My story starts two years ago; I was involved in quite a bad car crash. I passed my driving test when I was 19, drove for about a year and then sold my car and started driving again two years ago (I’m now 25). It took a lot of courage to start driving again. I got a new job, which I needed a car for and I was excited and full of confidence! I had the car a week when the accident happened - it felt like I lost all my confidence in a matter of seconds. The lady’s decision to pull out in front of me, across a dual carriageway, changed my life and it was beyond my control. I didn’t choose or agree to the change of direction in my life.
For me, the hardest part is the emotional trauma. I have scars on the outside, which people can see, but on the inside, nobody can see how I am really feeling. In the past people have said to me ‘get back in the car, don’t let this take over your life’ and ‘you’ll be fine once you start driving again’. I did try driving again and people were proud of me but it didn’t last long. Slowly I started to drive less and less, as I couldn't sleep the night before I had to drive and would go into a surge of panic before I got in the car. I now get the opposite from people; feeling sorry for me because I walk places and get public transport, which is my choice, and sometimes their remarks can be unhelpful and make me feel rubbish.
So, what does post-traumatic stress disorder feel like? I don’t feel it all the time, but it is always there in the back of my mind. It is the constant fear that someone will pull out in front of us, when travelling in a car. It’s feeling trapped when I am in a place I have no control over and feeling unconfident in myself and pretty much overthinking everything. I have good days and bad days, like every person does. Some days I get a spark of my old self back and other days I don’t want to leave the house.
The thing that has been most helpful on this journey has been counselling. Friends and family can’t always understand what and why I feel the way I do, but counsellors are always there to listen. I have been in therapy almost a year now, yet I do believe that you need to find a counsellor you can click with. I tried a couple before I found the right one, but just knowing you can share with someone, who is not going to judge you and be there for you through dark times, has really helped me.
I do feel like people think I should be over it by now or that am just being dramatic about the whole situation, so I find it hard to open up to friends and family and tell them how I feel. I feel guilty talking about it with people, so I feel it’s best not to. But really, people should be able to talk about their worries and anxieties and not feel ashamed or judged by others. People need to feel supported and accepted when it comes to mental health. Showing empathy or kindness towards someone can really mean a lot - you may not be able to relate or understand but giving someone time and space to express their feelings is something that can really help.
In a society where mental health is being more and more talked about, I think people should be more open about it and get talking - I am not always as open as I should be, but I am working on it. So, let's get talking to help drop the stigma around mental health!