In terms of the labels that medical professionals have attached to me, I have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). I suffer or have suffered from flashbacks, nightmares, overwhelming feelings of dread or depressive thoughts. I’ve had the occasional intrusive thought and I can understand why someone would possibly take their own life. Thankfully I’ve never fully considered doing so
A lot of people think that PTSD is just an illness that affects military personnel, it isn’t.
I was the victim of an unprovoked serious assault which resulted in me nearly dying from blood loss and for years I bottled up all kinds of emotions and did all sorts of things in a bid to keep myself safe and deal with overwhelming anxious thoughts. I had these constant thoughts and fears that overwhelmed and dragged me down. I wanted the thinking to end. I wanted to stop feeling weak. I want the nightmares to stop; I wanted to stop feeling inferior. I couldn’t understand why I was continually re-experiencing flashbacks of the attack. I also suffered from panic attacks but I wasn’t aware of what these were at the time, I just felt like I was dying.
The biggest thing though was that I didn’t want to feel like a disappointment or a hindrance to my girlfriend at the time, my friends and my family.
All of whom I avoided and cut off due to my illogical thinking, I didn’t want them to see me like this.
It’s hard trying to capture the feelings and thoughts I had at the time due to the treatments I’ve undergone. I wrote to apologise to friends and family for cutting them off, to highlight my journey and to raise awareness of PTSD on my blog @weaselblogs on twitter and on Facebook. I think they capture the turmoil and crippling emotions of PTSD. Let’s just say I was a mess, my world was crumbling around me and I didn’t know where to turn or how to overcome all these thoughts and fears. I had so many fears because of the PTSD, I was scared to be on the streets at night, I couldn’t face busy pubs or clubs, couldn’t be on the streets when it was dark. I hated crowds, I couldn’t face situations where I felt trapped such as being on a bus or train.
My attack happened a few days before Christmas and a few days before my 27th birthday in 2007, I therefore hated the smell of winter, that coldness that lingers, the smell of frost. That’s the thing with PTSD sounds and smells can trigger it. I hated the build up to the date on which my attack happened. I could feel the anxiety and depression taking a grip and building up over the weeks. I was just a horrible person to be around. My world was about keeping myself safe and everybody else could bolt. Nothing else mattered. Eventually it all became too much for me and I went to my GP and said I couldn’t cope anymore.
I was so lucky, my GP was amazing, he supported me with the intrusive and suicidal thoughts I experienced until I began my sessions with my psychologist.
I can honestly say he played a huge part in where I am today and for that I will always be grateful. He’d fit me in for appointments in his own time as there was none available through my doctor’s surgery. He took time to listen and it was him who suggested that I may have a condition called PTSD.
3 months after the referral from my GP I met my psychologist. That first session was one of the worst but also one of the most important days of my life. I went in and sat with my head down for most of it. Here I was, staring at the floor, fighting a whole range of emotions and trying to explain what was going on in my mind.
She also suggested that I maybe had a condition called PTSD. We discussed the condition and went further into my thoughts and fears. I came out of that first session drained, yet for the first time in months I felt slightly better. I was still to be convinced that I could get better and that I wasn’t a failure or a hindrance but at least there was something wrong with me, I had a label. I’ve got PTSD.
I was given a treatment plan and I had to undergo cognitive behavioural therapy and face my fears.
I could write for days regarding my journey and conversations I’ve had and my experience of mental health issues, and you can read them here.
I’ve found that people are more supportive than you think, it’s more common than you think.
Don’t feel alone, there’s always some kind of support network, even if it isn’t friends and family, there’s all kinds of charities.
I still suffer from overwhelming periods of anxiety, but I have the skills to cope better with it. I’ll be open with my mates about it; they’ve been an incredible support to me. I don’t know if they fully understand it but they accept me for who I am.
I volunteer with Victim Support Scotland, helping victims, families and communities affected by crime. I’ve also done media work with Victim Support Scotland, speaking of my experiences. I’ve made connections with so many people going through similar experiences. I’ve used my illness in a positive manner to help others turn their lives around. I’m going into my final year of university in September and I will complete my undergraduate degree in Psychology. I then plan on doing a postgraduate degree and a PHD; I hope one day that I have the skills and ability to help others.
Most importantly, I’ve learned that I am not my PTSD and my PTSD is not me.
It can be my biggest enemy at times but it is also makes me who I am. When my anxiety or depression flairs up now, I look at what I’ve achieved and how far I’ve came.
I’ve won awards for my charity work. I’ve helped countless people and hope to continue to do so. I’m driven by a need to break the stigma around mental health conditions, but I think the most important thing is that I’ve gained some self-confidence and belief back in myself and the world around me. I hope the message that I put across is that, I once found myself in the most hopeless of situations and couldn’t see a way out of it, yet I have. There’s hope for everyone, even when it doesn’t feel like it.Back to stories