The long term affects of a car crash on my mental health
Mental Health Awareness Week 9-15th May 2022
It's mental health awareness week, so I'm sharing some of my story around depression with you.
April 1998, I’m driving along the motorway, there’s another half hour of my daily 140-mile round trip commute before I’m home. I’m flicking the nub end of one of the Marlborough light cigarettes that punctuate the tedious journey out of the window. Singing along to ‘It’s like that’ by Run DMC that’s playing on Radio One, I indicate, pull out into the middle lane to overtake the foreign lorry I’d been behind for a few miles.
There’s a loud crunching noise, my car shakes, I’m thrown around in my seat, the belt tightens across my shoulder. I can’t figure out what is happening. I’m slamming my foot down as hard as I can on the brakes but shit! They’re not working. I continue moving at speed. What’s going on? I’m no longer in control of the car, powerless to make it stop or even slow down. My heart is beating fast as I try to make sense of exactly what the fuck is happening. As I look at the passenger side window, I can’t see through it. The glass is filled with a red and black grill, it’s now that I realise it’s the front end of the lorry I am overtaking.
Dealing with the shock after the accident
It must only be seconds but feels like forever until my little blue Clio eventually comes to a standstill, just shy of a deep ditch. Another second later I’d have been at the bottom of it.
The foreign driver had pulled out into the middle lane, and obviously had not seen me from his left-hand drive position. Someone must’ve phoned the police. It might have even been me, it’s all a bit of a blur by this point. I do know the traffic has slowed right down and there are long tailbacks. There were also several police cars and a couple of ambulances along the hard shoulder by now. Lots of flashing blue lights and sirens.
The ambulance men check me over and want to take me to Chesterfield hospital, but I decline. ‘I’m ok’ I tell them. I don’t want to go to the hospital because I don’t know how I can get home from there; it’s about 30 miles away from my hometown of Sherwood, Nottingham. Weird logic but nobody tries to persuade me otherwise.
Clinical depression leads to loss of identity
I’m numb as I watch my lovely little periwinkle blue car being lifted onto the rescue truck. It doesn’t appear to have sustained too much superficial damage considering what has happened. The back nearside tyre is shredded one of the police officers has kindly pointed out, as I’m wondering if I could carry on with my journey and drive it home. Which of course is ludicrous, and I can’t. Instead, I call my friend Lynne, who lives next door, and she kindly comes to pick me up.
With hindsight it is obvious that I was in shock.
It was a couple of days later that my GP confirmed I had whiplash. And a short time after that I was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder which was to become the start of a long journey of clinical depression and me losing my identity.
‘I remember how much you struggled. You’d call me and say you couldn’t cope with the day. Simple things like having to make a phone call to the bank were just too big a task for you. The smallest of things made you anxious, when you’d been this mega confident person before the accident where nothing seemed to phase you.’
Lynne, my good friend and neighbour when I asked her about what she could remember in July 2021.
Still not fully recovered from the trauma, I’d only been back at work a few months when I was involved in a 6-car pile-up. I was still taking anti-depressants and receiving weekly counselling sessions. Coincidentally, it was in the exact same spot on the motorway. The car in the front of the plie up had braked suddenly. The car behind him went straight into his back end, I went into theirs, two cars did the same behind me. This time it was the fast lane. My car was crushed front and back. Again, I walked away, lucky to only be suffering from whiplash physically but the mentally the impact was far greater.
At this point I thought someone is trying to tell me something here…I should not be putting my life at risk on a daily basis for a job, especially as, around five months later when my sick leave ran out I went back to work pregnant…
You might not realise that you always have a choice and can improve your boundaries – I didn’t always think like I do now.
Looking back over my life I can now see how I’ve allowed circumstances and events to affect my feelings of self-worth. Like the fact I’ve have disfiguring scars that look like a shark bit a chunk out of my left-hand side of my body, from all the surgery I’ve had on my hip. Or the limp I’ve had most of my life. Or the fact that I’ve been conscious of my weight since the age of 9 years old and spent a long time worrying about being fat (even when I wasn’t). And then these two road traffic accidents being the catalyst for my clinical depression which was to last a very long time.
Because of low self-worth, the knock-on effect of poor boundaries and that clinical depression, amongst other things, I’ve had boyfriends who didn’t deserve me, put up with bosses and colleagues who treated me badly and worn clothes just because they fit me.
Mental health v mental wealth
I’m pleased to tell you that I have been medication free for the past seven or so years. These days I have mental wealth. I am much more aware of the ebb and flow of my mental health and have learned to manage it so that I never get to crisis point these days. I’m happy to share my story about my mental health struggles quite openly, it resonates with many and helps me work with empathy and intuition.
My work now is based on the fact that I recognise that I can use the power of my story, my life experience and resilience plus all of my knowledge and experience with colour, clothes, makeup and teaching skills. I bring it all together into a rewarding, fulfilling business where it can be ok not to be ok. Whether that is bringing women together in the FAB Network, my paid for personal development club backed up by the free heart centred community OR through my personal style and image confidence work.
Both elements of my business are about supporting women to be seen, be heard and be celebrated; to feel empowered, enlightened, entertained and energised. I feel proud to be helping make a difference to the lives of other women.
If you're struggling with your mental health click here for official resources.
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