Sarah Doan Peace is amazing.  Having been born with vater syndrome and after 35 surgeries and years of serious medical challenges, Sarah is finding her voice as a speaker and advocate for others that share her experience.  Sarah’s honesty and willingness to openly share her story and struggle are educational, enlightening, and inspiring.

Medical PTSD

While not yet officially recognized in the DSM, medical PTSD is a term used to describe the aftermath of having been through traumatic hospitalizations and major life-and-death medical issues, especially when an ICU stay or coma has been part of the picture.  The trauma of watching a loved one go through life threatening medical situations can also contribute to the development of medical PTSD.

Medical PTSD Triggers

Medical PTSD manifests in both depression and anxiety. The anxiety triggers associated with medical PTSD include situations where control is limited, being in an environment where masks or other medical equipment are prevalents, or even the smells and sounds of a hospital. For Sarah, even the sound of a heartbeat can trigger anxiety and panic based on her serious medical issues and experiences.

Refusing To Hide

The tide turned for Sarah when she stopped hiding from her fear, and stopped hiding her fear from others.  Speaking up, sharing her fear and her fragility with others, and facing her fear directly represented a major shift in mental mindset.  Sarah was able to leave the trauma victim mindset behind and embraced the idea that while she was experiencing bad memories, she was safe now, and able to exert some control over the direction she went in the face of adversity.

Learning To Be In The Moment

Sarah spent time learning and honing the skills of mindfulness and living in the moment.  She put in the work, and is reaping the rewards  – being able to separate traumatic memories from what she’s facing at any given time in the present.  She acknowledges that this is difficult to learn, and that she is committed to practicing this every day as part of our routine.

Complacency Was Not An Option

At some point, Sarah decided that losing another day to fear was no longer an option.  Fear based both in trauma and on legitimate current medical challenges has to be faced directly in order to improve her life.  Having made that choice, Sarah acknowledged and spoke her fear, then went directly toward it.  Along the way she learned that she was not only healing her body, but also her past medical trauma. Of note is her description of remaining present in the moment while being prepped for her last surgical procedure, and even actively engaging every member of the medical team when arriving in the operating room. Its a textbook example of living presently!

Learn The Tools – USE The Tools

It was hard to stay seated and not jump up and fist pump when hearing Sarah talk about not only making an effort to LEARN tools and coping skills, but also making a concerted effort to USE her tools!  This is where so many people fall a bit short.  Knowing what to do, and actually doing it, are two different things.  Kudos to Sarah for understanding this and making the effort to put theory into practice.

What’s Next For Sarah?

Sarah has so many exciting things ahead for her.  She sees her experiences as a gift and is willing to share them openly to help and inspire others that are experiencing similar problems.  She’s studying public speaking, appearing on podcasts to share her story, and is embarking on a new career as a public, motivational speaker.  If anyone is going to get the job done, it would be my new friend Sarah!

To find Sarah online, visit https://sarahdoanpeace.com.

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Podcast Intro/Outro Music: "Afterglow" by Ben Drake (With Permission)






Founder and host of The Anxious Truth podcast. Graduate student and therapist-in-training. Author and educator on the topic of anxiety disorders and anxiety recovery. Former anxious and depressed person.