pinterest

MENTAL HEALTH

Mental health is a subject close to Donna's  heart.  Below are details of some  of the challenges she's faced due to being assaulted and the subsequent head injury sustained from that.  Donna didn't just survive her attack--meeting the hurdles and adversity face on with an inner strength and positive attitude  has allowed her to strive. As a result she claims she's emerged the other side a better version of herself. It was the attack in twenty-fourteen that changed her life--in fairness Donna's life needed a shake up. This wasn't quite how she or her family had expected that change to occur, however. Facing death devastated Donna. It almost destroyed her. The struggles it left her to deal with still exist--and as you will learn those struggles have subsequently affected her in ways she struggles to comprehend.

Six times published and award winning author (with more books on the way) Donna is proof that through forward thinking, perseverance and determination its possible to turn your life around. Her life story is both heart wrenching and moving but is also inspiring. Donna is one of the most motivational individuals you'll meet. Her energy is boundless. 


MEMORY LOSS

After the brain trauma associated with the assault Donna lost the ability to remember her past, what she had done a few moments ago and, for example what she had gone upstairs for. Suddenly immersed into a frustrating life she attempted to live, no longer knowing that the utensils she ate with were called a knife and fork or that she signed her name with a pen. Knowing her own name was a bonus for she didn't know many more.  Beyond signing her name, Donna no longer had the ability to  read or write which was a combination of her failed eyesight and memory loss. Embarking on a long journey of recovery, it took time to rebuild these skills. First she built a memory palace (which took a considerable period to implement) but its a tool that is mostly effective. Writing has helped, through a complex process, Donna regained much of her past along with an uncomfortable story she shares in her book, "LOST SOUL: Broken Soul to Soul on Fire", that saw a bulk of her memory return. Her first task before leaving hospital, however was to learn the names of her four children. 


COMPLEX POST-TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER

Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is crippling. Donna has experienced more than one trauma, but it was the assault that triggered her symptoms. Within her latest book, "SOUL SEARCHING: To PTSD Hell and Back Twice" she explains that the 'complex' aspect of her PTSD is due to the nine years of trauma she was exposed to that included six years of stalking. CPTSD is diagnosed when there is has been no foreseeable end to trauma, for example during war or domestic abuse.

Donna's original PTSD was triggered by the assault in twenty-fourteen, an unrelated attack she received in a mental health setting at which she worked. Each time a flashback occurred, either during the daytime or at night she went through this attack experiencing the traumatic event time and time again. There was no end to the torment. PTSD presents itself pretty much like a fragmented film playing out that you never quite get the ending of. Its not possible to piece together the whole story because your brain hasn't filed the memory correctly.  Her situation was made worse because of the anger she was carrying, not towards the person who attacked but because of the situation she'd been left in by her employers. There was no blame in her mind or heart towards her attacker and still isn't--psychosis can't carry blame. Many people around her can't get their heads around that! It is what it is. There was this vicious cycle: the more flashbacks that occurred, the more fearful she became. The more fear felt, the more the anger built. The more angry she was, the more flashbacks there were. Life became hell. Functioning even at a remedial level was difficult at best, for Donna was also struggling to rebuild her lost memory and thus her identity.  

It took two rounds of therapy to eradicate the physical symptoms of Donna's PTSD, which included reliving the attack week after week. As a result of this, Donna will not tolerate anyone in her life that provides her or her family enough stress that triggers her symptoms.  It takes considerable effort to stay on top of CPTSD and the best way to do that is to keep busy and to live every moment. Some days are still difficult, of course, but recognising the signs is paramount to retaining a healthy mind.

Writing gave Donna the gift of freeing her mind and it now continues to enable her recovery to the next level. Through it she's gained confidence and emerged from the shadows once more. 


ANXIETY

Donna has found that being medicated for anxiety has helped considerably in controlling her other symptoms. This medication was a little unconventional, out of the box thinking that was approved by her doctor. Its nothing illegal. Donna applied her research skills and medicine knowledge to her problem and found that an over the counter drug used commonly for another reason, at an increased level is a gentle remedy for anxiety and her doctor agreed that, given the other medications she takes it would do well to try this method. 
Not wanting to begin an epidemic of people self-medicating, Donna will not be sharing what she takes (she assures you she's not smoking anything she ought not to be)! 

SENSORY OVERLOAD

Our brains filter incoming information automatically-–a process known as sensory gating--quite literally dismissing unnecessary stimuli, which prevents sensory overload. Donna is very much in touch with her senses at a very deep level and yet her brain cannot filter when placed in busy situations. Nothing gets blocked and she becomes overwhelmed to the point that the damaged nerves inside her brain begin to buzz like some kind of electrical storm. A storm that can be physically felt.  Eventually she will go deaf but all is not lost as she learnt to lip read as a child and this skill has returned. The reason for the deafness is due to displaced bones deep inside her left inner ear that was a direct result of the impact from the assault. Her hearing is compromised in her left ear as a result and once the storm in her head causes irritation in the other ear isn't far behind it.  Before Donna's seizures were controlled by the cocktail of medications she now takes, the electrical storm she could feel during this process would result in a seizure. Thankfully Donna has learnt her triggers over the years and knows the situations she needs to avoid. She craves the quiet for any noise is magnified to her in a distorted manner.




SEIZURES

Donna's seizures are now under control thanks to a combination of medications she takes and the diet she has been on for several years.
The main objective is to reduce the pain in Donna's head that is caused by the nerve damage caused by the impact of each blow she received. The pain is as intense as the most severe migraine that is accompanied with blindness and blacking out. In order to control her seizures its important Donna fulfils a fit and healthy lifestyle with as little stress as possible. Stress increases the nerve activity inside Donna's brain, which causes swelling in the damaged tissue behind her left eye-swelling due to stress is called inflammation and is a result of the stress response hormones released during the fight/flight/freeze response (when you have PTSD that response is a constant in your life).
The damaged muscle structure behind Donna's left eye, its believed, will never heal. This causes pressure against her eye socket and indeed the eye itself. As you might imagine, at times this causes Donna discomfort and eyestrain.
Its important that Donna limits her screen time, and as an author that means limiting television and staring at the computer screen isn't an option. Luckily she touch types reasonably accurately and has her school teachers and muscle memory to thank for that! Getting plenty of sleep is paramount to remaining seizure free also, so keeping PTSD free is also vital! Television is limited due to the flashing images that are often upon it as one of Donna's  has photosensitive epilepsy--this is when seizures are triggered by flashing images.
Twenty-twenty become the year that Donna started to speak more openly about her seizures, a subject that she had found many people shy away from. She has found that there is vast misunderstanding, fear and discrimination surrounding epilepsy and so feels that her voice might help spread a positive message to help others understand a little of what it is like to live with this complex, hidden illness. Donna is as physically fit as any man, working in a man's world. She believes in equality in as much as anything is possible when you place your mind over the task at hand. 

Donna had been three years day time seizure free and over one year nocturnal seizure free before she suffered both again. She found out that her kidney stones had caused a kidney infection and that this, in turn, caused her seizures to return. Once again she has her seizures under control and is thankful for the knowledge and understanding of her medical team.


DEPRESSION

Often when Donna isn't feeling her best--and on this occasion she had a migraine and high temperature--she writes poetry. "Depression" is a new poem describing how the condition makes her feel.

DepressionPoemjpg

FATIGUE and MULTI-TASKING

Fatigue used to be a daily battle but one that Donna attempted to place to the back of her mind. Its a feeling of extreme tiredness that goes beyond needing a sleep and one that isn't resolved by having sleep. Over time Donna realised that battling it wasn't getting her anywhere and she made it her GP's problem. Together they begun ruling out varying issues. It turned out her seizure medication had blocked Donna's ability to absorb both vitamins D and B12. Donna now takes high-dose tables for the first and injections for B12 and these resolve her fatigue. Over time it has also mean the medication has blocked her ability to absorb vitamin B9 (folic acid)  through diet too. Donna is now diagnosed with three anaemias that she has to control through medication as a direct result of having seizures--which is a direct result of being assaulted.

As far as multi-tasking is concerned, don't even begin to consider wanting to share space in the kitchen with Donna (unless you are her partner Dave with a set list of tasks) or you are one of her daughters who lived through the changes after brain trauma. Donna still struggles to get the dinner done in a timely fashion and the last place you need to be is under her feet.