Case Study: CBT Treatment – Holly
Holly developed PTSD after seeing her Dad who received fatal crush injuries. Following intense flashbacks and intrusive memories, she started CBT treatment which allowed her to become free from the effects of PTSD within 8 months. Here, Holly describes how CBT was hard, but how it allowed her to ‘start to live again’.
PLEASE BE AWARE: THIS CASE STUDY DETAILS SOME VERY TRAUMATIC INJURIES
“Even as children, myself and my siblings had a very traumatic childhood, there was violence, fear, alcoholism and neglect. However I always had a very good skill of taking the trauma, finding a positive from it and moving forward without dwelling on it. I used the trauma to ensure that my own child would never have the life I had growing up, and she would never feel those feelings of fear and neglect. My traumatic childhood always drove me to be a good citizen and strive for a better life. I was happy and living a life without stress and worry, I found positives at every angle and I was mostly just grateful to be alive.
In July 2020, I received a call from my step sister informing me that my dad had been working under a car, and the car had fallen off of the jack and crushed him. I was told to go straight there.
I remember driving into the road and seeing an air ambulance, three more ambulances and police cars in the street, there was tape cordoning off the entry to the back road that entered his property. As I got out of the car, I tried to run but my legs turned to jelly and felt like they would collapse. It was then that my step sister told me that he had already died. I could see my Dad lying there lifeless on the stretcher and the full extent of his horrific injuries.
In the days after, I was in total shock, I was sick every time I thought about what I had seen, I was having flash backs of his face as it was after the accident, many times a day. I wasn’t able to sleep for days, every time I closed my eyes I could see the image of his face with blood coming out of his eyes, nose and mouth and I could see where his skull was crushed, it was very visual and disturbing and I was constantly reliving it. I had several panic attacks, I also had disturbed senses too, every time I heard a siren my heart would race, my legs would turn to jelly and I would feel like I couldn’t breathe.
I knew within just a couple of days, that I would need to ask for help, I didn’t have any positives from the situation (like I would normally try to find to cope with traumatic experiences) and I knew that I needed to be strong for my daughter as she would still need me to be the parent that I had been.
I contacted my GP and she carried out some assessments, gave me my diagnosis and I was transferred to the NHS service VitaMinds who put me on the waiting list for CBT. I was also given antidepressants to help with the anxiety.
My diagnosis was trauma induced PTSD.
My first few weeks of sessions of CBT left me tired and emotionally exhausted. I would have to talk about the event over and over in detail. This could be gruelling, however this was the best thing that I could have done, as before the CBT, my brain was shutting off and blanking out the events before this to try and protect me from the trauma.
I did find that talking about it openly and talking through my sensations experienced, such as what I saw and how it differed from what I was expecting really helped.
It really started to help me understand how my brain was responding to the event, and it helped me to feel like this was a normal (awful all the same) reaction for my brain, coping with such a horrific event. In time, talking about it became normal, I could talk about it without feeling like I was going to have a panic attack, and eventually I started to get my life back. I had CBT for around 3 months in total, and after three months, my symptoms started to go away. I was able to accept the situation and find a way to cope. I didn’t feel sick with fear when I thought about it, and I started to feel like I had a grip back on my life. I will never forget what happened, what I saw and the feelings I felt, but I was able to live my life again. I came off of my medication after 6 months, and I started to live again.
Once I had the CBT, I came away with coping strategies I could use, if I was to ever decline again. I started to feel like my old self, and I could start to find positives again. I still feel sad when I remember, I can still pull up the images in full detail, but I do not respond in a panic, I have learnt to accept this and move forward.
The most important thing I would say to anyone suffering with PTSD, is that you should never feel ashamed to have that diagnosis, or have those symptoms. You will get better with time, you will feel like yourself again. Take as much time as you need to heal, there is no limit. The support is there in your reach if you want to get better, you just have to reach out.”
Find out more about Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) can help PTSD and C-PTSD here.
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Treatments for PTSD
It is possible for PTSD to be successfully treated many years after the traumatic event occurred, which means it is never too late to seek help. For some, the first step may be watchful waiting, then exploring therapeutic options such as individual or group therapy – but the main treatment options in the UK are psychological treatments such as Eye Movement Desensitisation Reprogramming (EMDR) and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).
Traumatic events can be very difficult to come to terms with, but confronting and understanding your feelings and seeking professional help is often the only way of effectively treating PTSD. You can find out more in the links below, or here.