A Crash Course In Trauma Recovery

Shortly after I was hit head-on five months ago, I got a package of resources to help me through recovery from the Houston Chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). The book Crash Course by Drs. Diane and Laurence Heller was included, but I actually figured I wouldn't need it (you know, since I'm a counselor and I've got this!), so I tucked it inside my Hope Chest and kind of forgot about it.

In early April, I met with my MADD advocate who, after our visit, sent another packet of resources and guess what? Yep, there is was again. That blue book, staring up at me, begging me, daring me to read it. Once again, I put it to the side, this time in my office, because who knows when someone will come to me needing a resource on trauma recovery, right?

Let's just say that by early May, the trauma I'd been wishing away came crashing at me head-on and I found myself opening the pages of this resource I didn't want or, quite frankly, think I needed. And finally, how I'd been feeling started to make sense. From page 22:

When a body mobilizes its defenses in response to threat by either fighting, fleeing, or freezing, and then is unable to complete the response or to discharge those defensive energies, it is left in a state of over-arousal and disequilibrium. If not resolved, there are far-reaching implications for our health and well-being.

Fight. Flight. Freeze. Those are our three choices. 
Which one do you think this trapped raccoon has chosen?

Oh, he undoubtedly tried fight and probably flight, too, but by the time we found him in the morning, he was SO frozen that I thought he'd died. On our watch. And all we wanted to do was take him to a forest where he'd be happier! But once we lifted the trap, he sprung to life and went with my boys on his merry way into the woods.

More from Crash Course: Unfortunately many trauma survivors live with tremendous shame for having frozen in the face of danger when in actuality your body responded in the only way it knew how. When the freeze response occurs, it is a decision made by the reptilian brain as your best chance for survival in that situation. The fact that you are reading this is proof that it worked.

So here's what I'm learning about trauma. Our brain has this amazing smoke detector and alarm called the amygdala. Like the smoke alarm, its job is to alert us to danger and send out a warning signal. Unfortunately, also like a smoke alarm, it can't tell whether you're holding a match next to it to test it out or whether there's a full-blown fire. My poor, petrified amygdala was on overload and had me so hypervigilant that I wanted to never leave home again, just to be on the safe side.

So I've had to retrain my amygdala to quit going off and signaling danger at every turn. I've learned through counseling and reading to rely on therapeutic resources like water and walking, music and meditation, writing, resting, laughing and breathing, all the while slowing down and telling myself that 
I am safe. 

Author Ann LaMott says this: Rest and laughter are the most spiritual and subversive acts of all. Laugh, rest, slow down.

It's all a part of my recovery. 
To find myself again.
To feel my joy again. 
To be whole again.

Oddly enough, I have come across these interesting articles in the past month that I'm certain will help me personally as well as professionally:

And when nobody can seem to find me this summer, 
I'll probably be poolside or in the water


  1. Well, my dear Barbara:
    I think it's time for me to begin imagining a restored amygdala... and days filled with poolside efforts at relaxing, rejuvenating, resourcing, reflecting and recovering.
    Wishing you well, my Friend...

    Finding JOY in 6th Grade

  2. Thank you for sharing the candor in the "process" that is your journey back from the CRASH. I appreciate your resources from my personal perspective of cancer survivor. Just when I think I've made major progress in my own life's reclamation, I am surprised to find myself making a backward step.

    Resources are always a help.

    Wishing you well this summer in putting the pieces back together again. One step at a time. Splish-splash.

    Debbie Clement

  3. I pray your mind, body, and spirit find all they need and more during the next few months. Bless you.
    ❀ Tammy
    Forever in First

  4. I hope you have a restful and restorative summer! I know that you will find your way back and be even better than before! Thank you for sharing your journey!
    Sandi atLiteracy Minute


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