The car accident didn’t literally break my back, but not too far off. The chronic nerve pain caused by the herniated disc was actually taking longer to sort out than a break to one of my vertebrae would have, and with that delay comes more pain.
The accident did however figuratively break my back. For the first couple of months I would state that the depression that had set in was solely caused by the accident and the impact it was having in my work life, social life and physical health. That this combination was responsible for my depression. I was correct in laying the blame for the anxiety at this door, but the depression had roots going back years as I have explored in earlier posts. This incident was rather the straw that broke the
camels Bears back.
I have never suffered from anxiety, and certainly never suffered anxiety attacks at any other point of my life. I have two main triggers;
1) Travel – given the situation with my injuries I cannot travel far or often, but obviously I still have to move around to different locations, whether that be to see family, the doctors, hospital or the supermarket. Unfortunately I can’t walk far, so I have to rely on lifts from my fiancée and friends.
Now I cannot pretend I have ever been a good passenger when my fiancée is driving… my foot would always spend most of the journey pushing my imaginary break in the passenger footwell, however I am now terrible. I am constantly petrified that we will be involved in another accident, and my injuries will be worsened leading to me losing the use of my right leg, and potentially my bowel and bladder.
That sounds far fetched and dramatic, right? You’d be forgiven for thinking that, and kind of correct. I would have to be hit in the same way with the same force to do such injuries, which should comfort my very logical and statistical mind set. But it doesn’t, not one iota. At times where there is a lot of traffic, approaching roundabouts, pulling out of junctions and joining dual carriageways all cause me a huge amount of stress and anxiety, often leading to hyperventilation / panic attacks.
2) Social settings – this one came as more of a surprise to me, and has really hit me hard. You’d almost expect anxiety when travelling following a car accident that had caused so much damage and pain, but social anxiety? I’m not so sure…
The first sign was an aversion to going to new places. I only wanted to go to places I felt comfortable with – places that I knew. My fiancée would try to take me out so I wasn’t staring at the same 4 walls all week. One of our favourite spots was a Costa Coffee shop a couple of miles from our house. Not overly glamorous, but comfortable and close! It was often quiet in there, only a handful of customers. The first time we went and it was relatively busy, I knew something wasn’t right. My chest tightened, the noise seemed to get louder and louder, and I was struggling to focus. My only thoughts were, “I need to get out of here, I need to be outside, I need my own space”.
I didn’t think too much of it that first time, it was probably a one off – maybe I was a bit poorly and it was just the heat or something. We left the shop quickly that day, but we didn’t let it put us off going out again, to Costa and to other places. I had the same symptoms a few more times, but to a lesser extent. I seemed to be able to control it at times.
That was until we went to a crowded bar one afternoon over the Easter period. It was a bank holiday so it was loud and crowded, I had the above symptoms along with the crippling sense of vulnerability. And that was it, the moment it clicked (well, a couple of days later), this was social anxiety, and it was being caused by the fact that I felt weak and vulnerable.
I know it is not a very “2019” appropriate thought, but whenever I am out with family, friends, or especially my fiancée, I need to know that I can protect myself and those I am with. Should things go wrong, that I could keep them from harms way. The problem I am now having is that I can’t protect them, I can’t even protect myself. One knock in my back in the wrong way and I’m buggered.
This has created a strange combination – one that I have since found is more common than I thought – of anxiety making me very on edge and “wired” at times, whilst the depression does the opposite and causes lethargy. This obviously means quite strange and rapid mood changes, and is absolutely knackering. The little energy I have is used up in those anxious moments.
The anxiety is sporadic and situational, but the depression is certainly a constant, and a result of the combination of incidents aforementioned; the passing of my grandma and my failure to grieve, my brother’s diagnosis and the uncertainty about his future, my constant and incessant search for a version of happiness, and obviously the car accident, amongst others.
The problem was that I couldn’t see this. I couldn’t remove myself far enough to analyse the situation and realise that there was so much contributing to the situation I found myself in. Pinning everything on one incident was easy, it made sense, but it was doing me no good. I wasn’t dealing with the underlying issues that needed to be addressed to make a lasting positive change.
And then I started this blog. I began to look at my life, right from day 1… or as near to day 1 as I could recall. All of these things came flooding back, I had found the key to my Pandora’s box, and I didn’t want to close it. There are millions of people walking this planet, suffering with mental health problems, some professionally diagnosed, some self-diagnosed and sadly those completely undiagnosed. Different treatments work for different people, whether it be prescription drugs or CBT or counselling. Sometimes you have to cycle through the treatments until you find the right one, and it can take time.
I have found my drug, my therapy, and it is this blog. I write it for me, to help me process and heal, but I also write it to try and let others know that It’s Ok To Talk. If I can get through to one other person, if I can help them in any way through my writing, even if it’s just planting a seed of hope, then that would be amazing. As men we are crap at admitting we are struggling. Well here I am. I am struggling. I have contemplated ending my life. But I have found a way through it, and you can too. Life is so precious and beautiful, give it another try.
If you are struggling or want to know more, please visit the links below: