Weeks have elapsed since my last blog post. Not only has it been a time of recovery from two medical procedures but one in which decisions have been made. Over social media and indeed on my website I’ve been sharing a book cover, a new writing project. AT RISK is a true crime story, it’s one that encompasses what fear has meant to me. “Sofia” takes you on a journey – one that I have lived and one that is far from comfortable. A true test of endurance.

Many of you already know I’ve survived head trauma and that resulting from that I battled PTSD and now live with seizures. Nothing I’ve experienced defines me, it’s built a strong woman out of me who takes on life’s challenges with a smile upon her face. Sharing what I can of the events that led to the decisions of me taking on the job that left me so disabled is going to be a deep journey but one of total closure.

It wasn’t a story I was willing to share, originally but nearing the end of last year I met a remarkable person. He told me that to hide my past was to fear it. Adamant there was no longer fear in my life, I couldn’t have been more wrong. Aaron, thank you for making me take a step back to look at myself and realise what was needed: that writing my story and sharing this part of me would be so healing. Correct in that I no longer feared “him” I discovered my fear was for the reaction of others when they found out what I had experienced. I’m ready to face that reaction now.

To learn about Aaron Timms and his work please visit his website:  https://www.aarontimmsofficial.com/

FEAR: Forget Everything And Run OR Face Everything And Rise

Fear is a reaction caused by perceived threat creating changes in metabolic and organ function. Ultimately, it changes how we behave. Fear has ensured the survival of our species through the fight, flight or freeze response to danger. Often because of experienced trauma our thought processes are hijacked and we perceive events that are not likely to happen that cause us distress.

When our thoughts override reason in this way our bodies are constantly sustaining themselves in flight or fight mode and we are left heightened and feeling anxious. Over time this becomes our normality and the cycle is very difficult to break. Finding ourselves in this situation might mean that our lives are hugely affected – we might stop socialising, our work may become affected and we may feel isolated. Fear has a massive impact on how capable we feel, on our well-being and can cause a dip in our immune system.

Overcoming fear is, then paramount in us being healthy. Our fears could be anything from "I'm not good enough for the job" to "if I go out something dreadful will happen". Over the next few blogs I will be sharing some stories with you. In the meantime if you have any questions you can contact me via e-mail here.

Mental Health Awareness Week - 2019

This week marks “Mental Health Awareness Week 2019” so I’m leaving the thread of discussion of the blog temporarily to talk about why its so important to, well… talk. 

During the past there has been so much stigma about mental health – or ill health – and I guess it still exists today. I’ve certainly been on the receiving end of negativity regarding my own complexities and I’m sure I’m not alone. Its one of the reasons I decided to speak out, actually.

There is no shame in my heart that I have suffered with mental health problems – the trauma I have experienced in my life has been extreme and that had to channel somewhere. I’m immensely proud to have overcome and willing to be a voice for those who would prefer to remain quiet. I understand the need for privacy because I needed that for so very long too.

Therapy aside, and I cannot praise it enough, talking about my mental health on-line, through publishing my books, on stage and more recently here on my blog has helped me more than I could ever express. It’s released a pressure and enabled me to become whole again. Its enabled me to move on and forgive everyone involved (including myself) for all I’ve been through. Talking is the beginning of the journey to freedom and the chance of a better life for yourself. It has every possibility, with the right interventions, of allowing you to heal. 

Talking is important, whatever you might be going thorough there is always someone who will listen.  In emergencies you can reach out, in the UK here:

If you're in crisis and need to speak to someone:

 In an emergency / if in danger call 999

  • Call NHS 111 (for when you need help but are not in immediate danger)
  • Contact your GP and ask for an emergency appointment
  • Contact the Samaritans Available 24 hours a day to provide confidential emotional support for people who are experiencing feelings of distress, despair or suicidal thoughts 116 123
  • Use the 'Shout' crisis text line - text SHOUT to 85258

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): Some Facts

Psychological stress was first reported in the nineteen-hundreds by an Egyptian physician who described a hysterical reaction to trauma. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) has, confusingly been given many labels over the years. Previously known as ‘shell shock’ during WWI, ‘War Neurosis’ during WWII and ‘Combat Stress Reaction’ during the Vietnam War it wasn’t until the late nineteen-eighties that its present term was introduced.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can develop following any event that makes you fear for your safety. Any event (or series of events) that overwhelms you with feelings of hopelessness and helplessness that leave you emotionally shattered can trigger PTSD. This may happen especially if the event feels unpredictable and uncontrollable. Characteristics of a traumatic event are defined by its capacity to provoke fear, helplessness or horror as a response to the threat of injury or death and can affect those who have personally witnessed a traumatic event, are repeatedly exposed to graphic details of trauma (such as a paramedic) or those who are there to care for those effected by trauma as well as those who have experienced trauma.

During exposure to trauma you are in an intensively fearful situation during which your mind suspends normal operations in order to cope as best it can. This could trigger several different behaviours: you might freeze on the spot, fight or run away (otherwise known as flight). Until the danger passes you don’t produce a memory for the traumatic event in the normal way and unfortunately, when the memory is eventually presented for filing it can cause a lot of distress which can manifest itself in the form of nightmares, flashbacks and intrusive unwanted memories called re-experiences.

Re-experiences or flashbacks is the mind attempting to file away the distressing memory. They are unpleasant and frightening and repeatedly expose you to the original trauma.   Imagine your memory is like a filing cabinet but you’ve been too busy to complete your filing so you have piled up your paperwork in the bottom drawer day after day, until the drawer bulges. Now that you attempt to file all the paperwork (or in this case the memories) the task has become so overwhelming it makes you anxious: there are no reference numbers and you can’t read the documents. You have no idea where to file them, or who to turn to for help. Each time your mind attempts to file the documents your state of awareness changes to the point that those around you begin to notice. Your emotions begin to suffer and symptoms begin to present themselves in ways that can show both physically and emotionally. Physical symptoms are a shortness of breath, tight muscles, sweating and a racing heart; whereas emotional symptoms are when you feel on edge, hypervigilance or a feeling of panic.

Hyperarousal often increases emotional response although it’s possible that PTSD sufferers also feel emotionally numb causing trouble in communication about their feelings. In turn this can cause more anxiety and irritability. Symptoms of PTSD become unmanageable and uncomfortable to the point that avoidance linked to the original trauma begins to occur, affecting day to day life drastically.

Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Flashbacks are daunting and my first one occurred at the deep end of a swimming pool as I was attempting to regain some normality in my life. At the very moment I was magically transported back into the room in which I was attacked and re-lived the assault I was plunged into another trauma that would torment me for years. Water rushed into my airways, creating a secondary panic. Already claustrophobic as a result of my head injury I now had an overriding fear of placing my head anywhere near water and this would affect my daily living for a very long time.

My adult life has been a complex series of events requiring survival skills and although I’d successfully dealt with these events and survived their effects, being pre-disposed to trauma placed me at a higher risk of susceptibility to Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Because of my life, my memory loss and the assault it was a difficult process to come to terms with and an even harder one to conquer. Taking two separate courses of therapy with a substantial gap and two different therapists I finally broke free of the choke-hold CPTSD had over me and started to live life. It remains a condition that has my respect because despite it being under control I can feel it bubbling [very] deep under the surface at times: I know the signs and I know how to combat them.

From someone who had isolated herself and hid either in the empty bath tub or under the kitchen table until it was perceived safe to emerge please know its possible to harness fear and turn it into something worthwhile. Next time I will share more insight into PTSD and then will start talking about fear, when I will be introducing my first guest. 

If you would like to reach out with any questions please e-mail at support@donnasiggers.com