Expedition 7: The Little Train That Couldn't

As we travel through our lives we make MEMORIES some good and some not so good. We get over most of the not so good stuff with our natural or learned coping mechanisms, self help books, or therapy. For some it can be a simple as practicing BUDDHIST principles such as letting go and FORGIVENESS. I’ve spent months using traditional and holistic methods to overcome the diagnosis’ I’ve been given following a motor vehicle accident.  Until one day it simply became far to complex of a MIND battle to fight alone I had to stop using AVOIDANCE, face my state of DEPRESSION and be willing to speak my TRUTH. This is a blog post that I’ve had prepared for over two weeks but have been terrified to post…

Why you ask VULNERABILITY, SHAME and JUDGEMENT the fear of wondering am I strong enough to do this to face the DEMON that is haunting me day and night?

Before I get into the struggle I am facing today and tell you about that “Little Train” I want to give you an idea of where it started and how I managed to talk myself out of making one of the biggest mistakes of my entire existence. Remember the dreaded speech writing time in grade school when you had to write and PERFORM a speech in front of your class mates. Well if you don’t I do and this particular year was hell for me I was failing miserably at academics more interested in the coming of age challenges faced by a 5thgrader. I’d left the speech writing until the night before it was due, I had nothing prepared no topic, no intro nothing. So my mother called upon my sister who was the epitome of a type “A” first born child. Always followed the rules, did exactly what was expected of her and rarely questioned why.

She would give me a topic an old speech she’d written based upon the principles of the children’s book “The Little Train that Could”. It wasn’t my story I wouldn’t get up and perform this and pretend it was mine, that would insult my INTEGRITY and people would know that it wasn’t me. But my mother would not let me get out of this so over and over she made me perform my sister’s speech in front of her and my sister in the kitchen until I got it just right. Problem was when it came to the scrutiny of my mother and sister I could never do anything just right they always had something to point out that I could change to do things their way is how I saw it.

My sister would give me tips on tone and how to stand “put more passion into the I think I can” until finally I snapped feeling trapped and like a total FAKE I just wanted to run away and escape their JUDGEMENTAL eyes and controlling voices. So I just melted into a puddle on the ground and kept yelling “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can” until they let me go to my room where I tried to figure out if I was going to perform this farce of a speech or write a new one. I don’t recall if I did perform it or not. What I do know now is that I made it through grade school, high school, college and most of my adult life CONTROLLING how people saw me because of that and many other MOMENTS of JUDGEMENT. I didn’t want to live someone else’s story I wanted it to be my own.

Recently I experienced a pivotal MOMENT when I realized that I was dealing with a MENTAL HEALTH crisis and I couldn’t battle it on my own I needed help and I needed it sooner then later. Today I’ve decided to share my struggle with you all and open myself up to being VULNERABLE to criticism considering the amazing life I am fortunate enough to live. But here I am about to LET GO of the need to CONTROL my image and be HONEST with where I’m at, how I got here and what I plan to do to move FORWARD with purpose. The most liberating part is that I hope that telling my story will someday lead to me releasing the need to give a shit about what others think of me or to help anyone of you reading this post.

For months I had been silently battling symptoms of PTSD and ANXIETY which were the result of a motor vehicle accident we had been in about 5 months prior to me seeking serious help for the MENTAL anguish I was facing on a daily basis. I would have FLASHBACKS, noises could trigger instant panic and I had little to no CONTROL of my emotional outbursts. Unable to focus, often distracted and simply disconnected from people in general with no drive to do almost anything that I used to love. I had this irritability that would ERUPT into full blown anger on the drop of a dime if I felt frustrated over the littlest things.

Despite my internal struggle every single day I would put on my “picture perfect” happy face and head off to work unless the physical /psychological symptoms or side effects from the medication prevented me from doing so or I had to accommodate one of the many weekly appointments to treat my post accident injuries. I was bailing on friends, cancelling dinner plans and AVOIDING the people who knew me best out of fear of them finding out something was WRONG with me. In late December I started to acknowledge it was taking over my life by late January I started posting about these MENTAL challenges on social media to relieve myself of some of the weight. I had been referred to a Psychologist and Psychotherapist who would help me with the anxiety and driver rehabilitation. I wasn’t discussing my psychological challenges with anyone because I was ashamed that I thought certain things because I should be happy I have a great life.

I hated hearing “this is your new normal”, “you need to become friends with the anxiety”, and the general comments that basically said I needed to EMBRACE this change in who I was. These statements meant that I would never have CONTROL again of how people saw me. I felt like I was disarmed of my defense mechanism I could no longer hide from the MENTAL battle this accident had introduced into my life and people would find out I was actually slowly losing my shit.

By mid May I was having breakdowns silently at my desk in the bathroom at work and on the bus on my way to and from work on a daily basis. Haunted by the thoughts of how I could end this MISERY of thoughts spiraling in my head. I spent more time trying to fend off the thoughts then I did trying to heal my MIND and get better. Most days I was exhausted working full time, fitting my appointments into the work day so I didn’t let down my team who are much more like a family then coworkers. Feeling supported by my team members during the day, somehow still able to hide most of the things that haunted my dreams and tormented my overactive mind as I pretended to be okay. I’d find myself pushing to the limits not only at work but also at home to be the wife and mother I’ve always been, being there for my friends during crisis and FAKING it all the way. I was being everything to everyone but myself.

Well one day that all changed when I realized I couldn’t CONTROL what was happening in my own MIND.

The MOMENT to MOMENT battle with my thoughts almost took my life.

I was returning to the office following one of my lunch time psychotherapy appointments.

It was an overcast day and I had just finished the appointment my as I walked up the same street which the accident occurred on to return to the office. I thought about how much I had CHANGED since the day of the accident. How I was now intimidated by social interactions, less confident and so very self critical. As I approached the train tracks the crossing GUARDS were down and the TRAIN was approaching. In that MOMENT I considered ending it all...the voices telling me I would never be the same, the shame of having to tell people I needed help the inability to be present in this SUFFERING for even a MOMENT longer was eating me up inside. I could no longer face the daily disappointment of not being able to be 100% there for my amazing family so distant and removed from who I used to be.

That last thought is what saved me I didn’t care that I would be GONE from this earth since I would be out of pain, no longer have to pretend I was okay every day, and not have to battle this MISERY that kept taking me to dark places of my MIND. The thought of my husband and daughter living life without me in it was what made me realize I needed to seek their support. My mind and that tricky URSULA (my anxiety) had somehow convinced me I was a burden to them. If there is one thing I know it is that the best thing to ever happen to my life is them so I had to FIGHT even though I felt defeated I had to move forward and stand up for MYSELF against the battle that was going on in my head.

I didn’t choose to tell anyone immediately I was far to ashamed of not being that tough “I can handle anything broad”. It wasn’t until I started having thoughts of self harm to help RELEASE some of the pain that I actually felt to close to the edge that I needed to talk to someone. I would often imagine how to harm myself at one point I actually researched online how to do it and successfully hide it from others. At first I mentioned some of these thoughts to my husband who seemed to almost be in disbelief but it was non judgmental and comforting in his own way. Then I managed to muster up the COURAGE to mention it to my family doctor who suggested I consider reducing my stress level. He had advised that resources to deal with DEPRESSION in talk therapy are scarce and I should consider the psychiatric emergency services if it gets really bad. Then he prescribed some anti depressants to help me cope and to fight off the urges my mind was forcing upon me. I had been doing everything I could to QUIET the inner critic that seemed to be tearing me apart on the inside.

I began to come to terms with the fact that months of battling the ANXIETY, PTSD and physical pain had led to DEPRESSION. With all the treatment avenues I could afford and the ones approved exhausted I had nowhere to turn but INSIDE. It was the full moon in early July that I finally LET GO if I didn’t slow down I was going to do something to harm myself or simply give up and leave this world. I knew that was something I not only couldn’t battle alone but was far to weak to fight day after day. I had to get to know the person I had become after the accident, come to terms with the changes in my personality and EMBRACE the new me and learn to love her. People kept saying “you seem quiet”, “you seem to be handling it well” and others who I confided in would say “I don’t want you to change” but nobody knew the TRUTH of what I was battling because I never gave that battle space to be a part of who I was. I won’t let it DEFINE me but it does deserve to be heard acknowledged and given a voice as part of my story.

This would take time, how much I’m not sure,

This would take slowing down to embrace the healing process, how slow never slow enough it seemed,

This would take me admitting I cannot control what others think and I shouldn’t care,

This would take me realizing I no longer “think I can”,

All of the above left me extremely happy to admit that I was...

“The Little Train that Couldn’t”

I couldn’t give up on MYSELF,

I couldn’t leave my FAMILY to pick up the pieces my BROKEN mind left behind,

I couldn’t let URSULA (my anxiety) take my voice away from me and SILENCE my TRUTH,

I couldn’t and I wouldn’t take my LIFE that day because I needed to figure out WHO I AM NOW!

So today I’ve decided to acknowledge the TRAUMA, stop AVOIDANCE of the changes, acknowledge the state of DEPRESSION which seems to have taken over my mind and speak my TRUTH.  Now that I can be free of the control and stop giving a shit about what people think of me I can start to heal.


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