What happens if one is re-traumatized? If one witnesses something similar to one’s own trauma, especially after acquiring PTSD and/or a brain injury?
Like anyone who watches a human bounce off a windshield and fly through the air, you gasp, your heart pounds, you freeze or rush to help. But I did something different in addition: I covered my face, whipped away, and crouched until it was over while everyone stared in horror. Then I became confused trying to futilely call 911 (I’ve never had trouble dialling 911 when I witnessed collisions before), but luckily there were a bazillion witnesses who rushed to help and call the ambulance, which got there so quickly, I swear it must’ve been waiting a block away.
Seeing him sit up and so many around him and the paramedic there, I called for my own help and returned to the ADD Centre. There was no way I would reach my neurodoc then so I didn’t bother to try; but I knew I would have to see him soon. When one has PTSD, one has to process events like this as quickly as possible so that they don’t add to one’s own load.
Luckily my biofeedback trainer answered my call for help and told me to come immediately. She put on the breathing belt and heart rate monitor and hooked me up to the computer. We then did two HRV screens until my heart rate settled down close to what it had been during my biofeedback. We talked a little bit too since talking it out helps, since the physical presence and emotional support of another human being helps. And she ran the CardioPro program to see how stressed I was. No surprise really the results.
I was feeling calmer, but my SDANN told us the feeling was a mirage that needed to be turned into reality. My SDANN was about half of what it had been when I’d begun my regular biofeedback session this week, and that had already been in the basement because of a variety of stressors.
So I left knowing I’d have to tell my neurodoc.
Because the memory, the sound of it, the visuals of it, was intruding, he did EMDR on me as soon as he could. The sooner the trauma was dealt with, the likelier it would not become part of my PTSD, he said. Only time will tell if successful.
In a country where police don’t take traffic injuries and deaths seriously, in a province where the governments more and more believe insurers about needing to cut auto insurance benefits to our health’s detriment, on a planet where brain injuries are barely treated and those that come with concurrent PTSD hardly recognized, it is amazing that those of us injured in preventable crashes are not re-traumatized every day.
If governments and insurers really wanted to reduce health care costs, the most obvious solution is to crack down on bad driving and cycling, to create policing and policies that will shape sober drivers into safe drivers and will keep drivers intoxicated by any substance out of the driver’s seat. Until then and/or till driverless cars become ubiquitous, we survivors have to do whatever we can to protect ourselves and grab help immediately after re-traumatization.