Last year was a rough one for me, I learned that my grandmother had killed herself and witnessed a suicide, two traumatic experiences that shook me to the core, even as I was trying to process the loss of several friends, variously to Atos (a criminally negligent NGO, credited with the deaths of many people declared “fit for work” by them), depression and illness, and the other death I have witnessed, of a lady I’d just met in the local park, the host of a guided nature walk that ended in tragedy.
I’ve had a gut full. I thought I was coping. Then I noticed that I would randomly become morose, burst into tears, lie awake at night, lack motivation and most of all, experience fits of rage, stronger and more difficult to repress than I have ever experienced. Classic symptoms of what most people call PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). More recently, it’s been referred to as “mild traumatic brain injury”, because it permanently alters your brain, after witnessing something utterly horrific, your brain will never be quite the same again, sorry if you find that depressing, but it is a fact.
A less depressing fact is, that just like any other injury, you can learn to cope, you can learn skills to ward off the negative feelings, and mitigate the other symptoms too.
I’m fortunate, I regularly walk through the park, I can revisit the site of the first death I witnessed, I can show my irrational mind that death is not a permanent property of the park, and I live near the station at which I witnessed the suicide, I can see that there is no queue of people lining up to hurl themselves in front of the next express train.
So, now I’m largely in remission, I still twitch when express trains go through near my home and at work, I do feel a bit down occasionally, angry even, but I can suppress and manage my mood, I can look at what I have (and I know that I have a pretty comfortable, if not luxurious, life), and how things could have been so much worse.
But the one thing that has helped me, more than anything else, is knowing that now I can not only empathise with people affected by PTSD/MTBI, but that I have coping strategies in place I can pass on, and sure knowledge of what resources are available to people who have suffered trauma, I can direct them to professional help, but if they are unwilling to speak to professionals, I can at least offer them my experience, and assure them that they’re not mad, malingering or worthless, that they matter.
And that’s what keeps me going these days, the thought that one day I will be able to help someone, to make them think again before doing something drastic, to be a truly good person. I sincerely hope that this blog helps someone.
If you are suffering, please seek help, you can cope, you are strong enough, but you might just need a leg up, it’s not a bad thing to need help, and in accepting that help, you are in turn giving back to the person who is offering it, someone like me, who just wants the world to be just a little bit brighter and nicer, with you in it.
Useful numbers foe UK residents:
Time To Talk (Counselling service) can be reached on: 020 8206 8700 or 0207349 2400, or you can self refer via their website: https://www.take-time-to-talk.com/self-refer/self-refer_form/
The Samaritans can be reached on: 116 123.
Don’t struggle on alone.