Today I found myself sat in a small room facing a stranger feeling like I’m in someone else’s body, not for the first time in the last 9 months, trying to hold back tears in front of someone I don’t know. But that is a barrier I’m not ready to let go of. Showing weakness doesn’t feel like an option.
I’m just hoping in someway I will be swallowed up by a worm hole, because if she presses into that wound again, I’m going to explode. My head is woozy and I am feeling sick.
But that wound isn’t visible no one can see it. People may even doubt it’s there.
How the hell did I end up here!!!
You see I shouldn’t be here; I should be sat on the other side of the room. As a Mental health nurse its my job to poke and prod, my job to assess and problem solve, my job to be the strong one with all the answers!!
What went wrong?
The experiences seemed to merge over the years, secure intensive care wards, acute admission wards, Community Mental health, Crisis Teams, Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services and finally Children’s safeguarding. There were strong themes that flowed through each role, violence, aggression, self-harm, suicide, risk, responsibility. All these themes have an impact, facing violence daily creates a level of anxiety which can be mistaken for adrenaline, a heightened state of awareness which doesn’t just stop at the door when you leave work to go home to your family. Pile on that the responsibility of assessing people who have reached their limit, or managing a ward full of very unwell service users carrying levels of stress and responsibility that push every ounce of your emotional resilience.
There is something verging on addiction about working at the limit of what you can handle, it is also a job that is humbling and a privilege to sit with someone and help them problem solve a way out of their situation. But there is a cost!!
For me it started with panic attacks, increased anxiety about holding responsibility for assessments. It moved on to feeling isolated and lonely even in a room full of people, this snowballed out of control to the point where every referral I read was like a hand grenade exploding inside me, I felt like I was in a fox hole curled up in a ball, feeling the impact of every explosion through to my core. I wish it ended there but I began having flash backs of events from years gone by, not just images but feelings and sensations as if I was there, running down corridors through sticky blood, hoping someone hadn’t been killed.
How the hell did I end up here?
I reached the point that enough was enough I couldn’t cope any longer, But I didn’t know how to ask for help!! Even after all the years of giving space for people to share where they were at, when it came down to it, I felt so isolated and so unable to share how big the hole I had crawled into was.
When I eventually asked for help, it didn’t come.
All I can say is it has taken some fighting, as a clinician working for the NHS it has been a battle to get assessed and engage in treatment. Which just shouldn’t be the case.
After 6 months of pushing I got an assessment and was Diagnosed with PTSD due to working in environments that have exposure to persistent traumatic events.
At least I now know why nothing has improved, why I feel the way I do; I have tried everything I know and nothing works. Maybe it does, I just don’t feel the improvements. All I can describe is waves of emotion, like a wave hitting a ship and having to hold on so I don’t get washed away, many times wanting to quit but knowing that isn’t the answer. Not allowing myself to make excuses and just getting my trainers on and hitting the local trails, walking helps a bit, swimming in cold water, hitting a punch bag, they are all better than hiding away. I used to look at people walking round with hoodies over their heads and earphones in and thinking they were hiding from life, but now that’s me not wanting to face the world, struggling to return to normality.
I am in reality only at the beginning, recovery is a process, I have no idea yet whether I can ever walk back through the doors at work. I hope so as it will show I am moving forward but that is yet to be seen. For now, I am trying to enjoy what I have in front of me which is my family and the things that I love which are the mountains and the oceans, finding every way I can to help me restore what I have lost.
I am fortunate to have a supportive manager and team, allowing me time and space to work this process through.
This blog is my way of sharing my thoughts, experiences, victory’s and failures.