I have been walking through the most difficult season of my life; shockingly difficult. I want to tell you my story of recovering from PTSD, with the hope that it will help you, if you are going through something similar. I am aware that others have gone through, or are going through, their own suffering, some of which mine would pale in comparison to. But I am not going to minimise what I have gone through. It has been truly awful, and for others who are walking through the same thing, I want you to know that your suffering matters. I ought to tell you that I am not completely well yet, but I am significantly better, and I truly believe that I will have fully recovered very soon.
Why not wait to write this until I am completely better? I wanted to write it when I was still close to the pain of it all. Of course I will never forget what I have experienced, but as I walk further and further away from the most difficult times, I become less able to communicate the pain effectively. I want others to know how it has felt. I want those who are walking through something similar to know that I GET it. I want those who know nothing about this subject to have their eyes opened, even a little, so that compassion will fill their hearts for people who are going through something similar.
I will be writing from a Christian perspective. I plan on writing my story in several different blog posts. I will start by summarising what has happened, and then over the next few posts, I will share with you how I have walked through this difficult time, focusing on three aspects: body, soul, and spirit. I will tell you how my breakthrough came, and I will tell you how I have grown from this trial.
Something that helped me a lot on my own journey was the knowledge that others have gone through what I have experienced, and come out the other side. I read a book by such a person. The whole book was encouraging, but there was one part in particular, that I read over and over to myself. Paraphrasing, the author says that you WILL get through this; that he knows hundreds of people who have come through to the other side and are now totally well. You feel like this will never end, but it will. I cannot tell you how much that has helped me. I hope I can offer the same kind of encouragement to those who are suffering like I did. Although I am not completely well, I am a LOT better, and am continuing to rapidly recover. So, from that place I want to tell you the same thing: You WILL get better. Things WILL get easier. You WILL come through this.
And now let me tell you my story.
I moved to England in 1999. I was taking a year out, doing some voluntary work for a church in Southampton. This is where I met my husband, who was attending university and going to the same church. We married and lived together in England, and then moved back home to the USA in 2002. We lived there for twelve years. I loved being back in America for those years, but my heart remained in England. In 2014, we decided it was time to return to England. It was a bit of a rocky move. We were unsure of where we would settle, but in the end we chose Kent, to be close to my husband’s family. And that is when I fell in love. I fell in love with this delightful little corner of England; its history, its architecture, its culture, its beautiful countryside: “The Garden of England”. I felt like I was made for the country life. I began to come alive and enjoy life in a way that I never had before. I found my artistic side, which had been dormant since childhood. I began to draw and paint. I donned my wellies and took endless country walks. I relished life. We bought a beautiful little cottage in the country, including a studio for me; with countryside walks all around. My cup overflowed. There were so many times when I thought, “How can I be this happy?” And then everything changed.
One Saturday afternoon in late September, we thought it would be fun to make homemade pizzas together as a family for dinner. We had all the toppings out and were enjoying making our creations. I thought it would be nice for us to sit outside to eat, wanting to catch the last of the warm evenings before the cold and dark of autumn came. I was in a hurry because the pizzas were done. I charged outside to wipe the table off and, BAM, suddenly I was flat out on the ground with searing pain in my foot. (I had been wearing shoes with a slight heel. I stepped off of the stair from our kitchen doorway to the outside and preceded to twist my foot on the edge of the step, and flew forward and flat onto the concrete patio.) The pain was so bad that I started to black out. I crawled back inside, and my husband and kids knew that something was seriously wrong. After eight hours at A&E (ER), I came home with a cast, crutches, and the knowledge that I had broken the navicular bone in my left foot, and would need an operation as soon as possible. Two weeks later, I went in for my operation. Right before wheeling me into surgery, they informed me of all of the possible things that could go wrong. They emphasised the point that I would be at a high risk after surgery of developing a blood clot, which could be fatal. Armed with all of this wonderful knowledge, into surgery I went.
After staying overnight in hospital, I was discharged, with my medication, daily anticoagulant injections for the next six weeks, and a reminder to watch for signs of a blood clot, and to come in immediately if I suspected a clot for any reason.
There was another reason why the risk of a blood clot was particularly terrifying for me. A few years ago, one of my friends in America, a mother in her thirties, collapsed a few days after surgery, with a blood clot that had blocked one of her arteries, and within minutes she was dead. A tragic and shocking event, especially to those closest to her. So this story was running through my mind as the doctors repeatedly told me to watch out for signs of a blood clot.
I was happily at home, all snug on the sofa. Suddenly I started to feel very strange. A sick feeling came over me and my heart started to race like I had never felt it race before. I knew that something was very wrong. I started to feel extremely dizzy and like I was going to pass out. I called my husband into the room and told him. He checked my pulse and knew that it was dangerously high. We checked the paperwork the hospital had given us for symptoms of a blood clot, and I had several of them. We called 999. They told us they were so busy that day, that it would actually be faster for us to drive to the hospital. We called my mother-in-law to come and stay with the kids. Going against my protective maternal instinct (because of the intensity of the situation), we left our eldest daughter, who was then twelve, to look after her brother until their grandmother arrived. The rest is a blur of acute fear. I remember being hunched over in the car, trying not to pass out, my heart racing, my head spinning, feeling nauseous, and terrified. I literally thought that I might die in the car on the way to the hospital. I remember seeing the faces of my beautiful kids in my mind, and foreseeing the pain that they would have to experience without me, and just begging God, “Please, please have mercy. Have mercy on them. Have mercy on my family. Don’t let this happen.”
We arrived at the hospital. After checking my pulse, they got me straight in to be seen.The nurse saw how high my heart rate was and ran to find the doctor. My symptoms remained the same. It was all very intense and very scary. Initially, they thought that it might be a clot, then after a while they said they weren’t sure. After several hours, with doctors and nurses in and out of the room, my symptoms finally began to lessen. The doctors came to the conclusion that I had had a severe reaction to my pain medication. I was in the clear. I could go home.
I should have come home to weeks of peaceful recovery from a broken foot; getting better and better each day. But instead, I came home to the beginning of the worst season of my life.
In the next blog post I will tell you what life was like for me in the months that followed the trauma.