20 years ago, I graduated from school.

20 years ago, I enrolled at university.

Facebook reminded me earlier this week that it’s been a decade now.

A decade since my accident which resulted in a severe concussion with complications in the aftermath.

A decade since I eventually called it quits (not just figuratively spoken) and checked myself in at the funny farm. Four weeks of crisis intervention, as I was spiralling downwards rather fast. I was essentially on auto-pilot and just functioning, getting up in the mornings, dragging my corpse to work, coming back home in the evenings, dinner, doing some other stuff to unwind, sleep. Repeat.

At some point, I felt that I couldn’t go on anymore. I felt hopeless, out of touch with myself and the world. I was struggling, and keeping up the façade became more and more difficult. It had been showing breaks and cracks for a while then already, but alas, I sort of ignored the warning signs. I soldiered on, while my body screamed at me.

Until that afternoon in May when the accident happened. PSA: Don’t hit your head full speed against the edge of a shelf. Just … DON’T. Shelf 1, Kiwi 0. The result was not only the aforementioned severe concussion, but also freak complications in the following weeks. I was at my acupuncturer one evening, and while he usually could help me time and again, this time, the treatment backfired. IMMENSELY. First, my right hand started to shake, then my whole damn body was twitching as if high voltage was running through me. I desperately tried to countermeasure this, but to no avail. My parents had to pick me up and drive me to the neurological ER where I had to undergo a plethora of examinations – all the way to a lumbar puncture (don’t recommend because OUCH) and an MRI scan on my head.

To this day, nobody knows what EXACTLY had caused the twitching. However, it has become some kind of tell tale sign when I have a panic attack (incoming or full blown). Another thing is that ever since that concussion I am more prone to migraines and sensitivity to light. So two of those – twitching and sensory overload – are usually a good indicator for me that something’s about to happen.

So yeah. June 11, 2010. The day I was admitted in a psychiatric outpatient ward, and it was just what I needed. To protect myself FROM myself. Self destructive thoughts had become more and more prominent, although I wasn’t suicidal …yet. I just knew that I couldn’t go on the way I had in the past weeks.

During my time there, I could ease my mind a bit. Calm the storm at least for the time being. I got back on track. Or so it seemed. Little did anyone, let alone Yours Truly, know …

Not much after I was back and adapting to everyday life again, shit hit the fan once and for all. As in, my downfall was even more rapid than before. At first, I appeared to be okay, but deep inside, I still wasn’t. I just kept the mask up and pretended to be fine when it was clear (to me) that I wasn’t. AT. ALL.

The problem was that nobody seemed to realize HOW fucked up I was. Or to care about that. I was SCREAMING out for help, including cutting myself at some point. It was like this proverbial room full of people, you’re screaming yourself hoarse, but nobody hears your cries.

I plummeted down this black, bottomless hole at lightning fast speed. There was no chance for me to grip anything to break the fall. Nothing. Just slippery black ice. Hopelessness. Despair. Senselessness. I had no idea what I was doing, I still was on auto-pilot, day in, day out, functioning, while running on an empty tank.

And pressure. Pressure to continue DESPITE my struggles. Struggles to not lose myself even more than I already had. Struggles to swim back to the surface and breathe again. To stay the fuck ALIVE.

Fortunately, I received a phone call some day in October that same year – I could check in at a psychosomatic clinic for an indefinite amount of time, and the very next day already. That? Was the literal mountain lifted off my small shoulders. I started to feel a bit of hope again, hope to be able to turn this shit around and come back to life.

I was fully aware that this was going to be more than “just” crisis intervention, that I was maybe also letting some folks down by focusing on my mental health and recovery. But it had to be done. HAD. TO. And I also wasn’t going to rush anything as that would only backfire once again. I was going to take my time, the time I needed to be “fit” enough again to tackle life.

In total, I spent 13 weeks in that clinic.

13 weeks in which I started coming to terms with a lot of things, in which I understood more and more that, in order to find some peace, I needed start over. In how far that has been a success so far is questionable, but at least I moved away from my old place, left family and friends behind and made myself a home in Berlin. Yes, it has been a more than bumpy road, not gonna lie, but at least, I had come to the realization that I needed a change – of pretty much everything that had been my life thus far.

13 weeks.

13 weeks of in depth therapy. Of learning. Of finding myself back. Of finding a way back TO myself. Of finding means and ways to counter a looming panic attack. All that.

Now, 10 years after my breakdown, I am still in the process of learning – and of course recovering. I am still coming to terms with a lot of stuff that happened. Un-learning behavior and thoughts that had been instilled in me and which made me feel guilty when I put my own needs first (read: self care). There is still a whole lot to work on. But I am taking the time. Rushing into anything won’t do any good – on the contrary. Another thing I had to learn the *VERY* hard way. I cannot tell how long this whole process is going to take, also given that fatigue and Pain Days joined the party as well. All of which of course are setbacks, relapses.

But I have also learned – and UNDERSTOOD! – that setbacks and relapses are parts of the process. The Road to Recovery is a long and winding one. And I don’t have to feel guilty or bad if I need a bit of a time out in between to give my body and (mental) well being the attention and care they need.

As I am in the final stages of my 3rd decade on this planet (sheeeeesh, I am OLD!!), I am also curious to find out what the next decade will hold in store for me.

pic: Yours Truly

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