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PTSD - My personal journey
It's been 10 years now but what happened to me still comes back to haunt me even today. I was pregnant with my first child. I loved walking and being active and riding my bicycle. It didn't matter to me that I was pregnant when I would take some long bike rides. If I felt good and had enough energy I was going to ride that bike until the day I delivered my baby! But, I didn't quite get that far.
I was 7 months pregnant and had a bunch of energy. The spring weather was absolutely gorgeous and I just wanted to get out into it. I decided I was going to take a ride to a store to get some things and enjoy my energy while I had it, and the beautiful weather.
Things were fine until I made a stop next to a gas station where a truck was sitting to turn out. I tried to see if he was seeing me there but couldn't so I stayed put. He would be turning out directly into my path. I'm a very cautious person but not cautious enough, that day. I thought I had seen him nod at me to go but I guess I was wrong. I started up to pass in front of him but that was when he put on the gas and turned right into me.
All I remember at that moment was hitting his truck and the sound that made, and screaming a scream I have never produced in my entire life. This is when things get foggy. I remember, when the hit happened, a split second thought that went through my head - He's going to run over my belly.
Having a baby was all I had wanted for years and it was finally happening to me. I was only a few months away from giving birth, and a truck was hitting me.
The things that happened next are quite foggy as I believe I had gone into shock. I don't remember getting up and out of the road, I only remember standing in the gas station parking lot screaming and yelling at the driver of the truck for being so unbelievably horrible for hitting me, a pregnant woman. I remember I kept screaming "Why didn't you look my way?". I was angry, very angry and that was all I felt at that time. No pain, just pure anger.
My next memory is laying down on a grassy area at the gas station with quite a lot of people hovering over me. I don't remember how I got there or if I passed out, but my brain was still not working. I was still in shock. I knew something felt strange, my pants were wet, and my left leg was starting to throb. Someone at the gas station put something under my head to try and make me more comfortable but that's all I remember.
Next I remember being on a stretcher and being loaded into an ambulance. My head was swimming, I didn't know what was going on, but I was starting to become more conscious at this point. I knew something was wrong with my left leg, and that my pants were wet, and that I felt awfully dizzy. Next I was in this ambulance and they were going fast. I had an oxygen mask on me, no one said anything to me and I just laid there trying to get myself together. This is when the pain in my leg really started to hit me hard. I knew something was very wrong with it.
The ambulance sped to the hospital, going off road a lot of the time because traffic was heavy. My heart was beating rapidly now and I was still very light headed but I was coming back from being in shock.
Next I'm at the hospital and they are taking me to the maternity ward where my baby will be monitored and checked to see if he's OK. At this point I am screaming and moaning over the pain in my leg and wondering why my pants were wet and if I was losing the baby.
It occurred to me that I had wet myself when I got hit, so it had absolutely nothing to do with the baby. I was so relieved, but even in the state I was in I somehow was able to feel embarrassed by this! I was scared, and just wanted to go home. I would have bouts of crying as my baby was being monitored. I was so confused, scared, and all alone. I never thought to even call anyone yet, I was still trying to pull myself together.
My baby was having hiccups, he seemed to be just fine. I wasn't bleeding or having contractions. Once they were done monitoring the baby I was brought back down to the ER in a wheelchair and left alone in the waiting room, which I thought was wrong. I shouldn't have been alone. I was just hit by a truck, my leg was in the most immense pain imaginable, I nearly died, yet there I was alone.
I had bouts of crying in between just blank stares. I was numb, yet so confused and scared and upset. I finally realized that I should call someone and that person was my sister. I knew she would be at work and I knew this would scare her, which I didn't want to do, but I needed someone with me...
I told my sister not to worry, the baby was OK, but I had been hit by a truck and to please come to the hospital to keep me company. The tears started up again. I was still in some shock over what had happened.
I was called into a room to be examined before my sister arrived. I was told to get out of the wheelchair and get up onto the bed and I said I couldn't. I physically could not move my leg. Tears again. My sister arrived and I was able to get up on the bed. I told the doctor I didn't think my leg was broken but there was definitely something very wrong with it. My inner thigh was starting to swell up and had a mark from my bicycle seat on it. It was red and crescent shaped. All the pain was coming from under there.
Anyways, I was basically told that I didn't break my leg but I probably had internal damage, then I was told to go home and if the pain got worse to go back in. Great hospital, I thought...
I wasn't able to walk, at all. I had to be carried into my apartment and onto my couch. I had to have help going to the bathroom. My leg was in so much pain I couldn't use it at all. I got some crutches but because the pain was so intense I wouldn't be able to use them right away. I felt terrible, physically, I felt sick. And I was 7 months pregnant on top of all of this.
I decided to hunker down on the couch and just stay there, and that's where I stayed for nearly 3 months. Not too long after the accident my leg developed a massive dark bruise from the upper inner thigh all the way down to the back of my knee. But what was worse was the swelling and burning I felt under the mark the bicycle seat left. The skin was on fire. I was able to get myself back to the hospital and once the nurse saw my leg she immediately put me into the ER and I was seen quickly by a doctor.
My leg had developed a massive infection. I felt so sick, so tired, and just wanted this to be over with, but it was far from being over. I got an ultrasound on my leg to rule in the infection and then was sent to another room where a nurse would ever so painfully cut a deep hole into my leg and squeeze it as hard as she could and drain it. I actually sat up, screamed so loudly, and grabbed onto her and yelled at her to stop, it was the most painful thing I had ever felt. I came very close to passing out. She was squeezing my leg as hard as she could, for quite some time. I don't even remember what happened after this, but at some point I had been admitted to the ER and had to stay until they could get the infection under control. Since I was pregnant this was quite serious.
My stay in the ER was depressing, to say the least. I didn't have a room, just curtains separating me from the other patients. Most of them kept me up all night puking, or pooping in their beds. I actually had someone bring me in some ear plugs to drown out the noise. My anxiety was through the roof. I had an IV and was being administered antibiotics. I learned that I would need my leg to be re-packed every single day, for quite a while... meaning a nurse would have to shove this gauze stuff as far down into the hole in my leg as possible and keep it there the whole day while also taping as much gauze on the outer part of my leg to catch all the seepage. It was awful. This would have to be done for a long time. About three months to be exact.
Once I was discharged from the hospital I was a pro on my crutches and could move about easier now. At home a nurse would come to my home every single morning to tend to my leg. It was painful, to say the least. I stayed on bed rest for quite a while and still had my leg packed and a bandage over it when my son was born.
My leg suffered quite a bit of damage and it was nearly impossible for me to stand on it properly for a long time. It was constantly bent and I could only put a bit of pressure down on my toes. Trying to straighten out my leg felt awful. I had a baby to take care of now but at this time I was use to limping around and thankfully didn't need my crutches anymore.
My recovery was very difficult physically, but also mentally. I had PTSD. The same image would play over and over again in my head, I would hear the same scream. I would see the same thing every time, my hand smacking into the hood of the truck, and then hear my blood curdling scream. I couldn't sleep very well because that is the time it would happen most. I cried a lot, mostly before my baby was born, but these flashbacks were bad enough to bring on full force anxiety and tears. I was terrified of ever getting back on a bicycle, and terrified of being near a road in general. I was living in fear for quite a while.
My leg developed nerve damage and anytime the weather would change my leg would burn and itch and the pain would get bad. But I had a baby to concern myself with and I put all my thought and energy into him. I couldn't walk right, and was having nasty flashbacks, but I was alive and so was he.
It is ten years later as I write this and I am happy to say my whole life doesn't revolve around fear that I may be hit by another vehicle. I do not, however, ride a bike anymore. I just couldn't get back on one. Also walking next to busy roads brings on a lot of anxiety, I feel like I don't/can't trust anyone. But I am not plagued by those flashbacks anymore. Only, and I stress only, if something has triggered the memories, which thankfully doesn't happen very often.
I was able to pull myself together although I'd always have some sort of PTSD because of this. I have had a limp since that awful day, still. The weather still bothers my leg. I wonder sometimes if my leg will ever fully heal but after 10 years I think it would have by now. The limp has become a part of me, however, and I really don't think about it. I do still fear getting hit again.
Usually what had happened to me is far away in the back of my mind, buried deep along with other old memories, unless I see or hear about something that was similar to what happened to me.
Take for instance; a few years ago I was a witness to a girl biking down the road who got hit by a van. It was a totally avoidable accident, like mine, if the driver had just been looking. The girl, thankfully wearing a helmet, smashed her face into the pavement and lost a bunch of teeth, but was OK otherwise. The driver of the van had the nerve to try and take this poor girl to court saying it was all her fault, but luckily I had seen every single thing and there was no way I was going to let the driver of the van get away with that.
I was the only useful witness that day that stuck around. Everyone else took off. But I have a soft spot for cyclists and would do everything I could to help this girl out in court, which I did, and everything worked out in the favor of the cyclist. Up until court, though, I had been plagued again by memories of my own accident. Seeing this girl get hit by the van brought it all back. I started having the flashbacks again, over and over again, and started getting sucked into that horrible memory. All the feelings came back as well, it wasn't just images, but I was feeling it all over again too. It was a very hard time for me. I worried daily about this girl and how she was doing. I was absolutely thrilled to get a letter in the mail asking if I could go to court and speak for her. Of course I would! There would be nothing to stop me! I am glad that everything worked out for her in the end, because it could have been a lot worse...
Not too long ago I learned about a fatal accident involving a teacher at my children's school. I was shocked to hear that she had died so suddenly. I was even more shocked to hear that she had died riding her bike when a truck hit her.
Again it all came back. I was reliving the accident over and over again but this time it was harder. The teacher had actually gotten run over by the truck and died instantly. She had absolutely no chance. I would constantly remember my fear of the driver who hit me running over my belly. I came so close, but I made it out alive, unlike this unfortunate teacher. It is hard to get passed these tragedies because they really hit home for me. Their tragedies traumatize me because of the memories they bring back. But what am I to do? I could help one cyclist, but not the other and it was completely out of my hands and that was hard. I don't want anyone to have to go through what I did. I want to help all the cyclists in the world that get hit, but I know that's not possible.
Knowing this teacher died so suddenly brought on so much fear in me. As I write this I am 6 months pregnant with my third child. Your life could be taken away in the blink of an eye, and that is frightening.
How do I get passed it?
I honestly believe I will forever be traumatized by what happened to me. BUT, I have some control over how I let it affect me. I am sure there will always be a trigger every now and then to bring it all back, but I do not have to allow myself to get sucked into it. I do have a choice and I believe everybody who has PTSD does. You need to choose how your want to live with it.
I have to go by the facts and the facts are that I am alive and my baby survived! We are both OK! Somehow my life was spared that day, I was given a second chance and I need to remember that.
What happened to me is like a bad nightmare that I have to keep pushing out of my mind because, honestly, I just don't want to be plagued by it anymore. It happened, but me and my baby are OK and that's ALL that matters.
What can you do?
PTSD is horrible, horrifying, and can be long lasting. I really don't know if someone can ever fully 100% get passed a very traumatic incident. I think it will always be there but you can chose how you are going to deal and live with it.
Distractions are good. When I had my baby he brought me out of my constant state of fear, and tears. I had him to think about. He helped me a lot.
Think about the facts. Your alive. You've been given a second chance. Live your life! Try to push the fear away, but always remember that time will heal. But if it doesn't? Please find someone to talk to. Some things that people are suffering PTSD from are far worse than getting into a car accident and may need more help healing. Don't be afraid or ashamed to seek professional help.
Talk about it to people you love and trust. Holding things in makes the problem worse. And it just feels good to let things out!
If your PTSD is taking over your life you may need to try some medication to help control it. Again, don't be ashamed or afraid to seek help.
Life can get better after trauma, if you let it.