*A huge thank you to Glenn Smith, a member of our Band Together Community for this blog submission! Kelsey and Jesse interviewed Glenn for our Band Together Podcast and you will be able to listen to that episode when it is released June 7th*
I honestly have not got big enough words to describe the incredible feeling of healing that resulted from me sharing my personal story of mental illnesses, diagnoses, treatments, therapy and how I try to overcome big and small hurdles to function every day. That my fight could in some way help anyone else, was far from my mind, before I decided to empty my broken head and heart on Instagram.
So let’s start at the beginning.
It’s early January 2020. I stand face to face with my new trauma therapist, and I know my life depends on this meeting.
I’m male, 46 years old, I’m what they call a high risk category. Within a 9 year period I destroyed my marriage, lost my house, my job, my dignity and nearly my life.
To give some history, I have an extensive physical trauma timeline dating back to the early 90’s as my career was a jump jockey. During my time in this role, I experienced approximately 470 stitches scattered here and there on the whole body, titanium plates in my jaw and collarbone, broken titanium screws in my spine, 18 false teeth, reduced short and long term memory, unknown number of fractures to nose, skull and hands, ligament fixtures and nylon screws in shoulders and an uncountable number of concussions and other traumas to body.
However, it was a massive trauma accident in 1997 (viewer discretion advised) that nearly ended my life and left me with a broken back in three places, fractured and broken ribs, a hairline fracture to my neck, a deflated lung, punctured lung, split pancreas, torn eyelid, eyes severely damaged with two loose corneas, right shoulder dislocated, broken nose, head trauma and internal bleeding.
The massive accident left me in a chemically induced coma for 5 days and another 4 days in a comatose wake-up phase with extensive hallucinations and violence towards nurses and doctors.
To make a long story short, up until 2019 I averaged 2-3 hours of sleep per night, had an increasing and extensive alcohol problem, gambling addiction, increasing substance abuse, anger management issues, extreme self hate and self inflicting injuries. Suicidal thoughts were a daily occurrence since 2011 and resulted in two suicide attempts, one in 2017, and the last one in October of 2019.
Roll on to the middle of February 2020. 5 weeks with an incredible trauma psychologist and extensive EMDR therapy left me more capable to fight and live with my PTSD, ADHD and Severe Clinical depression diagnoses.
I can truly say February 2020 was the start of a new era for me, after years of increasing psychological problems, my mind was suddenly that little bit clearer, memories were placed into the right boxes and a road to healing was planned in the form of writing and sharing my story of traumas, lies pain and madness.
As I nervously created an IG account by the user name @lifeofthesmithwithptsd, my only plan was to be uncensored, direct, honest and to not even leave the most difficult subjects untouched. The account was mostly a platform for me to put words to the feelings and pain that had haunted me for years, which I was also a master of covering up with exuberant behaviour, more than a little positive attitude and humour to hide any tears or cracks in the clown mask. I chose a social platform, not for the followers and likes, but to make sure my new bold confessions and stories were public. I was also hoping to see some like minded posts and maybe take some positive vibes back with me to the real world.
My hope was that maybe someone could relate to my story, and even draw inspiration and self help from my many years of trying to live with heavy diagnoses and the physical and psychological damages they created. I wasn’t able to realise I needed help before it was nearly too late, and if my story could help just one other person, it would all be worth it!
I can say the whole experience has been profound and life altering, it has brought me even more hope for the future than I ever had before. The Mental Health Community on IG is massive and with a love and empathy I’ve never experienced before. Incredible stories I could relate to and draw experience from was apparent from day one. Pain and hope, tears and laughter filled the hashtags I used and I was a bit dumbfounded that I hadn’t done this earlier.
As life experience teaches you, not a lot of good comes from looking back, but keep your eyes on the road forward.
Share your story and connect with others who are facing similar struggles, were some of the first words I found on IG as I posted my first couple of stories. The sentence spoke directly to me, and I quickly found the courage to fill my posts with ever increasing personal information of pain, shame, vulnerability and self destruction my diagnoses affected my life. If I ever was in doubt, this was the right thing to do, it was a harder step to take than I thought, but the reward is incredibly fulfilling as the weight on my shoulders, head and heart started to feel lighter.
I am incredibly lucky to have started my journey, just at the same time as @we_band_together launched their fantastic Band Together Community, the support I received from them in the start, was the main reason I really went All In! A HUGE THANK YOU TO KELSEY AND HIS BAND TOGETHER COMMUNITY AND THE FANTASTIC WORK THEY DO.
The mental health community is truly filled with support and hope, and connects those who need it most, like me. In the short time I’ve been here, I’ve connected with some great online communities and brave people. I have learnt more about myself and the challenges I’ve had with my diagnoses and how they also affect others. I am now more prepared to fight for a happier future.
I am sure diagnoses and illnesses lived and experiences shared between those who have common battles and life struggles, will alter the way we can treat and heal an increasing number of people who battle the incredibly difficult and stigmatized illnesses that ruin life quality and lives for the affected and their family. It would be a blessing for the already overloaded psychiatric healthcare system fighting a losing battle against increasing mental issues and illnesses, especially the suicides that follow these diagnoses. We all need the help we can get!
The incredible heroes that work with mental illnesses every day of every year, could never be replaced, we will just need an increasing amount of professionals in the years to come. My hope is that we, the overcomers and daily fighters with life experience, can help someone with the same issues. The knowledge and understanding of the pain and feelings these illnesses create on the body and mind would better be understood coming directly from someone with the same experiences, than from a book, would they not? All hands on deck in my book!
My spirits have been lifted by my IG experience, and it’s not just rainy days in my head, after getting some humbling DM’s from users who have read my posts, those clouds have lifted. From thanks for my uncensored openness about everything, to questions about my (sometimes our) diagnoses and how I get by from day to day.
BUT, I can truly say, I had one of the most incredible experiences of my life, connecting with a like minded person, I have never been so sad, so glad, so relieved so full of tears of joy and pain at the same time. A truly humbling experience.
One question, from one person, triggered an avalanche of known feelings from the last eight years. The absurd feeling of me actually thinking that I would be able to compare symptoms, the feelings and emotions of my own PTSD and depression against what I was asked, gave me the happiest moment I’ve had for years, it was pure euphoria.
This person also gave me a wonderful lesson in how to break down barriers and have a conversation about pretty dark things straight away, the way it should be. I answer questions the same way I share my stories, with the raw and uncensored facts of what I consider my sins.
“Can I ask you something? It might be a stupid question?” The formulation just got me interested and curious, what is a stupid question? Is it a joke, and what would be the best response? As I disarmed any awkward experience with humour, I had already few jokes at the ready.
I was taken aback when the question came, every little detail of my research and my own symptoms and treatments of PTSD and CPTSD was at my disposal to answer someone who couldn’t understand what was happening and why, when it came to some of the symptoms experienced by this person. When you get a diagnosis from a psychiatrist and start treatment, you are usually so run down that you’re in no state to ask the right questions or check the diagnoses yourself. Even if treatment doesn’t work, Istill would have thought it was me, not the treatment or diagnosis that was wrong. I’m not saying we have the same diagnosis, and the causes were different, I’m no doctor.
Being able to talk openly to a stranger, hours flew by conversing the subject, as we both could relate to the things we were comparing, mostly the register of feelings in given situations and especially the constant need to break down our self image. Just the fact that another person responded identically to how the brain and body perceived oneself, gave the whole day another meaning. Talking to a well educated doctor or psychiatrist who has never experienced the madness mental illness really is, nor the causes or symptoms, will ever be able to give me answers, questions, support and the incredible empathy that we experienced this day.
This was a couple of weeks ago, we both had some pretty disturbing reactions in mental breakdown, uncontrollable crying and flow of emotions, and total loss of energy the day after hours of chatting and understanding.
The person in question also got something that can best be related to as a panic attack, so emotions were running deep.
It was exhausting, but coming out on the other end, the flow of feelings and emotions had an incredible uplifting effect and positiveness that still lasts today.
It was the most fulfilling thing I’ve done, for as long as I can remember and I got a friend for life, just because sharing our stories broke down all walls of shame, stigma and self loathing. Another positive effect for my new friend was the acceptance that there was no shame involved in the symptoms, and finally managed to tell the parents everything, I can relate to what an incredible relief that is!
An extra big THANK YOU to this person, you know who you are❤️
Sharing IS caring.
Thank you so much for listening, I know it was a long read, but as I said in the start, I didn’t have big enough words to describe this, so I had to go for a lot of words instead:)
I will keep on posting my stories of fights and wins and everything in between on @lifeofthesmithwithptsd
Feel free to comment and share from my account.
Mail in the bio if someone has questions, remarks or just want to chat, or I can be reached by IG DM.
A very humble thank you to the incredible Mental Health Community, my first 2 months here have been mind altering because of you guys.