At the start of last year I was preparing for my daughters 10th birthday. Life was good. Overall I was really happy. I had my routines, my work, my wonderful home and most importantly friends and family around me that bought so much love into my life.
It was a Friday and I had been out shopping to buy some last minute things for the birthday sleep over prep. When I came home and made a usual batch of soup, I had no idea my day was about to take a turn for the worst. An accident with the soup maker resulted in soup all over me and the kitchen. I rushed to the shower and spent a good twenty mins crying in pain trying to run the burns under the water. After weeks back and forth to the hospital and doctor, the burns on my hand were not healing. So a trip to the burns unit and further treatment was needed. I was already starting to struggle and the cracks were showing. I was dealing with doubt, pain, I lack of focus, a lack of sleep, limited social engagement and no exercise. All my usual tools had been thrown out of the window. I even eventually found I couldn’t meditate as the process would just focus in on the pain in my body and the anxiety I didn’t know I felt.
For months after I felt really unwell, dizzy, queasy, light headed, fast pulsed. At my lowest I walked out on lunch with a best friend just as the food arrived with no explanation. I thought I was going to pass out. After weeks of being unwell I had stopped socialising or going out unless I had too. I wasn’t enjoying life worried that some unknown illness was attacking my body, feeling unable to be there for friends and like I was letting everyone down.
I was encouraged to reach out to the burns unit and remember making statements like, “But it can’t be a mental health issue”, “I have been through so much worse in my life and it has not made me this unwell”, “I am such a positive and persistent person, it can’t have affected me that badly!”. I remember considering the symptoms I had and not being able to associate them with anxiety, my breathing always felt so well managed (having seen some panic attacks before I was assuming you needed certain symptoms) and I had a false sense of control when the anxiety attacks were worst, often pacing the floor trying to apply logic to the situation.
After being encouraged to just take the next step I continue down the path for treatment and was latter diagnosed with PTSD. At the time I was taken back, associating that condition with people that have been in very horrific situations. I learnt over the months that the cause of my PTSD was not just the burn or the treatment. But I also learnt that if it had been just that it was a totally warranted diagnosis. Our brains and worlds are such complex things sometimes they collide in a way that isn’t entirely helpful.
After months of amazing treatment, facing into a few hard home truths and diligently following the advice of my doc I am broadly cured. (At least for me that is a position I try to reinforce, I know I am a little more fragile and now the can has been opened I will never get the lid back on right, but I took the opportunity to add new tools to my mental health arsenal and I will never give up the continued development of a more robust, happy, healthy mind.
The take aways I wanted to call out is this blog are:
Ask for help – It is a sign of such strength to identify and have the courage to reach into issues. It can be scary and the uncertainty of treatment is sometimes unnerving but just take the next best step.
Don’t accept anything less that Great – It is so easy at times to feel things are just the way they are, but life is entirely in your gift to change, it may take time and it may take failed attempts and lessons learnt but you can and should be happy. If mental health issues of any kind are impacting you regularly do something about it.
Mental Health Issues are not a sign of weaknesses – If anything I increasingly believe mental health issues are a combination of genetics, circumstances and the vast unknown complexity and magnificence of the human brain. It takes strength, courage and persistence to strive for a healthy happy life.