Physical Appearance Does Not Define

Physical Appearance Does Not Define

by Kealee Hohmann

I am Kealee Hohmann. A confident, courageous and ambitious woman who works in the construction industry. However, physical appearance does not tell someone exactly who you are or what you have been through. I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in May of 2020. I was involved in a traumatic car accident, with some of my friends, while on vacation. It was one of those accidents where I heard constantly from medical professionals and first responders: “it is rare we see an accident this horrific where there are no casualties”. I know that statement is dark, but that was my reality. That sentence haunts me to date. I kept thinking to myself: why was I the lucky one? People die in car accidents every day. I truly felt guilty to have survived.

It was Memorial Day Weekend of 2020; my friends and I were in a lifted truck that got t-boned by a small four-door sedan that blew a stop sign. I was in the back-row passenger seat, right where the car hit us. By the time my brain processed the fact that we were just hit, the truck was midair. We began to roll… over and over and over again. By the time the truck stopped rolling, my body was in complete shock and obviously pumping with adrenaline. All I saw around me was an immense amount of dust from the airbags. It was at that moment that I pinched my leg. I was not sure if I was still alive.

I felt no pain at this point. We all sat in silence for a minute, which felt like eternity, and we finally attempted to get out of the crushed vehicle. All of the doors were pounded in, they were impossible to open. I tried kicking a door open with all the strength I had but failed. Thankfully, we were able to rip one of the airbags down and climb out of a broken window. Once I was out of the truck, I realized my cell phone was missing. It was one of those terrifying moments where I just wanted to hear my parents' voices. I slowly walked back towards the truck and there it was, sitting perfectly on the back seat. To this day, I truly believe a guardian angel had placed it there for me.

Ambulances, fire trucks, and police officers all arrived on the scene minutes later. The pain in my neck and back started to gradually get worse. My adrenaline was going away, the fear kicked in, and I started to cry. I had never been so scared. Thankfully everyone involved was okay, physically anyway. My neck and back will always have limited mobility, but with the severity of the accident, I’ll take it.

After the accident, I began to experience nightmares, flashbacks, panic attacks, intense fear, depression and unexplained anger. I kept it to myself for a few weeks, until one day… I heard sirens…Loud sirens…My whole entire body shut down. I was shaking, crying, and frozen. I could see it all again: the smashed truck, the flashing lights, and being stuck in the vehicle. It was at that moment I knew I was not okay. I took it upon myself to ask for help.

I found the best therapist I could have asked for. She inspired me to get better and never give up on my fight. Working with her, I was able to change my mindset and fight through my trauma. One thing she told me stuck with me, “You can’t change what happened to you, but you can change how you look at it”. Obviously, this is easier said than done. It truly was an uphill battle and after a couple of long months, I was able to view my traumatic accident in a positive light. I was able to do this with the help of Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR). I was able to utilize this tool virtually and it truly changed my life. This is a type of therapy that helps retrain your brain to view situations differently, and in my case, it was trauma.

Now, I see life as a gift. God allowed me to survive a horrific accident. I am not “lucky”, I am blessed. I am inspired to help others that are dealing with the effects of PTSD. I have hope that sharing my story inspires others to share their story. The ADAA website provides incredible resources about PTSD that I found extremely helpful to read through. Always remember: it is okay to not be okay and physical appearance does not define.

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