Ten years ago I didn’t know very much about post-traumatic stress disorder. Unfortunately, I didn’t know that trauma was influencing the lives of many of my family members. Today I look back and know that if I’d known then what I know now, I’d have been able to help those I love in more effective ways.
- Accidents. When my son was two, he bit an extension cord and suffered a devastating shock through the mouth that seared his lips and required reconstructive surgery. During the hour-long drive through the country to the hospital, his head swelled and distorted as he lay in my arms. In those moments, I believed my child was going to die before we arrived.
- Suicide. My father-in-law lost his father to suicide when he was a child. The trauma influenced Norman for the remainder of his life, leaving him “stuck” emotionally and family members confused about his enigmatic behaviors.
- Childhood sexual trauma. Assaults rocked my world, as well as the life of one of my children, who hid the abuse from us as parents for eight years. The experience resulted in multiple symptoms.
- Car accidents. Both of my children were involved in multiple car accidents where they were extricated with the Jaws of Life, hospitalized, or sustained closed-head injuries that had a long-term impact on their health.
- Natural disaster. My daughter volunteered to do humanitarian relief in the first wave of workers on Nias Island after the 2004 tsunami. In the months she was there, she experienced a dozen more earthquakes, leaving her reeling with symptoms of PTSD.
- Secondary trauma. My daughter also experienced secondary trauma as a result of caring for the sick, devastated, and dying on Nias Island.
- Caregiving. For eight years, I cared for my father-in-law with Parkinson’s disease, mental illness, and other complex medical needs in our home. A week following his death, my mother with Alzheimer’s came to live with us for the next four years. Over an eight year period, I watched the slow demise of two of my loved ones to terminal disease.
- Medical trauma. In 1999 I suffered a devastating brain lesion and was hospitalized for an extended period of time as doctors searched for a cause of my symptoms. (One was never found.) During that period of time, my survival was in question, as my abilities to see and walk diminished daily.
Many people make the mistake of believing that traumatic experiences and PTSD are limited to military experiences or sexual abuse. They are not. For many years I believed that the symptoms of PTSD had to include drug addiction or self-abuse. They do not.
What’s your story? Have you or someone you know experienced trauma? Are you suffering from symptoms of PTSD? This week we will be exploring symptoms and other valuable information that can be helpful. And for further information, check out PTSDPerspectives.org and download our free ebook, The Truth about Trauma.