Opening up

Thursday 10th October was World Mental Health Day. The term ‘mental health’ is thrown about too much but not effectively discussed.

Two weeks after the accident and I am out of hospital. I want to reflect on my feelings from this week.

I ended my previous article optimistic and confident, anticipating the start of rehab on Monday. The promise of four hours of intense physio work every day would get me back to walking in no time.

To cut a long story short, I never moved to the rehab centre. On Monday morning I gave myself a pep talk to get into the ambulance to go. I arrived on a stretcher and was told to come back on Tuesday morning because there was no space for me on that day. I was instantly disappointed, and the journey back to the hospital couldn’t have been any worse. The driver braked suddenly, crashing my broken leg into the seat which sent me into a whirlwind of pain and panic, the flashback of the car accident most vivid. I cried the whole way back, I kept my head down to avoid pitiful stares when I was deposited back to ‘prison’. It’s just a bad day I thought. I’ll try again tomorrow.

Tuesday morning looked more promising as I prepared myself for the second time to move to the clinic. I was told an hour before leaving that I wasn’t going, in fact I wasn’t going to any clinic. The private rehabilitation centres wouldn’t accept me; EHIC isn’t a viable form of health cover and they feared not receiving insurance payments. I was taken good care of in hospital, but the system failed miserably. I was penalised for not being French and for the first time being abroad I felt like I shouldn’t be there. I was in a really bad situation.

The rest of the week saw my physical strength improve while my mental state deteriorated. Having spent almost two weeks trapped within the sickening green walls, with no fresh air and questionable hospital food, I must have been suffering from cabin fever. The disappointment of not starting rehabilitation was a blow to my confidence in this stressful recovery journey. The British Embassy were involved in the case, they were helpful in trying to speed up the process. They have had no further input because this has progressed to a matter of private health care. After almost a week of delays, frustrating phone calls and countless emails amongst organisations, it was decided I would get HAD – hospitalisation à domicile – home hospital.

Dad has reassured me greatly by reminding me of the little goals I achieve each day. Being able to rant to mum on FaceTime (I could say as much awful stuff as I wanted, no one understands an angry Northern Irish person) has helped me immensely this week, prompting me to be braver, even when I was at my most low. Spontaneous calls and messages from friends and family has lifted my spirits and I really appreciate everyone who has been there for me.

When the doctors suddenly decided to discharge me on Thursday evening, I realised I didn’t want to leave. The thought of returning to the ‘outside’ world and leaving the green walls I detested so much filled me with uneasiness. The much anticipated moment was the opposite of what I wanted when the time came. I looked out of the window of my prison cell to the green expansion of palm trees, the pink setting sun and the lights of Pointe-à-Pitre; everything was alien to me. I would have to get to know the island again, the one I spent a month falling in love with.

I dreaded getting into a car and I felt sick – what would happen if we crashed again? The thought of speaking to people beyond the ward terrified me. I was estranged for two weeks and I didn’t feel comfortable in my own skin.

The insurance company have excelled in one area: finding loopholes to avoid paying for my treatment. They’re demanding documents that aren’t readily available and are digging their heels in. They ask numerous times for documents they claimed to already have, they don’t answer emails or enquires – they have left me standing on one leg, literally.

In summary, I didn’t have a good week. I felt sorry for myself and I chose to ignore the positives. I was increasingly frustrated at the fact no one speaks English; I hated Guadeloupe, regretting the decision to come here. I wasn’t able to receive the essential treatment and that meant another day’s delay in being able to walk. I was oversensitive, on edge, snappy and impatient. The outlet of running, hiking, going to the gym is no longer possible so I have no where to put my angry energy.

I’m writing this article lounging by the pool at a beachside hotel in Gosier. Dad moved out of my bedroom and decided we should stay for a few nights in a fancy hotel, allowing me to build up strength using crutches and we both deserve to relax after the past horrendous weeks. (Sorry Mum!!) I will move back to my house soon and work out how to navigate the stairs. Yes, it is “just a broken leg”, but I’m a long way off feeling normal and happy. Watching the sun set over Basse-Terre and admiring the beauty of the surroundings, I realise I am smiling and feeling slightly more like myself.

I am not used to writing with such raw emotion, I like to keep my articles passive. Although it is scary reflecting and sharing this personal journey, it is helping me to deal with everything. I don’t want to bottle it up. I’m telling the truth about how I’m feeling and I understand the expression ‘it’s ok not to be ok’.

On saying that, just because I had a bad week doesn’t mean the upcoming weeks will be as bad. I hope the worst is over.

I’m hoping some day soon I’ll wake up without the uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach. When I eventually start physio treatment I hope I will feel like the happy and carefree Vic I was before the accident.

Vic xx

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