Ever been in an accident or know someone who has? Perhaps you know someone whose life continues to be affected by an incident as if, at a pivotal point, their life traveled a different trajectory. Old aches may seem not go away no matter what the doctors try. Fear, panic, and avoidance of situations once were considered normal or enjoyable take a grip. Irritability or timidness overtake even the calmest, most confident personalities. A discomfort in the body can become so familiar over time that it is accepted as the new norm since the accident.
No matter how long it has been since the accident, healing can happen. Dr. Heller in Crash Course: A Self-healing Guide to Auto Accident Trauma & Recovery gives a guide on how to heal emotionally and physically from an accident. The approaches presented are consistent with my knowledge about healing trauma and I would consider this an excellent book on accident trauma. If doing the work solo is too challenging, seek a professional counselor who can help you through the body work needed to reach your goals.
To better understand trauma, let's take a closer look at how nature deals with accidents: The animal kingdom has recovery down pat. Ever watch a bird hit a window or a deer get hit by a car? The bird will fly at rapid speed head-on into a pane of glass, drop to the ground where it will stay for a few moments, and lay motionless, as though it were struck dead on impact. And then a most remarkable thing happens: it twitches and shakes, it slowly turns its head, stretches out each wing, assesses for damage, and then proceeds on to the inspecting the functionality of the rest of the body. Then if all is well, the bird flies or runs off as if nothing happened. Check it out on youtube if you haven't seen this in real life. Here is a video to give you an idea. Unfortunately most people, as in this youtube video, disrupt the natural healing process by moving the stunned bird, or in this case putting the bird in a bag, so you are unable to see the intermediate steps, but it gives you a rough idea.
We are no different than the bird or deer. When we are in an accident, Dr. Heller says, "There is a burst of adrenaline and other biochemical reactions and the body is ready for action. When it's totally overwhelmed or blocked the body freezes, trapping all that mobilized survival energy. That undischarged survival energy in the nervous system, we believe, is the source of most of the symptoms commonly recognized as PTSD." When our bodies are unable to discharge of this energy and recalibrate itself, you typically end up with a nervous system where the switch is stuck on "on" (anxious, hyperactive, panic, rage, elated) or stuck on "off "(depressed, disconnected, deadness, exhausted).
No matter how much time has lapsed since the accident, undischarged survival energy can be released. Withstanding the effects of permanent injuries, life can go back to normal. Pains can cease and personalities can go back to their previous functioning. Crash Course shows you how this can be accomplished or can help you seek a professional to guide you through.
Stephanie Patterson, M.S., LMFT
Downtown San Luis Obispo and Atascadero, California