When Medical Trauma Becomes More Than A Broken Leg

By: Kristen Smith, LMHC
Therapist, The Refuge – A Healing Place
I have worked in the field of trauma therapy since the mid 1990’s. As a survivor of spiritual, emotional, mental, physical and sexual abuse, I did not become fully aware of also having a medical trauma history until Friday January 9, 2015.   I was aware of my medical injuries as a child, yet not aware of their impacts.  As a five year old child, I had pulled a television set onto my legs breaking both of them. At seven years of age, I had my arm broken accidentally by my brother.  I have sprained my right ankle 14 times due to arthritis from the age of eleven.  These memories did not seem to affect me as my mother and father helped me through each one with nurturing love, something rare in my childhood home.

Several weeks ago, I was on a ladder dusting a shelf in my home, when I fell off the ladder shattering my heal.  I was rushed to the Emergency room and numerous  nurses and doctors and x-ray technicians spoke with me, asked the same ten questions, and all the medical care needs were quickly cared for.  It wasn’t until I returned home that night, when I was to use my crutches at our house door. I suddenly had an intense sense of fear, fear of falling.  I decided to crawl into the house to the couch.   The following days, my fear of this injury continued.  I became very attuned to the height of my furniture and even confused at my history of rollercoasters, parasailing and enjoying heights.  I became angered at my injury, frustrated at being off work, the impact this would have on my husband and my coworkers.

When I was given a blog to write, I felt this would have an impact on our treatment focus with our clients.   Many times, as individuals, we find life events take us to a space of our past,  a return, even if briefly, to a time where we felt pain, fear, sadness and as a burden for others. These emotions can become heightened during treatment at The Refuge.  It is my most recent and personal experience that reminds me and I hope my story reminds others, that we must always pay attention to our own and that of our clients’ daily experiences and reactions to these experiences.  It is with this awareness that we continue to heal ourselves and our clients and we must become aware that the effects of medical traumas are a piece in ones truths and their healing processes.