If you have Mental health issues it doesn’t mean you have lost the plot! Well I mean even if you have it really doesn’t not matter. I have always been a little odd.. loud… bubbly… people would definitely call me crazy, but that wasn’t the mental health issue I suffered from and still do battle with.
I was 17 and had passed my driving yes and purchased a car… YAY… a week later all that excitement and happiness was snatched from me and I was extremely sad and extremely angry. I was involved in a road traffic accident, nothing too bad but the consequences were what caused the smile to drop off my face and made my life and daily tasks that much more difficult to deal with.
Yes I suffered from physical injuries but I do not think that was worse than the psychological impact it has had on me. Until this day anxiety and panic attacks haunt me. This was meant to be my attempt to reach out to all of you… but part of me hopes that this’s will help me overcome some of the issues I face.
I am now 25 so evidently mental health issues don’t just disappear but that doesn’t mean you should give up. Unfortunately that wasn’t the first and last collision I was involved in. Once a vehicle rammed into my parked car and fled the scene which meant I had to endure the whole process of locating them myself and going to court and appearing as a witness. But I really did try to move on with things but it just kept happening. I was involved in a further road traffic collision this year and the driver was disputing liability even though she attempted to overtake three vehicles and ended up driving into the side of mine. What this driver doesn’t know and doesn’t understand is that this might be a little accident to her but to me it has taken me back to square one with my anxiety. So it may be easy for her to sleep at night but for me I can hear the crunch of metal in my ears and I can see her vehicle inches from me before the collision.
After my first accident I suffered from travel anxiety for two years and this meant I was unable to travel to unfamiliar places but I managed to have a new way of thinking after undergoing CBT and had an amazing therapist that didn’t rush me into anything
Unfortunately after my most recent accident I also underwent therapy but this time it was EMDR. I completed the course prescribed and was told I would have a call a few months later to see where I am. It’s now been way past that almost a year now and I still haven’t received the call. Things have been tough and some things have been harder to manage. A small thing can seem like a the biggest task ever and have such a daunting feeling and makes it feel like I’m carry the weight of the world on my shoulders.
So post traumatic stress sounds scary itself so when someone tells you that you have it it’s partially a relief to know that something that can be done about it but then part of me thought ‘am I that weak, how did I break so easily!?’ But that’s it… it’s the trauma… and each and every person reacts to trauma in different ways. It’s something that happens to someone unexpectedly and causes a flood of emotion… and yes emotion does include numbness!!
I’m not going to go through the definition of trauma or post traumatic stress disorder but what I do want to do is give you the tips that I have picked up on the way as sometimes it’s a little scary to go and see a professional.
So in both CBT and EMDR the core focus was to understand the trauma and understand what happened. I know my issues are vehicle related but like I said trauma is an unexpected experience and could be a number of different things.
One way of trying to get a grip and understanding of what happened is actually writing it down. You might find that at first your mind avoids certain aspects and that little by little you actually build on what you have written. The next step is actually reading it back to yourself… this is when the tears kicked in for me… writing things out felt pretty numb as if I had separated myself from what happened because I didn’t like the fact I was weak and vulnerable. It was the reading out loud that made the realisation kick in and it certainly wasn’t easy.
I remember the therapist that I underwent CBT with made it quite easy for me to understand she said we have two sections of the brain… usually an event happens in one section and then it goes to another section to be processed and then when another new event happens the same process happens again. But when a traumatic incident happens our brain struggles to process it and it just sits there and that’s why everything else in life becomes so hard to deal with because your brain is sort of struggling to keep up!
Once you have written it down you need to analyse the situation… how is it effecting you… how is the trauma interfering with your life… for example I stopped driving and to date I am a terrible passenger as I feel like if I am not in control of a vehicle then I am at a higher risk!
So the effect is a negative aspect but with all negatives there tends to be some positive even though it may be hard to think of it will be there somewhere… for example my accidents could have been a lot worse… even though to me it was a terrible experience it could have indeed been much much worse.
The next step is to overcome the avoidance… my first accident I avoided driving to start with but got back to it but I also could not bring myself to drive to unfamiliar places and it took me two years to overcome this. My recent accident may have had a greater impact on me because I avoided driving completely for over 9 months, I actually only got behind the wheel in a situation I couldn’t avoid… but I feel that I could have done it at a slower pace because now I tend to find myself suffering from anxiety on most forms of transport and constantly feel on edge in other people’s vehicles.
So whatever it is that you now feel you cannot do you need to go for it and believe in yourself! From experience I would say do it at a slow pace don’t rush into it!
To overcome all the other tensions that come along with anxiety or panic attacks is relaxation and I know from experience it’s easy to say go ahead and relax and a million times harder when you try to do it! I like to zone out and do something for me… watch my favourite program… make myself a drink…
Or some people actually find keeping active and maybe having a workout or going for a little jog or run helps because it releases those happy chemicals in your head… well something like that!
Just remember that sometimes you might not be able to do it all yourself… sometimes we need help and there is nothing wrong with getting that help from your doctor, a self referral scheme, a friend or even a family member.
Stay strong and be happy! =D