Loaded with Codeine for the pain, I lay in the hospital bed wishing someone would turn the light off. I don’t remember much about the rest of that day but after a conversation with the doctor in which she insisted on the sleep inducing narcotics, it was clear they knew something I didn’t!
Ashen faced and with real fear in his eyes I found Lewis running through the corridors of the busy hospital calling my name. I’d got out of bed because I wanted to go home so I told the nurse I was fine, that I hadn’t hit my head and that I was leaving. The only other people I remember speaking to that day are the police, my boss (I told her I’d be back at work tomorrow) and my sister, Michelle. Thankfully no one could reach her after that phone call to Lewis because she had just broken her ankle and was in X-ray. I am not the only limping disaster in my family. By the time Lewis spoke to her he knew I was at least alive.
Coming round from a pain killer induced sleep, I wasn’t at home. I was on Lewis’s couch and not ready to be awake but there was something forcing me from my sleep.
Dazed and confused, there was a smell and a funny feeling in my stomach. Cheese on toast! I was bloody starving. Unfortunately I’m not one of those people who lose their appetite at the first sign of trouble. These people are weak. I eat when I’m happy, I eat when I’m sad, I eat when I’m hungry, often when I’m not, to be sociable, to be anti-social, when I’m drinking, when I wish I were drinking, after a rubbish day, after a great day and as it turns out, after I’ve been hit by a lorry.
So there I am completely off my face, crying about how much I am in love with this cheese on toast. With tears rolling down my smiling face I had a bit of a Lion King moment with my cheddary snack. I marvelled at how expertly the cheese had been melted and how perfectly it had been seasoned and at that point I decided I had bagged a keeper. I shovelled it in barely stopping to chew then got back to my drug induced coma.
The days immediately after were as traumatising as you would expect, but not just for me. My sister and her husband were the first ones round with flowers and snacks (there’s a theme here) and it was clear from her face that although she was trying not to show it, waiting for us to make the 150 mile journey home had been torture for her. She had switched on her phone to messages about me being hit by a lorry and had very little other information for a lot of that day. Her biggest and most personal fear has always been losing me and she had just come soberingly close.
In general though those first few days are a bit of a blur. I had the almost constant sensation of spinning and I couldn’t look away from whatever was to my left. The fear I’d felt whilst being dragged along by that lorry stayed in my chest and as a result the tension in my neck and shoulders, combined with the torn muscles in my back and neck were causing vomit inducing headaches. I couldn’t bare the TV volume being any higher than a whisper because I had become hypersensitive to any external stimuli and a spike in volume meant a rush of adrenaline so strong it would bring on a continuous string of flashbacks so real that I would be right back in that accident; re-living every spin, smell, noise, thought and feeling I had at the time.
It was happening over and over, dozens of times an hour and I had become completely childlike in my fear and detached from any reality.
Sleep wasn’t an option because I couldn’t close my eyes so the only rest I got was the few minutes of calm I would feel if I was lying on the couch with Lewis spooning behind me. So that’s how we stayed. He cancelled his work appointments and lay there with me for 2 days until I was so hysterical, exhausted and confused that I went to see my doctor.
Barely able to string a sentence together I told my GP about the accident and told her there was no need for a sick note because I’d be fine in a couple of days. Channelling her years of excellent bedside manner into one appointment she smiled supportively as I told her how I just needed some stronger pain killers for the pain in my back because by now I was hardly walking. Really gently she suggested that I should consider something to help reduce the fear and help me sleep, handing me a prescription for Diazepam.
The next few days carried on as they did before. I didn’t know then that being unable to sleep would last for months, and for the first 8-10 weeks I didn’t sleep at all for about 6-7 days at a time. I burst into tears if I had to be left alone and I was so confused that I often couldn’t finish a sentence because I’d forget why I was speaking. By now I couldn’t remember the accident at all with my conscious mind; if I tried to recall it my thoughts would go black as if someone had switched off the TV. Instead, every bit of fear I felt when I realised I was about to be crushed to death rushed back to me repeatedly as, sat in my living room, I felt myself spin and felt the car shake.
I have only recently admitted this but after a couple of weeks of re-experiencing it so violently I wished the accident had killed me.
I did not want to be here any more and I couldn’t keep re-living what happened so vividly any longer. I wanted to feel safe. Lewis, who hadn’t left my side, had watched this happen to me hour after hour and every time I cried and told him I wanted it to stop, his face told me his heart was breaking.
I had decided I wasn’t going to take the Diazepam partly for fear of becoming addicted, but finding myself alone while he was in the kitchen I pushed one through the foil packet and swallowed it. I told him and clearly worried but understanding, we lay down and I slept. I fell into a deep and peaceful sleep, and with every minute that I felt my legs get heavy and my breathing slow down, I felt relief. When I woke up many hours later and the confusion, headaches, insomnia and flashbacks returned, I knew I’d be taking them again.
A couple of days later while alone for a few minutes and feeling sadness and exhaustion in a way I could never have comprehended before, I took a double dose and lay down. When I started to feel my body become heavy and my mind start to empty, I text Lewis and told him that I just needed to sleep and that I loved him, and that I’d only taken 2 so I’d be fine. When I woke later that day I felt guilty for how broken he looked. He hadn’t been able to wake me and I had slept with shallow breathing and a grey clammy face. He hid the Diazepam and I tried to understand but I just wanted to sleep it all away.
After 6 weeks the flashbacks reduced to about hourly and there was some small improvements with sleep, although the insomnia had been replaced by nightmares. Not about the accident necessarily, but frightening and vivid dreams about anything that might frighten a 6 year old. We’re talking monsters under the bed and giant wolves in the garden and as it turns out, they’re just as frightening when you’re 31! It was at about this time that I went back to my GP. I had decided I was going mad. Not because of the monsters under my bed, but because of the regular hallucinations that had recently started. All without the Diazepam that I still hadn’t found, not for lack of trying.
It is here that my blog entries will start to address the symptoms of PTSD. You may know someone who suffers but you may also know someone who suffers from other issues affecting the brain. You may even battle with it yourself. Many of the symptoms I highlight will be familiar to lots of other conditions, although if you recognise some of the more severe ones I suggest you seek medical attention or an intervention! I will address each one in turn and focus on what that actually means for a real life breathing person. Living with a brain that can no longer recall or retain information, or process information in a way I can understand makes for an interesting few months!
Thank you again for continuing to follow and as always, feel free to comment, ask questions or share my blog posts.