I’ve kept quiet over the weekend (at least I think I have haha…) And I’ve had a lot of time to think, time to think about my personal life, my recovery and how much I share via this blog and other engagements with mental health discussions. Yesterday marked the eleventh anniversary of Boscastle Flood – one of the events that changed my life in both negative and positive ways.
I chose not to blog about the flood yesterday as it still seems strange to me that I was able to live at peace with my mind for years until the trauma and emotions from the flood began to surface. Sometimes I feel silly for how the flood affects me, but I’ve come to terms with the fact that:
1) I was certainly holding back some thoughts and feelings for a long time.
2) I was only ten years old – so in fact I’m more affected nowadays as I have formed an adult perspective of the event, alongside being influenced by the images, media and stories that others have told of the flood.
3) Doing an audio documentary on it for my third year undergraduate radio project was not a silly decision. Yes, it did hurt me, yes it did bring up unwanted feelings, and yes I’ve struggled more in this past year than I’ve ever done. But… it’s allowed me to face up to things, and yesterday… after a year of battling and dealing with the aftermath of the flood (albeit ten years too late) I was able to celebrate the eleventh anniversary with an authentic sense of pride, gratefulness and hope for myself and the relationships to those around me. And – if I hadn’t practically forced myself to focus on the flood then I wouldn’t be in such an ace place.
I’ve questioned a lot lately whether my diagnosis of Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is accurate, and ironically I blogged for Time to Change about how having a diagnosis means a lot to me. It certainly does – but there’s no denying that in the back of my mind I’ve been questioning how the flood (alongside the other two traumas) have affected me. I receive a lot of interaction and comments with this blog, for which I am very grateful, it reminds me that though my battle is individual I am not alone. My symptoms vary – sometimes I go through periods of having what I call ‘flashbacks’ – though they may not be the same as others who also experience symptoms of PTSD. I’m also the Queen of avoidance… for me it was how the trauma I’ve lived through has affected my relationship with people close to me. Most certainly I have avoided select situations, interactions and general relationships – something which I think is currently really bothering me. In addition to this I’ve struggled with nightmares, flashbacks and other stuff.
I also go through what I’ve always struggled to articulate but can only identify as ‘depressive episodes’. This may not be a symptom of PTSD, but apparently it’s a very common buddy to good old’ post-traumatic stress disorder. For me, I experience really intense bouts of depression, teamed with anxiety which heightens my PTSD. I also have a real unfriendly relationship with taps, doors, windows, car doors, tent zips and the moon. (The first few really stress me out… they have to be off/closed etc. and the moon… well that’s a whole other story for another time.)
I’ve been feeling very lonely lately, but I’ve not been alone, so it’s been a bit strange to understand. However, after a weekend of paying attention to myself and actually practising self-care I’ve realised that I feel lonely because I’ve mastered the art of believing that nobody cares about me. Which is silly (at least I hope it is…) It’s a very strange feeling when you have space to talk and open-up during a counselling or therapy session – for me I feel comfortable, safe and able to conquer a lot of stuff – but then when I’m on my own everything seems a lot more painful. I guess this is normal, and I’m not going to stop seeking help – but I made a pact with myself a few months back that instead of blocking things out I’d actually allow myself to feel things. I know that sounds strange, but I know that if I don’t give any time or attention to what I’m feeling then I am never going to be able to move forward.
Yesterday for me was proof that I am able to move forward, it was strange – it wasn’t painful, I felt content with things. I understand things so much better now, and the only thing that scared me was moving forward. However, it feels like the first time I’ve actually allowed myself to move forward. Boscastle flood happened and miraculously there were no fatalities. Thanks to creating an audio piece on the floods last year I’m in a unique position that I’ve been able to speak and interview all the services and individuals involved with the flood – so while it was strange it was very eye-opening, cathartic and pretty wonderful. There wasn’t anything more terrifying, anxiety-evoking and painful as phoning up contributors, organising interviews and talking about the flood – and I’m so so glad that I did, and I am so so thankful for those who I have been able to talk to. It is time to close this door, I still have other things to deal with, but my journey must move forward now.
And, most importantly, I want my journey to move forward.
I’ll keep the 16th of August as a day for myself, it’ll be something I do yearly. Yesterday I lit a candle, said some prayers and reminded myself to live. If I keep letting the past get to me then I haven’t yet survived, or at least I have… but I know that things need to change, and the time is now!
My mental health is as important as my physical health, and I shouldn’t need to keep reminding myself that!