without conscious effort, what would happen to her if she actually tried to remember it?
Whenever a flashback hit, Carrie could feel a wave of terror approach her from behind and fling her headlong into the memory. Hopeless, she had no idea what she was going to do, how she was going to keep the memory at bay. It threatened her thoughts during the day and haunted her dreams at night. Exhausted, Carrie was so tired of feeling the pain. When was it going to stop?
It isn’t just soldiers who experience the devastating deja vu of PTSD. Any traumatic event in which a person comes to harm or believes harm will happen can produce PTSD. The harm can be to that person or to someone they know. PTSD can also be caused by witnessing a traumatic event involving a stranger. The shock of the event is so significant that it burns its memory deep.
A person suffering from PTSD is affected not only during a flashback, which is a vivid reliving of the event, but also his or her functioning is impacted day by day. People with PTSD may:
- startle easily
- become numb emotionally
- isolate from loved ones
- have difficult with intimacy
- experience increased irritability
- become aggressive, hostile, or even violent
- attempt to avoid situations they fear will remind them of the trauma
- have difficulty during significant periods, such as the anniversary of the trauma
- refuse to talk about the trauma with others for fear of triggering a flashback
With PTSD, the person’s life becomes hostage to the horror of the past. Like a person suffering from panic attacks, the PTSD sufferer stops living life and starts crafting an existence designed to reduce the possibility of another episode. Family, friends, feelings, risks, and experiences are all jettisoned. The avoidance of another flashback becomes the only goal.
If you or a loved one has exhibited PTSD symptoms, we invite you to seek out Trauma & PTSD treatment at The Center • A Place of Hope. PTSD treatment begins with a free personal phone call with one of our counselors. Ask yourself “What is PTSD doing to my life?” Then realize that help is available, and that a life free of this condition is within your reach.The Center • A Place of HOPE specializes in post traumatic stress disorder treatment, and uses a whole person approach that allows you to discover what is truly going on in mind, body and spirit. Contact us today at 1-888-771-5166 and begin the healing process.