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Dear Dr. Debra,


A few days ago, my husband, children, and I were driving home when we were run off the road by what appeared to be two drunks.  Turns out they were high on PCP.  As they got out of their car, I called 911.  My husband (foolishly) got out of the car, locking us in.  I was scared to death.  The men attacked my husband, hitting and choking him.  I couldnít stand to watch, so I locked the kids in, grabbed one of the men by the balls and started punching and kicking him.  One took off, but the other started knocking me upside the head.  My husband went crazy when he saw me attacked, literally ripping the shirt off the guy.  They rolled across the hood of the car, and his head bounced on the concrete.  The guy wouldnít stop choking him, so I tried to pry the manís fingers off my husbandís throat.  I also hit him in the head.  Then the cops showed up, knocked the man to the ground, and used a Taser on him.  I, of course, ran to comfort my hysterical children.  My husband ended up in the hospital, but heís going to be okay.  We are all traumatized.  Is there anything you can suggest to help?


A traumatized mother




Dear Traumatized,


What a horrible experience!  I admire your bravery in going to your husbandís rescue.  Thank goodness neither one of you were seriously injured.  However, the emotional damage can linger for a long time.


As both a trauma specialist and a second-degree blackbelt, I will address your question from both perspectives.


I recommend that your family receive counseling right away from someone who specializes in trauma.  Trauma counseling is best done within 24-72 hours after the incident, but can occur any time.  The damaging effects of a traumatic incident are stronger when you feel your life and/or loved ones are threatened, and that was certainly your situation.


After your traumatic experience, you and your family members may have different emotional or physical symptoms.  These may happen immediately after the event, or days, weeks, or even months later.  Be aware that these reactions are a normal response to a stressful incident far beyond what anyone should have to cope with in life.


The following are some common symptoms following a traumatic incident: fear, anxiety, depression, guilt, sadness, numbness, feelings of being overwhelmed, and irritability (especially for men).  Mentally, you might find yourself having difficulty concentrating or making decisions.  You might make a lot of mistakes or feel forgetful.  You may have trouble sleeping or find youíre sleeping too much.  You may have flashbacks or nightmares about the event. 


Try to stay involved in your regular life, but make sure you have time to rest and relax.  Keeping to your normal routine helps you (and your family) feel your life has some sense of order.  Reach out to your extended family and friends.  Talk about what happened.  Make sure you all eat well and get enough rest.  Avoid excess alcohol consumption.  Vigorous cardio activity is important.  Take a brisk walk, run, swim, or bike ride.  These activities discharge the energy in the muscles activated by the flight-or-fight syndrome.


Pay close attention to any behavioral changes in your children, and ask their teachers to monitor them.  Allow the children to talk about the event as much as they want.  Encourage them to draw pictures about what they saw and experienced.  


Sign the whole family up for martial arts lessons.  This will give everyone a feeling of empowerment and a physical way for everyone to release the trauma in their bodies.  You also will have more practical ways to fight in the future, if you ever need them.  Martial arts classes are a wonderful way to get in shape, learn important defensive skills, and build self-esteem.


When you check out a studio, make sure they have a family atmosphere.  In my dojo, we teach the kids life skills such as respect, cooperation, doing well in school, citizenship, and leadership.  For all students, adults or children, the goal is to be the best person you can, not to be able to beat up someone, although thatís taught, too.  But only as a last resort.


Be patient and give each other a lot of love.


Take care,


Dr. Debra

Feel free to write me with your questions

Debra Holland, Ph.D., is a licensed psychotherapist who specializes in relationships and communication techniques.

To read previous 'Ask Dr. Debra' articles, please visit www.wetnoodleposse.com, where Dr. Debra is a regular contributor, or click here to view the archives.





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