Update Part III – Mental Trauma


First of all, I want to thank everyone who connected with me over email to give me words of encouragement, a warm hello, or ways to help in my journey.  It has truly been a blessing.  You don’t know how much that helped me in my time of depression and pain, just by keeping in touch.  Those emails meant the world to me.

This has definitely been the most challenging time in my life, health-wise.  With all the surgeries, hospital stays, doctor visits, emergency visits, and complications that have come with this one accident; I have been overwhelmed, frustrated, depressed, and frightened.

It is astonishing to me how much your health affects everything else around you.  Not only physically, but emotionally and mentally.  The last blog I wrote, I was at a very low spot in my life.  Since then, things have picked up.

I’m using a walker outside of the house now instead of a wheelchair and inside my home I am transitioning to a quad cane for most of the day.  I even got out to visit with Merlin this past weekend and it warmed my heart. He is such a blessing.

Next week I have a few more tests to hopefully resolve most of the complications and one more surgery to remove an obstruction in my small intestines.  I’m hopeful that everything will work out perfectly and I’ll be up and around again the following week and able to eat solid food again.

Now, I’ve talked about the physical and emotional aspects of this accident in previous blogs.  But today I want to touch on the mental aspect that this traumatic event has developed within me.

Being a Psychologist and a Behavioralist, I have read and learned about lots of situations like PTSD, anxiety, depression, and fear.  I have also had patients that I’ve helped through these situations.  But I have never experienced them to this degree in my life.

The depths that I’ve experienced with this trauma have touched me to my core and have shown me a world I never knew existed.  One that no one ever wants to be a part of, and one that is so hard for normal people to understand.

“My brain and my body are not listening to each other”…

The majority of people learn to crawl, walk, run, and jump when they are young.  These movements then become automatic and you don’t have to think about the mechanics of how to walk.

But when something severe and traumatic happens your brain can become disconnected from your body.  They stop talking to each other and the things that were automatic and “second nature” no longer work the same.

I’ve also learned that communication between the brain and the body goes both ways.  So not only is my brain not communicating with my body, but my body has stopped communicating with my brain.

It is the strangest thing in the world and I never would have thought it was possible.  But now I understand a lot more.

When my husband had a severe traumatic brain injury I learned a lot about how to help him and what he was going through.  Now four years later and he is mostly healed there are still a few issues.  They all are because his frontal lobe is permanently damaged.

Before I had my own experience with severe trauma I thought my husband had become extremely lazy and it frustrated me as he used to be such a headstrong, go-getter, who accomplished anything he set his mind on and was not afraid of hard work.

I’ve since realized he isn’t lazy now, but that the disconnect between the brain and the body is causing him not to be able to do things.  Even simple things can be difficult for him.  He will tell me that he is going to vacuum the living room today, but for some reason, it won’t get done for another week or more.

He has the desire to do it today, he has the ability to do it today, and he truly believes that he is going to get it done today.  But that is his mind thinking about the task.  His body isn’t listening to his mind and just can’t get it done today.  Eventually, he will do it but he has to force his body to do the action of vacuuming.

I’ve seen this happen within myself as well.  I have a strong desire to get something done, I have the ability and the resolve to get it done, and I have the time to get it done.  However, for some reason, my body says NOPE.  It’s so frustrating when you want to do something and for some reason, you just can’t seem to get it done because your body just won’t move forward and do it.

Let me give you two examples:

Brain to Body –

As you know from past blogs, every bone in my left leg was broken in a freak accident and the bottom of my knee was pulverized.  After two major surgeries, I was laid up for 3 full months without being allowed to put any weight on it.  Then after another month of lightly putting weight on that leg, I was able to go to an outside physical therapist for help.

During my first session, the physical therapist asked me to move my leg in certain directions to evaluate my condition.  When I was sitting down with my legs outstretched, she asked me to pick my leg up.  Nope!  It would not budge.  My brain kept telling my leg to move, even a little, but nothing happened.  I couldn’t believe it.  I could move my toes and my ankle, but my leg didn’t even twitch.

I just chalked it up to my muscles not working yet and being too weak to lift my leg.  Then a few weeks later when I was able to stand on that leg with full weight and I was told that the bones had healed, my therapist asked me to pick up that leg on a step.  Again, my leg said NO.

This time I couldn’t chalk it up to weak muscles as I could pick my leg up during other exercises.  It was the act of putting my leg on to the step that my body refused to do.  For some reason when asked to do this, my leg wouldn’t even budge.

My brain could tell my leg to lift for another exercise, but when I asked it to step up on the small step it refused to move at all.  Nothing.

My therapist asked me if there was something wrong and all I could say was “I’m telling my leg to move but it won’t”.

She said that she had seen this with severe physical trauma.  It’s the Muscle Memory.  The muscles remember the trauma and the motions that caused the trauma and it keeps the body from duplicating the injury.

I can appreciate that my body is protecting itself, but it’s so strange when you ask your body to do something and it just freezes.  It was like having two entities in one body that didn’t like each other.  My body was not only refusing to listen to my brain, but it seemed to not trust my brain.

Here’s another example going the other way.

Body to Brain –

Because my body was in the process of healing, my nerves were still not working.  I was told that in the process of healing, the bones heal first, then the muscles, and lastly the nerves.

My physical therapist told me that this is the body’s natural way to heal so everything heals first before the nerves start back which lessens the amount of pain the body feels.  I love to hear how the body has its own way of protecting itself and healing in an orderly fashion.

The only problem with this process is that the nerves communicate with your brain to tell it where your body parts are in a spatial comparison.  So because of this, it was difficult to walk and move my leg.

I had to concentrate really hard and watch my leg intently when moving.  Basically telling my leg what to do and how to do it every step of the way.  If I couldn’t see my leg to tell my brain where it was or how high to lift it, it didn’t work at all.

There were a few times while trying to walk with a walker, my brain started to think about where I was going or got distracted and my leg stopped moving.  I tripped a few times as my leg would drag or it would trip when my brain got distracted.

 It was a constant argument or discussion between my brain and my leg.

It is so strange to have a leg that looks like a leg but feels like a plastic doll piece that I can’t always move properly.  Besides the disconnect between my brain and my body and what that entailed, there was something far more sinister underneath it all… The Fear Factor!

But I’ll discuss that part in my next blog.

Until next time, have a great weekend, stay safe and Happy Horses!


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