The following article was written by Ruth Addicott for Express. I was not diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). I chose to share the article because it invalidates the common belief only veterans and survivors of terrorist attacks suffer from it. PTSD, like all forms of brain injury, does not discriminate on the basis of gender, nationality, ethnicity, height, weight, skin color, career, or any other factor. PTSD can, and does, affect the quality of life for veterans and civilians.
Article by Ruth Addicott
Post-traumatic stress disorder is often associated with soldiers or survivors of a terrorist attack but as Tara Hodges discovered, it can happen to anyone.
At the age of 34, Tara Hodges was an ordinary wife and mum when a split-second accident changed her life for ever.
In July 2008 she was woken in the night by her son George, then three. When she went to check on him she slipped and fell down the stairs.
Her husband Jamie, 41, found her, called an ambulance and Tara was rushed to Salford Royal hospital near her Manchester home. There she had six hours of life-saving surgery for a fractured skull and two bleeds on her brain.
The surgery was a success and Tara was determined to get back on her feet. However she didn’t realise how much the trauma had affected her psychologically.
“I didn’t feel in control, I could see people but nothing seemed real,” says Tara, now 39.
“I felt frightened, alone and lost as I tried to come to terms with what had happened and I was constantly worrying about how I was going to manage and how my family would cope.”
Her anxiety was made worse by being in hospital and unable to look after George but when she was discharged and tried to get back to normal, her symptoms worsened.
She struggled to sleep, lost her appetite – dropping to seven stone – suffered panic attacks, short-term memory loss and became frightened to even leave the house.
“I kept hearing noises in my head, even the slightest noise such as a clock ticking or the clattering of pots and pans in the kitchen would set me off. I couldn’t escape it,” she says.
“At one point I couldn’t even bear to be around my son. I couldn’t look after him. Life became unbearable. My enthusiasm and positive outlook had disappeared.” My husband and little boy did everything they could to bring me back but nothing seemed to work.” Tara became so low she felt on the verge of suicide and on the advice of a neuropsychologist, Jamie got in touch with Basic, a Manchester-based charity which provides support for people and families affected by brain and spinal injuries. It proved a lifeline for Tara who was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and offered treatment including cognitive behavioural therapy. Over the next few months, both Tara and Jamie gained a better understanding of her symptoms and how to cope with them on a daily basis. “Talking to someone who understood what I was going through and had come out the other side made me feel as though I wasn’t on my own and gave me the hope, self-belief and determination to go on,” she says.
“As new people came in, I was able to encourage them and helping others helped me.“I have always been a very determined person and wanted to get my life back. I think there is a lot of ignorance and misunderstanding of people with brain injuries.”Just because you look fine or don’t have broken bones it doesn’t mean you can carry on as normal. ”Tara joined a gym and took up running with her husband and 12 months after the accident she completed the Great North Run. In October 2010 she gave birth to their second son William and now has a new job helping people and their families rebuild their lives following similar injuries. “I still get anxiety attacks if I’m tired but I’m not frightened of them any more because I know it is just my brain telling me to slow down,” she says.Tara’s message to others who have suffered trauma is simple. “Don’t give up, stay positive and keep going no matter how hard it is. There is light at the end of the tunnel.”
WHAT IS PTSD?
It affects one in three people who have experienced trauma and can develop immediately or weeks, months or even years after. Symptoms include panic attacks, sleep problems, nightmares, flashbacks and feelings of isolation and guilt. Some suffer depression, anxiety and suicidal feelings. Treatment includes cognitive behavioural therapy, antidepressants or eye-movement desensitisation and reprocessing. Sue Cowan-Jenssen, psychotherapist at London Psychotherapy and Trauma Centre, says: “The problem with PTSD is that the brain and the body do not realise that something is over so they continue to live as if it is still happening.”
Thanks to Tara and Jaime Hodges for sharing their story; Ruth Addicott for writing the article; Express for committing its resources to publishing the article; Google for helping me find the article; and all the other people who, directly or indirectly, made it possible for me to include the picture and text I used in this post.