The Boston Marathon bombing, journeying beyond disability, the next day

Now as the horror of the Boston Marathon bombing fades in our memories, it will still be very much alive for the 260 people injured in that blast. Today they are confronting the real barrier in their journey beyond disability. They like many of us are angry at the bombers and do not want to associate with them. Many of them will choose to join in wanting to punish the family of the dead bomber. Some will not want him to be buried on American soil. For those harmed injured in the blast this can become an all-consuming passion. However, where will they be in five or 10 years if they continue to focus their energy here?
If they are to enjoy their lives in their new bodies they will need to let others deal with the bombers. When they allow their anger to persist the creative parts of their brains will not work as well. They will need creativity to help them learn new ways to live in their new bodies. However, stifling their anger will not help. This is where sharing their anger with others will help. In an ideal situation they will receive group therapy facilitated by trained counselors. In such a situation they will find that they are not alone in her anger and receive comfort and sharing that anger. Any nightmares or flashbacks will be accepted as part of the process. As they feel love and acceptance the negative emotions will be put to rest. They will gradually return to their former selves. But the former sells will be different they will have different bodies and different memories. Events will be able to trigger those memories. This is called posttraumatic stress.
This whole process is that of forgiveness. It doesn’t mean they will ever forget what happened. For those with major injuries they will be reminded of this event daily. They now have the task of making a new life in a new body. It is like becoming a teenager again in midlife. They will have to discover the capabilities and their limitations. Armed with that understanding of who they are they can now dream again of a future life.
How they transition through this second adolescence will vary. Most people with the self-discipline and determination to run a marathon will want to go forward. They think of themselves as capable and are willing to undertake seemingly superhuman tasks. It would be surprising to find any of them stuck in self-pity. True there will be times when they feel depressed and overwhelmed. Depending upon how much support they get from others this may be a serious stumbling block or just a normal passing feeling. Physicians and others involved in a rehabilitation program are aware of this hazard, and hopefully will intervene early.
I saw this problem frequently when I was caring for people with new strokes. After the shock of the diagnosis and some initial return a function, there was a realization that a lot of work lay ahead. We physicians realize that early intervention was helpful in the overall outcome. Some studies had shown that the routine use of antidepressants improved function at one year. Many people are not accustomed to setting lofty goals and working hard to achieve them. Thus, they are more prone to getting overwhelmed and stuck in depression than are people who would run a marathon.
What will the road forward look like for those injured in the Boston Marathon bombing? I hope to explore that in next week’s blog.
If you would like to comment or share this blog feel free. I know that forgiveness is a tough thing to achieve. Turning once focus from one’s loss to want future is critical to achieving a joy filled life.
As always, seek joy,
Coach Dr. Dave (MD disabled))

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