Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Thirteen years ago, I slid through a stop sign on a snowy morning while driving to work and was hit by a moving van. Traffic was slow, and I had plenty of time to see my future which clearly had my car and that van occupying the same place at the same time. I truly believed I would die.

All the side windows and the back windhshield shattered on collision. Amazingly, the front window and I remained intact; in fact, I was able to drive my car home.

Within months, however, I found myself gasping for breath while driving, convinced that a tumor in my chest was constricting my airway. I could no longer drive on the highway as I'd get dizzy and faint, feeling like my vision was constricting. I had persistent thoughts that the steering wheel would come off in my hands, or that the brakes would not respond to foot pressure. These panic attacks persisted until several sessions of behavioral therapy eased them up. I only now in this past year have returned to highway driving without using anti-anxiety medication. My heart still pounds and my mouth still dries up if I see a large truck come up behind or beside me.

Scientists are now finding out how long-term fear memories are formed, raising hopes that someday they may be able to block the residual effects of traumatic experiences such as PTSD. More tomorrow.

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