For this post, I would like to discuss my own personal experience with PTSD. On October 21, 2012, I was a passenger in a motor vehicle accident while I was on vacation in Atlanta, Georgia for a friend's wedding. I was 19 at the time. The accident resulted in a severe spinal injury and the doctors expected me to be paralyzed permanently. After an emergency spinal fusion surgery to reconstruct the part of my spine that shattered, the neurosurgeon was able to remove spinal fragments that were pressing on my spinal cord. My hospitalization resulted in a lot of complications and unfortunately, Hurricane Sandy was also occurring while I was in the hospital which added to the stressful time. Thankfully, while I still am recovering from the surgery and dealing with the chronic pain from my injury, I am able to walk and move with limitations.
While the physical aspects of my injury are improving in some aspects, another difficult aspect of my accident is PTSD. With PTSD, I experience a lot of flashbacks, particularly when I am in a car. Random things trigger flashbacks and intrusive thoughts. I have great difficulty sleeping and often have nightmares. I avoid going out because of my anxiety. I get very embarrassed because I usually get very bad panic attacks while in the car and if something triggers me, I feel an overwhelming sense of panic and anxiety to the point that I might start screaming or hyperventilating. If I don't have an anxiety attack, I am still very on edge and nervous. People don't always understand that I can't help it and it upsets me that I react that way because I am normally very composed and in control of my behavior and how I express my emotions. I went from being a very social and busy person as a full time student, working 20-40 hours a week, and spending my free time with friends to not being able to work, unable to commute to school, and having to depend on others to drive me places or physically help me due to my injury. I have taken all online courses since my accident because I have trouble sitting for long periods of time and online courses allow me the freedom to get up and obviously, I also am unable to commute because of my PTSD. I have only really driven by myself a few times in the past couple of months and if I do go somewhere alone, it is within a five mile radius from my house. Even though I am close to my home, I still get really nervous and usually have to pull over because I feel overwhelmed. Even writing this discussion post or talking about my accident or driving makes me emotional and anxious.
I try not to allow my PTSD and physical handicaps to control every aspect of my life, but honestly, at this point in my recovery, they do affect me in many ways. Other than the obvious pain, physical limitations, anxiety, nightmares, and PTSD episodes, my life is affected socially, physically, emotionally, educationally, and the lives of my families and loved ones have also had to adapt to some of my needs.