Monday, 30 October 2017

LIFE: One year ago today our lives, quite literally, flipped upside down


One year ago today our lives, quite literally, flipped upside down. We were just coming off the motorway when another car decided that they also needed to be going that way too. Long story short, they crashed into the side of us causing our car to flip multiple times and skid across the road on the roof (read about the whole event here). When we finally came to a stop we were on our roof; I remember hearing Isabella cry once and then nothing. Nothing but my screams for her. Those moments will forever haunt me. Luckily, after what felt like a lifetime a member of the public had managed to get to her through the driver's side (bearing in mind she was upside down) and get her out. A few minutes later a quick response ambulance arrived, followed closely by two fire engines, two ambulances and ten police cars. The whole motorway had to be shut for some time and we were taken away in the ambulance.


One year on and I'd love to say this was all just a distant memory now, but that would be a lie. Thankfully Isabella doesn't remember anything about it because she was only nineteen months and my husband has moved on from it. However, my experience is very different. I had a cut on my knee that needed stitches and has now left a scar, which acts as a constant reminder of what happened. But that aside, it is my mind that has truly been affected. The car crash has triggered anxiety like I've never had before; a whole new level of panic and terror on a daily basis. 

Every single day I am haunted by what happened, which has resulted in my world becoming very small. I am now too scared to drive on larger roads, every trip I do make has to be meticulously planned and it has therefore had an impact on my social life. I am aware that from my blog and Instagram you wouldn't be able to tell anything was 'wrong'; I'm having adventures with my family and days out with my daughters. But what you don't see is the sheer panic, the crying, the mental battle I've had to go through to push myself out of my comfort zone and the horrible thoughts constantly flying through my head. That's the thing with anxiety (and any mental health issue for that matter), it can't be seen.

I've lost count the amount of times I've had to make up excuses or directly refuse meeting friends thanks to my anxiety. It's embarrassing always being 'that one'. It's sad to think of all the memories I've missed out on. I hate missing out. It's annoying that I've let my mind win. But then there is a risk. Every single time we get in a car we are at risk. And those thoughts I just can't shift.

No one can tell me that driving isn't dangerous and there lies one of my biggest problems. A crash could happen again and next time we might not be so lucky. It's terrifying just thinking about it, let alone actually taking that risk. The way I see driving anywhere now is - do I want to go so much it is worth dying for? - obviously the answer is always no. This makes my world and my daughter's world so very small. During the working week we rarely leave our village because in my mind nowhere is worth risking our lives to visit. I know that sounds so extreme and the rational part of my mind says yes but thousands and thousands of people drive safely everyday. I would love to be one of those people who can just pop in their car and visit their friends or somewhere on a day out. But right now I'm not. 

A simple task, like driving to our local town (via small country roads) is something I have to build up to days in advance. I have to plan where we are going, what time we'll leave to avoid as much traffic as possible, worry about whether we'll get a parking space easily...all with that horrible worry feeling in the pit of my stomach and that annoying voice in my mind questioning whether the trip is worth it. I used to push myself outside of my comfort zone when I drove to work, going on A roads and a motorway each day. But since being on maternity leave I've not driven on a motorway; I'll simply take the much longer route to avoid them. But then I get anxious because the journey is longer and every minute you're driving there is a risk. See my problem?

In fact, in the past five months of maternity leave I've only filled up my car with petrol three times because I barely ever drive. I just hate it so much now. 

I hate how much it stops me from living the life I want to live.
I hate how it makes me an awful friend.
I hate how I miss out all the time.
I hate how much time I spend replaying the crash in my head.
I hate how when my husband is driving I spend the whole time gripping onto the door, 'braking' with my foot, warning him about the movements of other cars, constantly feeling on the edge of a panic attack, crying at the simplest of things and trying to tell myself that it will be ok.
I hate that I make excuses to not have to drive.
I hate that when I am too scared to drive it makes others drive.
I therefore hate that my anxiety puts others at risk.
I hate that it means my daughters miss out on experiences. 
I hate how trapped it makes me feel.
I hate that it makes something that should be enjoyable completely terrifying.
I hate that I am now having to take time away from my children to have therapy.
I hate how much I hate it.

If you're one of the friends I've made excuses to or turned down an invitation for a day out or asked if you wouldn't mind coming to mine again, then I'm really sorry. I'm sorry that I let my anxiety get the better of me.

I've now started a journey to try and change; try to once again be the person I was before Sunday 30th October 2016. I'm currently having Exposure Therapy, which terrifies me because who wants to be exposed to their biggest fears? Quitting has already crossed my mind so many times. But I also know I need to give this a try because I want to feel 'normal'. I want to get in my car and drive anywhere I want. I want to be free.

Helen x
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23 comments

  1. Helen I’ve never commented on one of your posts before but I just feel like I have to. I can’t even begin to understand what you must have been through in the past year. I read your original post about what happened and it brought tears to my eyes. The way you feel since it happened could not be more understandable and I know I would feel the same. You should feel so proud of yourself for going to exposure therapy. I hope it helps to ease how you are feeling, be kind to yourself xx

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    1. Thank you so much - it's not been a nice year on the anxiety side of things, but am hoping to find peace with what happened soon x

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  2. Such a brave post. It takes a lot of guts to admit how horrible events like that affect your mental health - the expectation is always that you just shake it off. I think people rarely do though. I hope the therapy will help you - it sounds very difficult what you have been going through the last year.

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    1. It's true and I so wish I could just 'brush it off', but unfortunately my brain seems to think otherwise. Fingers crossed not for much longer though :) x

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  3. Oh Helen what an awful lasting impact, at first reading this I was thinking 'Oh it's all fine, everyone has come off unharmed, how amazing' now I see that the mental battle it has left you with is at least as disabling as any physical injury. I do hope that you can continue to fight emotionally for the freedom you so want for you and your family. Anxiety is so horrid.

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  4. Don't beat yourself up too much about this. What happened was not your fault and how it's left you feeling is not your fault. Be kind to yourself and I wish you all the best with the therapy #TwinklyTuesday x

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  5. Aren't you brave? Look at you, knowing your problem is a problem and taking the bull by the horns to make the change. I think you ought to be extremely proud of yourself. A year is a short time to recover but a long time for a problem to grow. So cut yourself some slack - do the therapy but don't be hard on yourself if it takes a little time. I think this is a couragous post with a lot of insight. And I say GO GIRL! You've got this! It may never be 'easy' for you but you absolutely will stop missing out. Because that's what you want. For you, for your husband and for your daughter.

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  6. Oh my goodness! That is frightening. I can totally see how that would put you off driving I am scared of driving because I think other people can be so unpredictable on the roads!!

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  7. Helen, what an amazing, shocking and inspiring post. I'm really moved by your bravery. I hope that you manage to fully move past your anxiety. Thanks so much for sharing. Chris (Out Of Depth Dad)

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  8. This has bought a tear to my eye. I’m so sorry you had to go through this and that you are dealing with the effects now. Thank goodness you are all ok. You will get through this. Keep strong my love x

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  9. Oh my Helen, I am so sorry to read this. I can only imagine what you went through and how you must still be feeling. I am glad you all OK and hope you can get through this very soon x

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  10. Oh hun so sorry to hear about your crash and the long term psychological effects that it has created. But just know this, you made it out alive, you are a survivor and a fighter. You can do it, stay strong and never be afraid to reach out to anyone of us if you need to talk x

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  11. What a horrific story, I am not surprised you do not want to drive. I had a nasty car accident when I was pregnant with Kian and it took me a good few years to be able to get in a car confidently again. I hope you find your peace with it

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  12. I can relate. I was involved in an accident some years ago. Still not recovered mentally.

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  13. *big hugs*

    You absolutely have not "let your mind win", though - you've recognised that this is impacting on your life and you're taking big, brave steps to change that.

    In the mean time, it won't do the kids any harm to stick to a small geographical area. We hardly ever leave our neighbourhood because I don't drive and the buses are extortionate, and I swear to you that Matilda isn't missing out - there are some glossy Instagrammable moments we don't have, but as long as she has friends and fresh air and plenty of play, she is happy. Your girls are happy, too. They have a mother who loves them. You're doing great. x

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  14. Oh goodness, what an awful experience. It must have been terrifying. I’m so sorry this happened to you and also so sorry to hear about the long lasting effects. I really hope the therapy helps. Have you also tried yoga? The breathing exercises really help me. I was in a much less serious car crash where a woman drove into the side of us and found it so hard to get into a car, like you, if I was a passenger I would find myself stepping on the imaginary brake etc. The breathing techniques really helped calm me. X

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  15. I'm so sorry to hear about what you went through, it is completely understandable that it would trigger such anxiety in you. I think anyone who went through the same would have anxiety on the road now. I have lived with anxiety for twenty four years now and survive only through copious amounts of CBT and a really great mental health team. Much love to you.

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  16. What an awful, awful experience. It's such a shame that it has had such a lasting effect on you but I can totally see why that would be the case. You must have been absolutely terrified and it's not something you can just switch off. You are doing amazing and I hope the improvements keep coming and that in time, it's just a distant memory. Sending hugs xxThanks for linking up with #TwinklyTuesday

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  17. I can't even begin to imagine how traumatic that accident must have been. I know it might not always feel like it, but you're winning. You're not giving up and that makes you a warrior x

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  18. What a scary and traumatic experience and I can totally understand what your so anxious and nervous about driving anywhere to far. Just take it each day as you can and I think the improvements you are making are great

    Laura x

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  19. I totally understand where you are coming from. I've not experienced anything like this but I think all the what if's would paralyse me. I really hope the therapy helps you

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  20. Keep going with your therapy hun, I really hope it helps! Anxiety is a strange thing but when you experience it you really do know about it and as you will probably know it's a lot more than just feeling a bit worried about something, it takes over your whole body. Anxiety came on for me a few months after having Grace, the last part of labour didn't go to plan then I had a few health issues after having her and it was triggered by all of that. I had to go on tablets because I was that bad, it was horrendous. They have really helped and I feel I can function normally again but it was worrying because I'd never experienced anything like it before. I think mine was more health anxiety after the issues I had and worrying about Grace not having me around etc because for me, going out and being around people helped me. I felt really needy to be honest and just wanted to be around my mom and dad a lot. I love them to bits but in general I'm not a needy person so that was strange as well. Thankfully things feel smoother now and I really hope the therapy works for you and things get better because I truly feel for you. This won't be forever though, things will improve! Sending love and hugs xxx

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