When I look back to where I was this time last year it certainly puts things nicely into perspective. I want to talk very openly about something that I am sure none of you reading this blog will understand or really comprehend, but sod that it’s good to get it out. Cathartic is the word! Right then, here goes….
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is something I am pretty sure you will all have heard of. PTSD is caused by a traumatic event that you then go on to relive later in your life, sometimes months or even years after the initial trauma. Your brain cant deal with this traumatic event at the time, so instead it stores it away and tries to work through and understand it later on. This is PTSD.
So despite my wife telling me I threw myself over her and said that everything would be ok when our minibus started to veer off the road after a loud bang, I am unable to remember this as my brain didn’t store it properly. It was too traumatic.
Of course, the subarachnoid haemorrhage I had sustained probably didn’t help, nor the Haematoma to the frontal and parietal lobes of my brain, nor the pettechial haemorrhages, or the 7 or so different fractures to my skull and neck. The diffuse axonal injury that I had (this is where the brain cells are torn to shreds and destroyed) wouldn’t of helped this. The sepsis (blood poisoning) that later came wouldn’t have helped either. Nor the MRSA. Even the sodding ringworm I got from the foreign hospital would have helped keep me too ill to recollect! C’est La Vie – as my dear old nan would say.
So for me, the early signs of PTSD included totally destroying my laptop, because I thought the police would come and get me and I didn’t want them to track my whereabouts online. I was severely paranoid and unwell, I was expecting a knock at the door at any moment. Night and day I was constantly petrified that I would either have a seizure (my chances had gone up following my brain injury) or worse, that I would get a knock at the door and be arrested and sent to prison for something I did not do.I was diagnosed with severe PTSD in November 2012. I couldn’t eat, sleep or handle any change to my routine, even something as small as a knock at the door. But I tried to hide it, not really understanding it myself.
I recall one night where Dani and her friends went out for the evening, and I was so paranoid something terrible was going to happen to them. I tried ringing them constantly, going out my mind with worry.
When one of her friends woke up Reese (who was a newborn at the time) I stormed into the kitchen and told them “well done! She isn’t going back to sleep now, thanks a lot!” None of them understood what I was going through, understandably, and one of her friends even avoided me for many months to follow, not agreeing with how I had talked to them on the night. I went on to vomit several times the next day.
The PTSD was gripping my existence and controlling my life.
The lack of understanding from the people around me was not their fault. Some SAS soldier’s leave the regiment and are so severely misunderstood it sends them mad, and they end up shooting someone, or believing their girlfriend is the devil and she is trying to kill them.
I’m pretty sure you are putting this down to being a huge WTF explanation, but only now, having gone through this extremely scary and lonely place, can I honestly understand how someone could be convinced of this.
It got to the point in my life where not even the closest people around me were giving me any understanding, I felt I was being treated like a criminal and I felt constantly racked with guilt, like I was doing something severely wrong. It was at this point that I really considered whether I could carry on living like this. I seriously contemplated another way out.
One thing that stopped me from wanting to do anything like that; nursing. The one thing that I would hate more than anything was to be a coward, to give up. I might be going through a bad time but there was no way I wanted to give up. This was honestly the thing that kept me from thinking about doing anything stupid. I hated the idea of being a quitter, and I had so much more I wanted to get on with.
It got to the point where so many bad things were happening to me, so many people were pushing me out (albeit unintentionally, and more in an emotional sense than a physical one), that I was starting to think that way. No one was helping or even acknowledging I had a problem. Then, the worse day of my life ensued.
The short story is this; I was the editor of the Student Nursing Times magazine, and my duty was to hand out an award at a very prestigious and televised event, hosted by the Nurrsing Times. It was everything I had dreamed of all my life, this was all I wanted and all I strived for, the moment had come.
The PTSD struck the night before, giving me unexplainable anxiety. I didn’t sleep all night and unfortunately I couldn’t give out the award. I had to watch the three other student editors go up to a huge applause from the 200 strong very reputable audience, including viv Bennett (Director of nursing at DOH) and Jayn Cummings (Director of Nursing for the NHS). I regret this more than I’ve regretted anything in my life.
So, the months go by. I get a taste for valium and booze, often together. I was now on my own, and had been for a long time. But in the end I was rescued, and I was offered help provided by the number one brain injury centre for rehab in the world, based in Cambridge, I was able to finally be treated for my BI and PTSD, nearly two years after my crash. I attended the four month rehab programme and it changed my life.
I learned how to live again. I learned how to depend on myself and myself alone, amongst continued misunderstandings and feeling increasingly ostracised from the people back home. I learned to find peace within the storm. I learned that I’m not such a hard and selfish bastard that constantly gets things wrong and upsets people at every turn I make. I decided to try and make a bit of a comeback. Enter, theme tune from Rocky.
I decided to lift heavy weights to get big and increase my stamina, I decided to challenge myself at every chance I got and I learned never to rely on anyone but me!
I decided to go out at every chance I got to increase my stamina, never turn something down and to never turn down a new challenge. The Nursing Times awards, or perhaps the failure of it, certainly did something to me. It made me completely and utterly fearless. It sparked something in me. So ferocious, so intense, so angry and driven and determined, that no matter what, no matter how hard life thinks it can be, no matter how much pain I go through on a daily basis, I promise myself that I will never be made to feel like I did on that day. And if that means three years of pain and increasing challenges, fuck it, I have no choice. In fact, I’m still pissed off about the awards catastrophe that I look for challenges to overcome now. Gonna jump put an aeroplane soon.
To conclude, I can tell you something about myself that has come about from these experiences that I definitely see as a positive; I no longer suffer from anxiety. In fact, I cannot remember the last time I was nervous. Not even on the first day of uni. I just don’t feel stress, pressure or nerves anymore. This is why I thank god for giving me that experience at the awards. On that night, it was definitely 1 – 0 to the devil, or fate or whatever you want to call it. Time to even out the score now I reckon.
It has also taught me that it was not anyone else’s fault that I felt the way I did. When you are born, a bearded man, God, Allah or the Elephant god do not hand you a manual on what to do after you have a brain injury, or how to deal with a loved one with a mental health condition. I’m not angry at any of my family, if anything I feel for them. They had to watch me go on this destructive path and were left standing helpless on the sidelines. I feel for them in that respect. They are also a big part of why I am here today.
So a bit long winded, a bit full on but I can say it was all written honestly. And most importantly it made me feel better, which is why I write a blog.
Thank you all for your kind comments about my blogs so far, it has made me feel really good. When you write an article or a story, praise is always welcome. But when you are writing about experiences that are so close to you, your honest feelings that have been so misunderstood for years and you’ve never really shared properly, it feels even better. I’m just glad I’m not ranting. Either that or you’re all just being polite! I promise to keep them shorter and a lot less heavy from now on. I just wanted to speak about this as I’ve been reading a lot about soldiers and PTSD lately, it’s out of my system now though.
On the point of ranting, I’ll finish with this: I was having a haircut today, the hairdresser lady spoke Spanish. She had used to live in Spain. I wanted to say something to her in Spanish that I had learned years ago –
“Tutiennes problemas?” I said cockily, feeling good that I had remembered it.
“Close. People will understand what you’re saying, even if it’s not said in the right way” She said.
“Think that’s just everyday life for me” I said.
It said it on the hat and I meant it. Hustle Hard.