The morning is silent. Even the usual distant traffic noise of the rush-hour mayhem is hushed. The busy road that runs through the village no longer channels the speeding cars and lorries that habitually thunder through this small village.
My village is closed to traffic. Vehicles that thought to pass through have become temporary residents, resigned to delay.
A little while ago, there was noise. Sirens blared their warnings in a life-or death dash to reach the scene of the accident. They sounded too many and too close for comfort… and the local radio’s news page confirmed that three cars and at least one lorry had been involved. People are being cut from vehicles and, at this stage, that is all I know.
Except that my family is safe. I called them to make sure… the son who drives that way to work, his partner and my granddaughters who must, like me, drive that way to get anywhere. Reassured that those I love are safe, I sit in this strange and isolating silence and try to breathe. Old fears, already stirring after a weekend when one son went temporarily ‘off radar’, finally get the upper hand. My head pounds, my chest hurts and I shake as searing memories mingle with illogical ‘what ifs’.
I pray for those who are caught in this tragedy, waiting for the first departing siren that tells me that someone has been recovered alive and is on their way to hospital. It seems odd to sit here, apparently detached, while lives are held in the balance just moments away from my home. I feel the need to do something, even if it is only bear witness to an event unseen.
In every town and village, people are being born and leaving the world all the time, but when lives are ripped apart suddenly and violently, it is a different thing altogether. Unnatural. Shocking. And it is not only the lives of those caught in the immediate tragedy that are rent or scarred… the ripples run wide when violence strikes and the invisible damage can last a lifetime.
I know that all too well. Part of me laughs at myself. It is typical that we indulge our emotions once a perceived crisis is over and not before. We react to need first and panic later, usually when there is no longer any need. But that reaction is a necessary release and is a step towards healing.
Part of me acknowledges that some things never wholly heal, even when you think you have them sorted. I sit and write to regain focus and control. Force myself back to the present to stop the claws of old terror twisting my gut. There is no real cure for PTSD, no matter how it is acquired. There are only strategies that allow you to live with it, bury it, circumvent the worst of its potentially devastating effects. Most of the time.
Tinnitus wails in my ears, drowning the silence in self-defence. The newly cleaned floor smells of hospitals and I try to drag my mind back to the screen, away from the endless waiting beside the bed for some sign of life…
The dog barks at the cloud of starlings raiding the bird seed, calling me back. I can hear the first faint sounds of engines. Two hours have somehow passed since the sirens. The news says a man had been trapped and cut free, at least two people injured, it says nothing of how badly. It tells little of what they may yet suffer.
I stand at the door and cuddle the dog, grateful for her presence and the sound of traffic.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder created by being involved in, or witness to, severe or life-threatening and traumatic events. It is much misunderstood by the general public and can pass unnoticed by health professionals as many of its initial symptoms are those of a normal and predictable reaction to the trauma.
The difference between normal reaction and PTSD only becomes apparent when the symptoms persist with no amelioration or continue to increase. They can be intense, isolating and debilitating and they can last a lifetime.
Modern counselling methods can be exceedingly effective in dealing with the symptoms and giving the sufferer back their life. Support and understanding from friends and relatives is invaluable.
If you or someone you know may be suffering the effects of PTSD please seek help from your local health professional or through one of the many specialist organisations. Support on both professional and personal levels make a huge difference and there is light at the end of the tunnel.