Last week my husband got caught speeding. To many this probably doesn’t seem like a big deal. So what? Take the points, pay the fine, move on.
At first, aside from the money, I didn’t see it as a big deal either because I didn’t see this coming. For me, it has awoken a beast. A beast by the name of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
I was diagnosed with PTSD in 2015, 15 months after I witnessed a fatal car crash.
At the time of the crash I was shaken. I felt uneasy behind the wheel of a car, I altered my route to work to avoid driving near the crash site, I had nightmares and loud noises startled me. I was reassured by loved ones that this was perfectly normal, and with time it would pass.
But it didn’t.
Watch: Tips for helping a partner with PTSD (from a woman who’s been there.) (Post continues after video.)
What loved ones didn’t know was that I attended, unbeknownst to anyone, the funeral of the girl who I watched die. I saw her face every time I closed my eyes. The nightmares were persistent and graphic. I was avoiding events because I couldn’t bear the thought of driving.
And because no one noticed, I let this behaviour go unchecked myself.
Nervousness while driving. A longer route to work. Disrupted sleeping pattern. Unexplained dark feelings. Her face. Her lifeless body. All became a part of my normal daily routine. Part of who I was.
I didn’t even consider seeking the support of a mental health professional.
It wasn’t that I didn’t know they existed, at the time I was working as a Psychology teacher in a Secondary School and often spoke to students about the importance of talking to someone about their feelings.
Rather it was because I was embarrassed. I was embarrassed that something that was far more tragic for others – the girl who lost her life, her family, her friends, the other driver – had consumed me in such a way. I felt selfish.
I don’t blame anyone for these feelings, but I know why they happened. (Post continues after gallery.)
I was raised in a loving family. Support was unconditional, still is. However, I, and those close to me, were lucky enough not to experience tragedy of any kind, meaning that feelings, specifically negative feelings, were never discussed openly, I suppose the need never presented itself.
This left me feeling embarrassed and selfish, both a cover for the deeper emotions within and I didn’t know how to talk to anyone about this.
So I buried it away, adapted my lifestyle, made do. It wasn’t until I witnessed a minor accident 15 months later, that it all became too much.
Sitting at the front of the intersection, traffic clear on both sides, I could not move let alone drive. I had heard people speak about feeling frozen. Rooted to the spot. In that moment I understood.
My limbs felt heavy. My heart was racing. My mind was screaming. The lump in my throat was excruciating.
The honks of impatient driver’s behind me, brought me back to life and somehow, with my heartbeat as the soundtrack, I managed to get home.
Still I didn’t say anything.
"I could not move, let alone drive." Image: iStock.
Then that night the nightmare came.
I awoke sweaty, breathless and sobbing silently.
The next day I couldn’t drive to work, just couldn’t do it.
After making my way to the doctor’s I finally admitted that I needed help and help I got.
My therapist provided me with the support, that I so desperately needed. She was non-judgemental. She was patient. She was kind. She helped me own and deal with the feelings that had eaten away at me for so long.
And I got better.
I drove more freely. The nightmares stopped. Her face didn’t appear uninvited. I felt sad, instead of embarrassed. I wasn’t the same as before, but I was better.
My therapist encouraged me to talk to others and I did to some, although my family still remained on the outer. Discussing it with them made it too real. I can imagine the looks of sympathy I would get or the throw away line that they know how I feel.
It was my husband’s speeding fine though. The thought of him driving recklessly, that triggered emotions that I had deemed conquered.
The anxiety, the over cautious driving, the disturbed sleep, her face, they’re all back.
Ever since I have been on edge with my husband and those around me because I am disappointed.
"My therapist provided me with the support, that I so desperately needed." Image: iStock.
I am disappointed that I haven’t told them the longstanding impact that the events of 2014 had on me.
I am disappointed that I didn’t tell them about my therapy sessions and the positive impact they had on me.
I am disappointed that I can’t properly articulate to my husband why him speeding upsets me so bloody much. I have learnt though.
Tonight I will visit my therapist. I don’t want to feel disappointed or embarrassed or selfish anymore. I will feel sad because that is allowed. I will live my life with the intensity of two people because I want her face to be happy.
I will be honest with those around me because mental illnesses are nothing to be ashamed of. I will own this part of my life, instead of letting it own me.