Case Study: EMDR Treatment – Chris
Chris developed severe PTSD after being struck from behind by a lorry while on duty as a Police Officer. Despite having no memory of the actual incident, Chris underwent an EMDR and rewind therapy combination and ‘got his life back on track’ and was able to return to work.
“In November 2020 I left for work as a Police Officer with the expectation of returning home later in the day to my wife and two young girls, unbeknown to me the impact of the events of the day would have on me and my family for the future.
I was deployed with a colleague to the A1 due to a broken down lorry blocking lane 1 of the carriageway. I arrived on scene and closed lane 1 by placing cones and signs warning other motorists of the lane closure. After speaking to the lorry driver it was clear it could not be moved and recovery would be needed to clear the carriageway.
Whilst waiting for the recovery truck, my police vehicle was struck from behind by another lorry whose driver ignored the lane closure and drove through the cones and smashed into the back of the stationary police vehicle I was in with my colleague.
I have no memory of the actual crash other then flash backs of a white lorry and the fear of Mercedes badges. This image is ingrained in my head and through therapy I have come to the conclusion that I may have seen in the rear-view mirror the white lorry and Mercedes badge filling the mirror just before impact.
I woke up late in the evening on the Major Trauma Ward at The Queens Medical Centre, Nottingham in a lot of pain to my chest and being told by a nurse that I had been involved in a collision and had multiple fractured ribs and a broken back. I initially panicked and it was at this point the nurse realised I was ‘compos mentis’ (after previously being stuck in a 5 minute loop due to sever concussion) so she explained to me what my injuries were.
My injuries were 2nd and 7th left rib fractures and 11th right rib fracture. Fractures to my spine on the L2,L3 and L4 transfer process and left thumb fracture and tendon damage. I also had severe concussion that resulted in memory loss, which is still not as it was. I also had numerous bruises all over my body and head.
Despite the extent of the injuries, it was not my physical injuries that have given me the greatest problems – but the mental ones to which I am still recovering from and resulted me being off work for 8 months.
I became extremely anxious and unable to control my moods or emotions which caused me to get angry with myself and the situation I had been put in. I had angry outbursts to the point I self-harmed by punching walls with my already injured hand that was totally out of character. Shortly before the crash I can recall thinking that I was in the prime of my life having a loving wife with two young children, a nice home and work, but all this had been turned upside down and put a great deal of strain on my relationship with my wife until we realised what was going on.
I returned to work in February 2021 only lasting two weeks before quickly realising something wasn’t right with my mental state and I could not pretend any longer that everything was ok. I was getting totally overwhelmed with mundane things and could not tolerate noise. I was always on the edge feeling like I was always trying to catch my breath and tired due to not sleeping well because the crash was constantly on my mind and evasive thoughts. I kept thinking that if I had of died my wife would be a widow and my youngest daughter would have no memory of her father as she grows up with her only being two years old, this I found really difficult to deal with and upsetting even now. I went off sick again and spoke to my doctor informing him of the issues I was having. I was referred to the mental health team where I was diagnosed with severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and prescribed medication.
I received trauma specialist counselling arranged by work which included Eye Movement Desensitisation Reprocessing (EMDR) and rewind processing. I can remember being a little pessimistic about counselling at first and thinking that I would only need a few sessions and I’d struggle to talk for a full hour, I also didn’t believe that by tapping or following a pointer left to right would make me feel any better. However my counsellor quickly put me at ease and explained why I felt how I did and what my body and mind was going through being stuck in fight, flight or freeze due to the trauma I had experienced.
My counsellor gave me two pulsars that I held in my left and right hand that vibrated left to right. I was asked to talk about the crash and the feelings that I was having which caused my issues. After talking about the crash I would always finish the sessions with happy thoughts or safe place including my family and daughters growing up and holidays that I really enjoyed. I found it difficult to talk about what had happened, I also found it difficult because of not having memory of the crash. However even though I could not remember the crash I was getting all the feelings including fear and anxiety because what had happened to me was buried in my sub-conscious memory. I found that the pulsars left to right in my hands helped calm me down and found it easier to talk about what had happened.
I then did another kind of therapy combining both EMDR and rewind-processing technique, I found this treatment very good and quickly felt released from the constant heightened state I was in.
During this session my counsellor asked me to visualise a remote control with a play, stop and rewind button and then visualise a TV screen in my head. I was then asked to press play and watch myself from the start of the crash when I received the radio call to attend the A1, driving to the scene up to the point I could remember and then press the stop button when I woke up at hospital feeling safe. I was then asked to visualise it all backwards in black and white. Whilst visualising the incident and watching it I felt anxious and my legs started to shake as if I was actually back at the scene. When I finished the session I could not believe how powerful the treatment was in processing what had happened to me. On the second session of doing the rewind technique and EMDR I physically jumped and tensed up at the last memory prior to the crash and realised my body reacted to the memory of the crash.
Once my counsellor knew I was able to bring myself back out of the session with positive thoughts and memory’s she asked me to do the rewind and EMDR combination once everyday at home with headphones and bleeps in my ears until I got fed up of doing it. When that happened after around two weeks I knew I had properly processed the crash and stored it correctly in my long term memory. I found this treatment so powerful in freeing me from my extreme anxiety and feeling constantly overwhelmed.
I returned to work in July on a phased return and now back on full duties doing a different role within policing. I have had a couple of flash backs since my return which caused my anxiety to increase but was quickly able to manage it with the new skills I have learnt with EMDR and rewind processing.
I cannot not express how much counselling, EMDR and rewind processing has helped me get my life back on track and able to return to work. The biggest challenge in recovery is admitting and realising you need help and then having the determination to beat PTSD to get your life back on track.”
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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.