Monthly Archives: May 2010

Filling my heart

My head was filled to overflowing.
Filled to the point that it was my head where I was living.
It’s difficult to feel when I’m living in my head.

Thinking, thinking,
Thinking rather than feeling.

When my mind is full, that’s where I live,
Isolated from the world around me.
Freeing the thoughts in my head
makes it easier to open myself to those around me.

An emptier mind and a fuller heart.
A fuller heart that can never be filled to overflowing.

I write to empty my mind and to fill my heart ~ Paulo Coelho

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Why is childbirth so complicated?

A thoughtfully written post questioning why we’re complicating the natural process of childbirth. Even after the horrific end to my experience, I can easily say there’s absolutely nothing to rival the feeling of empowerment you get from labouring naturally. As Mary Sabo writes, “I’ve witnessed first-hand the power a woman can harness by allowing herself to try natural birth.  She suddenly sees herself as strong, capable, and powerful.  And their partners are always in awe…like the woman is suddenly a rock star and they never realized it before.”

Find out as much information as you can to make your own decision, but the Monty Python clip says it all really. Really.

Read more…

Rambling PTSD thoughts

It’s common for PTSD sufferers to want to change things and to make big changes in their lives. This could be physical changes like changing jobs or moving, or changes in your beliefs.

I’ve always enjoyed the freshness of making changes, perhaps sometimes too much. To finish one chapter of my life and turn over a blank new page fills me with excitement; it can be scary excitement sometimes, but it’s always exciting. It feels good to make a complete clean wipe of the slate and move on. I’ve moved from one country to another several times, changed jobs and changed career.

After Sofia’s death I would have loved to pack up our life and move somewhere else. In particular not to have to see all the things we lovingly bought and made for her in the room we had transformed into the perfect nursery. I had the overwhelming sensation of going somewhere that didn’t have constant reminders of her and everything in our house did.

As soon as my hair started growing back I went from the long blondish hairstyle I’d had for several years to a short black bob. It’s difficult to explain how this made me feel better, but it did.

Your outlook on life can dramatically change because of PTSD. I’m now much less materialistic than I was before. I used to want to hold on to everything I could from the past and the thought of losing or throwing away these things horrified me. I still have notes I passed to friends during secondary school and other worthless objects which have great sentimental value to me. Now though, these things aren’t so important. I’ll always have my memories, and the people I love and who love me are what matters.

A broken record

It’s impossible not to feel angry when I read of other babies and families who have been ‘scarred’ for life due to a lack of medical care. And it infuriates me when it’s the same hospital that grossly neglected Sofia and me – Homerton University Hospital in Hackney, East London.

A girl born six years ago was starved of oxygen while her mother was in labour. This left her paralysed in all four limbs. She has no real control of her head, but is able to smile and laugh. Last week she was awarded £5million compensation for her birth injuries. And I’m sure her mother and her grandmother have had to fight and struggle and shout to get every deserved penny.

Read more about the case.

Memories


Time cannot steal the treasures
That we carry in our hearts,
Nor ever dim the shining thought
Our cherished past imparts.

And memories of the ones we’ve loved
Still cast their gentle glow,
To grace our days and light our paths,
Wherever we may go.

~ Author Unknown

Survivors

Ten-year-old Ruben van Ashout is the sole survivor of the recent Afriqiyah Airways’ crash in Libya. He lost his parents and brother. It’s impossible to imagine how he might feel now or in the future.

13-year-old Baya Bakari was the only survivor of the Yemenia Airways’ crash almost a year ago off the coast of Comoros. This crash sits heavily in my heart. One of my university students at the time vanished without notifying anyone. When he returned a couple of days later he explained that he had lost eight family members in the plane disaster. His sister had lost her husband and her children. It was difficult to contain my emotion. I know what it’s like to lose your child, but to lose all of your children and also your partner is completely incomprehensible. And how to you manage to keep going?

Juliane Kopcke was seventeen years old when in 1971 the plane she and her mother were on broke up above the Amazonian rainforest. The sole survivor, she sustained only relatively minor injuries after falling more than three kilometres. She then walked for ten days through the jungle until she came across a loggers’ camp and was rescued. An incredible story of survival.

Juliane’s outlook on life changed as a result of the tragedy. In an interview last year she said, “I live life much more consciously than before, because I realised that you can’t take it for granted that you’re alive.” She also said she was left with a feeling that she had to do something with her life, “to live in the moment and realise that it is not a given that you’re healthy – any day something could happen to you.”

If you’re trying to survive, try to remember Juliane’s words of wisdom and celebrate the fact that you’re alive in this moment. Celebrate life and, more importantly, celebrate YOUR life.

The long journey of PTSD

A family member recently questioned if Roberto and I perhaps were using the fact that we’re both suffering from PTSD as a crutch. Apart from feeling hurt by this, it made me reflect once again on other people’s perceptions of us and others’ expectations of us.

Funnily enough I had thought both Roberto and myself haven’t been taking our diagnosis as seriously as perhaps we should be. Even though you can be completely aware of the impact a serious trauma can have on many (if not all) aspects of your being, seeing a diagnosis written down in black and white confirming that indeed you do have a mental health problem is yet another thing to cope with. I felt like I hadn’t only lost my daughter, but was now being put into a branded box in terms of how I coped with losing her. It’s very easy to put this extra ‘problem’ out of your mind.

Most of the time I don’t think about having PTSD and the times I do, I wonder if I’m in denial for the other times! Regularly my counsellor will remind me that what ever I’m struggling with at the moment could be to do with my PTSD. Isolating myself or avoiding things are just two that pop up fairly often. Each time she reminds me, my usual response is ‘Oh yes, I forgot that could be related to my PTSD’.

No one will ever truly understand how I or Roberto feel (everyone has their own unique perception of the world and their feelings after all) and probably part of that is because we only give out snippets of how it’s affected us and how it is affecting us. For me this is sometimes because I don’t want to (it hurts and I don’t want to relive it any more than I already do) and sometimes it’s because it feels impossible to explain.

Funnily enough again, the same family member has been seeing me as distant and cold. Whilst not excusing myself, separating myself from others has been my coping mechanism of choice that I learned from childhood and it wasn’t uncommon for people to sometimes perceive me as detached long before Sofia died. But it’s also common for PTSD sufferers to be distant, unloving and uninterested even though they often also need the security of feeling other people around them. It’s a Catch-22 situation; you might see the sufferer being able to talk about emotionals things in an unemotional way, maybe even in a lifeless and distant way and their behaviour may seem to be pushing you away, but most probably they need you to be there to support them.

I know trying to continue a relationship with a PTSD sufferer and give them support can be difficult (I’ve seen my own friends and family struggling). It can be incredibly frustrating, but showing a sufferer even the smallest bit of understanding that they’re experiencing very real distress will help them immensely.

It makes sense to think that talking about the trauma and getting things off your chest can help, but more often than not, and for different reasons, it can be incredibly upsetting and disturbing talking about what happened and reliving the nightmare. On top of this, I had the very real fear that many other sufferers have, of completely losing it (losing control, losing my mind and losing my grip on life) and was afraid if I opened up to people they’d see I was going insane. Thankfully I no longer feel this way.

Fear of how those close to me would see me, perhaps even judge me, is probably why I found and continue to find it easier to talk to people outside my close circle. There’s no other ‘baggage’ from the relationship coming along for the ride and I have no fear of causing them concern or hurt by the feelings I’m expressing. I’m free to say anything, I feel listened to and I know it’s unlikely I’ll be judged.

Recovering from PTSD is an ongoing daily task. The impact it has on your life can be incredibly frustrating. Over time it changes and this is important for people around you to understand – it changes but it will remain for a long time. Of course, it’s natural to want to see a sufferer get better as quickly as possible, but don’t assume just because they seem to be coping better that they are. And certainly don’t get frustrated when their recovery is slower than YOU want; don’t put your own expectations onto them. If you want to support someone with PTSD you need to be patient.