My Journey Through Therapy.. Accepting help is it’s own kind of strength...
The word therapy can be a pretty scary word. My image of therapy was a big long couch that you lay on, in a dark room, while you speak to somebody who takes notes and asks you questions about your childhood.
I never really understood what it was, and why people had it. To look at me a lot of people reading this will probably question why I have recently just come out of therapy? I have a nice life, good job, beautiful son, to the world my life looks pretty sweet.
So to help you understand my journey through therapy I have to take you back to where it all started. The reason behind my need for therapy. Back to 28th February 2016.
Now before this date anyone who knew me would tell you I was the bubbliest, happiest person always hyper and in your face, center of attention, I even won the loudest person in my school leavers assembly. To be honest I had a good childhood. Not to much trauma or anything that really affected me.
Iv always been a really strong person. So accepting i was no longer strong was really difficult.
On the 28th February 2016 on a Friday morning while getting ready for work, I had a knock on my front door. I ran downstairs in my towel thinking it was my clothes delivery ready for my big night out that weekend. I opened the door to find a Middle Aged angry man at my door. The man was holding a young child in his arms but Started to shout at me telling me I drove up the street to quick. I asked who he was He quickly got aggressive.
He told me He was my neighbour and he had been recording me for weeks. There was only about 18 houses in my street so I knew he must of lived close.
He continued to shout at me stating my daddy paid for my car and house and I was daddy's girl who needed to learn a lesson (just to clarify my dad did not pay for these things) by now I was screaming at him to get off my property. The man then went on to attempt to punch me in my face, with the hand not holding his child, he missed my face by an inch.
He then rushed off into his car. I slammed my door and in complete shock run up to my room crying. I was already going be late for work and knew my manager could help me, so I threw my clothes on rushed out the door and got in my car still in shock and really upset by the whole ordeal.
As I drove to the bottom of my street I noticed I was blocked in by a big silver people carrier. I got closer to the car and realised the man who had just been at my door was sat in the car staring at me. His daughter was sat in the back, in a car seat. I couldn't get past him and just wanted this sorted.
I got out of my car and walked to his drivers window and said 'can we sort this like adults' he screamed at me that I was no adult just a little girl and he was gonna get me.
I knew by this point it had gone way to far so I told him I was calling the police and walked back to my car.
The man then revved his engine over and over, that noise is still stuck in my head. as I heard the engine rev behind me I kept thinking he wouldn't dare, I was trying to be the strong Hannah I always was but I was scared of this man and I was right to be scared of him. He didn't have a care in the world. He revved his engine then drove his car in to me, Crushing me between my car and his and knocking me unconscious onto the road. The man obviously didn't feel running me over was enough. He then got out of car and stamped on my head over and over.
I woke up to this big boot in my face and remember thinking I am going to die. I started to scream for help and could hear people screaming at him to get off me but he didn't, he just kept kicking me in the head over and over shouting at me 'I told you I would get you' It wasn't till a young man called Jack Physcially pulled him off me. The man then ran off leaving his car with his daughter inside it.
At this point not only was I in agony physically, I could not take in what had just happened to me, I had so many people around me, staring, it was like I was in the twilight zone. I couldn't hear anything and everything seemed in slow motion.
The police and ambulance arrived and I was taken to hospital. Luckily I wasn't alone and a witness called Sarah joined me in the ambulance and called my family. I was very lucky with my injuries, I escaped with broken ribs, fractures, my whole body black and blue and the worst headache that lasted a few days and caused me to vomit. I also developed a back problem a few weeks after the accident that I have received treatment on for the last two years.
The man was arrested at the scene but released on bail and allowed to go back home.
Back home to the same street I also lived on.
I stayed at friends and family for a few days while my son jack stayed with his dad. I could barely walk and was not In a good way, i did not want my son to see me like this.
Eventually I had to face facts and return home to 'normal life'.
The police informed me of the mans address and I realised he lived opposite me. He could see into my house from his which did not help with my anxiety.
When returning home I had the physical injuries to deal with, I could barely walk and had to tell Jack I fell down the stairs. But what was harder to deal with was the mental state I was in. I suffered panic attacks constantly throughout the days. I was to scared to leave the house, to scared to open my door, to scared to let my son play out, do the school run and in the evenings I suffered with nightmares and had to take sleeping tablets prescribed from my doctor.
My life was not the same. I was not the same.
The man who attacked me unbelievably had a wife and 2 young children. He didn't look like he had anything to be that mad about. Mad enough to run down a mother. All I kept thinking was why did he want to hurt me like this?? What if he hit me a little harder with his car? What if he wasn't pulled off me? what if he wanted revenge for being arrested? If he was capable of what he done in front of his own daughter what would stop him trying to hurt me again or even jack??
The only thing I was thankful for was that this all happened after the school run and jack didn't witness it.
I knew him and his family would not be moving and with my mental state I could not continue living in this house, so when I recovered from my main physical injuries I left my home.
I lost my deposit, all my furniture and had no where to go. I worked full time so the local council council wouldn't help me, they even advised me to quit my job and go on benefits as I have a better chance of getting a house.
I had worked so hard to get where I was in my job that was not an option.
Renting seemed impossible because for a 2 bed house in Milton Keynes I apparently had to earn £32,000 a year. I literally felt lost.
To try and describe how low I felt at this point in my life would be impossible.I was numb. I had almost 2 months off work and going back facing people was so difficult. Of course everyone was lovely and sympathetic. Work even sent me flowers while I was off. But of course people had questions which lead to me talking about what happened which would lead to me breaking down and leaving work early on many occasions. I was ready to give up on life.
I didn't feel like the same person. I was scared, touchy, angry and hard to be around. I lost two close friends during this time, who I thought would always be by my side and to be honest even though they say friends should support you in hard times,this situation was weird. I was probably hard to be around so I don't blame them... however it made me so thankful to my friends and family that did help me get through this and still are to this day. Trouble was this event happened and because I tried to act so strong to everyone, no one really knew how low I was. How much I wanted to run away from everything and everyone.
I was homeless for about 10 weeks. Staying on my nans/mums/friends sofas while jack stayed in my nans spare room so he had some stability. I eventually found the perfect little home for me and my boy and we moved in as soon as we could. I had lost so much money by leaving my other house, not working and had basically no furniture I had to completely start over.
After working hard to clear debts and live debt free I found myself buying furniture on my credit cards and catalogues. I used overdrafts to pay for my deposits on my home. I was literally wiped and maxed out!
The day I moved into my home coincidently marked the day the man was officially charged after a very very very long 3 month bail. He received the charges; dangerous driving with intent to harm, assault and driving under the influence of drugs. I was advised this would go to magistrates court and I would be contacted me with a date.
I felt relieved but honestly I felt a little disappointed. Because my level of injury was not to bad (in their opinion) and basically because I wasn't on my death bed his charges were not as bad as they should of been.
In my opinion this guy really wanted to hurt me. He used a car to run me down and then when he done that he thought, you know what I haven't done enough let me get out of my car and kick her in the head over and over. I thought this guy was going to kill me, finish the job that the car didn’t do. I genuinely feared for my life.
In July 2016 I was told by the police the man was planning to plead not guilty in court. Everyone was really taken back by this, even the police. There was many witnesses who saw the whole event how could he think he would get away with this??? I couldn't get my head round why he was doing this and what really hurt was he couldn't be a man and face the horrible thing he done, take responsibility.
The date came when we had to attend the magistrates court. It was all a blur if I'm honest. I felt myself looking at the ceiling the whole time. Reliving this event and coming face to face with the man who went to extreme lengths to hurt me.
When it came to the day in court, the man pleaded guilty. He knew pleading not guilty would mean crown court and thought getting a sentence from magistrates would work in his favour.
The magistrates decided the case was to serious for them to deal with and said it will go to crown court.
I left feeling a mixture of emotions.
Proud of myself that I managed to get through that so calmly with no panic attacks. My anxiety was mega high, but that was always the case anyway. I was Happy that the judges believed he deserved more punishment, but sad and anxious that this whole ordeal was not over.
I was contacted by the police who booked an appointment for me to come into the station and make a personal statement for the crown court judge: it was basically a statement describing how this event had affected my life. Re living the event and going into huge detail about the turmoil it had caused. They told me there would be a screen between us in court so I wouldn't have to see him and then put me in contact with the witness care team who took me through the process.
Weeks passed and I still had not heard about a date for crown court. I kept ringing the police and was told someone would contact me. The build up to this was horrendous, I just wanted it over with. Then one afternoon I was at a friends house for a play date with our kids. I received a Facebook message from one of the witness’s. She stated how amazing it was that he got time and how happy I must be. I was so confused and was instantly quiestioning her message she said she had heard that man who attacked me had been sentenced to one year in prison.... ONE WEEK EARLIER!!!
I instantly went into a state of panic I couldn't breathe, the room was closing in on me I was shaking so much I couldn't hold my phone. When i calmed down and rang the police who told me that the officer dealing with my case was not in and I would get a call back tomorrow. TOMORROW!!! I NEEDED TO KNOW NOW!!! I was very emotional and crying, telling them I couldn't wait till tomorrow.
The Sargent then called me back within half hour and confirmed he had been called into crown court last minute and was sentenced to one year in prison. They tried to tell me it was better i wasn't there, that this was a good outcome and justice was served.
When I calmed down I felt so low. I felt forgotten about. Although I was dreading court I had prepared myself mentally and wanted closure: this man had been punished for what he done to me but no one even called me to tell me, I found out a week later on Facebook. All I could think was I'm worthless no one cares and what happened to me was clearly no big deal and I shouldn't be feeling as low as I do.
I didn't even take in that he had gone to prison. One year seemed like justice slightly. But I knew it would be likely he would get out earlier and get on with his life. While this event would effect me for the rest of my life.
Anyway, knowing he was in prison did make my life a little better. I went self employed as a Radio Presnter and I could earn the Same amount of money working 15 hours a week instead of 40 hours. I could now spend time with jack in the holidays and pick him up from school everyday!
However within a few weeks of being self employed, without even realising I slipped into a state of depression. I was use to spending 7 hours a day in an office full of people and all of a sudden I spent everyday on my own. not being around people isolated me to my house.
Jack would go to school in the morning, I would go back to bed and sleep the whole day untill 3pm when I would need to collect jack. At weekends Jack went to his dad's and I would work on the radio and use every spare minute I had to myself to distract my mind from my life. I would binge drink all weekend then feel hungover and down on Monday and sleep all week.
I was living in ground hog day.
To make matters worse, during this time I received a Facebook message again from the same lady who told me the man had gone to prison. The message read that she had seen him walking through Monkston and he must have been released. At this point I was already having a bad day and when I received the message I suffered quite a sever panic attack. I was quite good at controlling my panic attacks by this time but I specifically remember this one was hard to control! When I finally did calm down i called my family who told me to call the police. I rang them later that evening and it was confirmed he had been released from prison a few days before. HE SERVED 2 months!!!!
Again I felt majorly let down that no one thought it was important enough to call me and make me aware he was out. Especially because he lives in an estate where my mum lives and close friends.
When I knew he was in prison it was a lot easier for me to visit my family and friends. I just kept thinking what if it was me that bumped into him!
I was offered an apology by the police and told that I should have been made aware of his release. That was it. Left to it. It was over!
Well it was over for him but It was far from over for me. I had never been depressed before so I didn't know I was. However I knew what I was doing was wrong because I would hide the fact I spent my days in bed, I would lie about going out and make out I stayed in and had early nights. No One really knew how depressed I actually was, I didn't even know.
I was probably a nightmare to be around. I was falling out with family and friends. Looking back I wanted to isolate myself from people because I felt like my story and my drama was to much and they was sick of hearing me moan about it. I was in a very lonely place.
As weeks passed Christmas time was approaching. I started to get in the Christmas mood which distracted me from my depression. I have always been Christmas mad. So, for Jacks sake I really tried to make it amazing for him. After all this year had been just as hard on him as it had on me.
He had been my rock through it all and he deserved the best Christmas.
I think by this point my depression was more noticeable to people close to me. My nan and mum arranged for my dad to fly over from France as a surprise at Christmas 2016. They started to notice my depression and wanted to lift my spirits. Well seeing my dad defiantly did!
I'm such a daddy's girls so the fact he lives thousands of miles away is really hard. Not having my dad by my side through out these hard times was one of the hardest things about this whole process.
I had an amazing Christmas. It was perfect.
But when the Christmas was over and reality and routine was back in my life the depression and anxiety washed all over me again.
I went back to spending days in bed and drinking all weekend.
At this point I admitted defeat and went to see my doctor. I had the same doctor who had seen me many times since the incident. He knew everything and really was a massive part in making me better. He prescribed me anti depressants.
I tried to avoid this for so long but I had to give it a go, I had to try and get better for my sons sake.
I was also diagnosed with PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) and referred for CBT therapy.
I remember the day my therapist called me to arrange my first meeting with her. I said to her 'I don't think I need this to be honest, therapy isn't going to help but ok I will see what you have to say’
We booked in my appointment and in February 2017 my journey through therapy began.
There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you....
Being told you need therapy is a really big deal. It's like being told 'you are failing so bad at life, a stranger needs to help you'
What could this stranger possibly help me with? She hasn't been through what I have been through, she doesn't know me, she's paid to do this, she doesn't actually care, she will judge me, she will never understand and the biggest thought running through my mind..... she can't make what happened to me disappear.
Like I mentioned before I had a preconceived idea of therapy. I thought I would be laying down flat. In a dark room and someone would sit by my head taking notes.
It could not have been further from that.
The day of my first therapy session came in February 2017, I pulled up to a lovely detached house in one of the desired areas in Milton Keynes. Knocked on the door and a lady walked out and guided me to the back gate. We walked through her beautiful immaculate garden into her conservatory. I sat on a small couch sitting upright on the edge and she sat opposite me. Looking directly into my eyes. It was weird because I instantly felt at ease. It was a soothing and comfortable environment.
My Therapist was called Greta and she had a sense of peace and trust about her.
First, she asked me to tell her my story. I instantly knew she didn't need to know about my childhood she needed to know exactly what had happened to me, why I was such a mess.
This was now the beginning of 2017, almost a year had passed since the incident and I hadn't really spoken about it like I previously mentioned I thought people were bored of it and think I was a drama queen. Telling her the ins and outs were really hard. I practically cried the whole session. It was really difficult, but also at the same it felt good to cry to someone and let it all out. I always tried to hide my sadness. It Felt Like a weight was lifted off my shoulders.
She told me she was going to be doing a type of therapy called CBT. A description of CBT is:
(Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a talking therapy that can help you manage your problems by changing the way you think and behave. It's most commonly used to treat anxiety and depression, but can be useful for other mental and physical health problems)
She said CBT would definitely help with the anxiety and depression I had developed.
But then she went on to say she thought I was severely suffering from the trauma of what happened to me and recommended a different type of therapy called EMDR.
But before we could think about EMDR we needed to work on me and my feelings.
I attended a one-hour appointment every week for 10 weeks. My therapist was amazing she really helped me get through my depression and helped me sort my head out which was a complete mess.
I was usually the 'organiser' of my friends I would make plans and always need to be prepared.
However I had changed, I now never made plans, lived day by day and couldn't organise anything, I couldn't do that involved me having responsibility.
I found myself not opening my letters, ignoring bills, not getting back to messages and emails, just shutting myself away from the World.
By this time I had lived in my home for about 10 months and all my debts from the move and incident were chasing me. My monthly payments to debts added up to about £500 a month and on top of that, I had my rent and normal bills, paying for my child, my car, and everyday living. I just blocked it all out.
Therapy helped me organise my life again. Call companies I was ignoring and explain my situation and basically get my life back in order.
A massive turning point in my life was while I was about halfway through my CBT therapy. I was getting better and felt stronger and decided to take the leap of launching my own radio show and blog, the blog you are reading right now. The work I needed to put into the launch distracted me from my depression and also gave me a reason to get out of bed.
Mum's Life Radio Show first aired in March 2017 and I remember the day I walked out of the studio after finishing my first show, it was the first time in a year I felt like the old Hannah again. I felt Confident, happy, bubbly, driven and I had ideas!
Since the launch, mums life has just grown and grown. I have met the most amazing people who I believe are a big part of my recovery from the mental disease.
And the truth is mums life would probably never have happened if I didn't start therapy. My therapist gave me the confidence to get back out there and show the world what I can do and most importantly, make my son proud.
I won't go into to much detail about everything that was discussed during therapy. It was very personal and I treated therapy as my little secret place.
I could go there and discuss my whole life and feelings and leave it in that room.
What I will say is the 10 weeks of CBT changed my life. I wasn't perfect again or completely back to normal, but what is normal anyway? But I was a better mum, happier person and in a much better place in general.
During my CBT therapy, I did experience a horrible event that made me realise that although I was fighting depression I was not over the trauma.
I went to a local shop to pick up a few bits. When walking around the corner I actually saw the man who ran me over and beat me. He was right in front of me.
I went into a state of shock, I dropped my shopping all over the floor, ran out of the shop and drove off trying to control my breathing and prevent a panic attack, I don't even know if he saw me...
I then realised the most horrifying thing. I had run out of the shop and left my son in the shop with that man. I can't tell you how bad I felt, how much of a failure I was at protecting my child. I drove back and Jack was outside confused and upset. He ran to my car, got in, and I squeezed him so hard. I felt awful.
See for me one of the hardest things of this whole ordeal was how it affected Jack.
He would go to school and tell the teachers there is a man who wants to kill his mummy. He would drive past our old street with my mum and tell her it made him feel sick because he knew he lived there.To this day he still doesn't want to go back to that shop and always asks if the bad man knows where we live.
I tried to hide so much from Jack at the beginning but wiith the police around us a lot, being made homeless and the state of me, physically and mentally, he was catching on to things so I had to make the decision to be completely honest with him and tell him what happened.
He handled it amazingly and really looked after his mummy. I would not have got through this whole ordeal without him by my side. Reminding me that life is worth living. His smile would make me smile even in the times I thought I couldn't.
Jacks behaviour at school was definitely affected by this but with the help of his fab teachers, we got him back on track.
When my CBT sessions ended it was time to move on to a different type of therapy. This therapy was called EMDR. A description of EMDR is:
Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is a fairly new, nontraditional type of psychotherapy. It's growing in popularity, particularly for treating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD often occurs after experiences such as military combat, physical assault, rape, or car accidents.
My therapist explained that the trauma of what happened to me was so severe because I thought I was going to die and It was stored in a part of my brain that had no sense of time. Therefore triggers that reminded me of the event would take me back to how I felt at that exact moment. It didn't feel like memories it felt like I was reliving the whole thing.
Greta advised this therapy would help store these events as just a distant memories in my brain.
The first step of EMDR was to find my happy place. At first, I chose my bed, cause I really love my bed.
But she explained that even though I love my bed, that's actually a place associated with my depression because I stayed in bed when I felt low.
So I choose my dad's house. His farm in France. I closed my eyes and described the place to her. The things I saw, the sounds I could hear, down to every little detail:
My sessions would always end in my happy place:
My session would begin in a really bad place. A really bad memory.
They ranged from the point of being run over, to waking up on the ground being kicked in the head, to panic attacks I had following the incident, to sitting in court.
This technique of therapy brought back memories from the time of the trauma that I was aware of but also ones I forgot about. I had to face them all and deal with them in my therapy sessions.
I had to remember that although the trauma itself was the actual attack, the trauma continued after the attack. I had a lot of horrible incidents stored in my head that were all linked and it was affecting how I lived my life.
I'm not gonna pretend that EMDR was easy. It was tough. The first few sessions would be filled with tears and fear. Â I was Reliving the events and these memories I tried to block out. I did suffer from nightmares after my sessions on a few occasions.
What I will say is it did get easier. I started to cry a little less until eventually not at all.
By the end of my EMDR treatment, I actually managed to go back to the place of the attack and drive past the man's house. I was with my dad so I felt safe but I couldn't even drive his side of the estate without having a panic attack so that was such a massive deal for me.
Now I'm not saying therapy is this amazing miracle treatment that makes you forget your problems. But it does help more then you could ever imagine. Whatever may have happened in your life or whatever you are going through now, sometimes we are not strong enough to deal with it by ourselves. Sometimes we need to admit we need help. Admitting I needed help was really hard for me because like I have said I've been so strong my whole life.
I realised I wasn't strong anymore, I was weak. I realised I couldn't beat this alone so I stopped living with it alone every day.
It just goes to show you really don't know what someone is going through. The smiles on Facebook are what people want you to see. Although I did briefly talk about the event on my Facebook that was to avoid questions and rumours. I have never really been able to openly talk about this whole journey. And now it's over I hope it inspires other people who live with mental health issues, for whatever reason, to accept help, believe in yourself and get better!
This time last year I was in the worst place of my life emotionally. And now a year on I am healthy and happy and have accomplished so much all by myself.
Now I'm still not perfect and have many flaws, I still have loads more I want to accomplish. I still hideaway when things get too much, but we all do that. We all have tough times it's about learning how to deal with our emotions during the tough times, Therapy has helped me do that for sure.
If you can take anything away from this blog then please take my advise and don't let your mental disease beat you. Talk to people and try to make them understand, ask for help, talk about how you feel. Keeping it to yourself only makes things worse and luckily I got help just at the right time and have beat it. If you would like details of my Therapist please feel free to contact me.
Remember You don't have to control your thoughts, you just have to stop letting them control you.
Thanks for reading.
Lots of Love Hannah xxx