A more normal grief

Trigger warning over details of trauma and PTSD

Hello folks, I’ve been waiting and wanting to make this post for a long time now.

If you are struggling with anxiety or flashbacks from an SCA then look at accessing EMDR therapy.

Action, Athletes, Competition, Hurdle, Men, People

My mum had an SCA in August 2017 at the world athletics championships in the London stadium. I did not need to perform CPR as there was other off duty NHS staff around us.

Mum survived the SCA and initially did well in ICU, but had a massive stroke later which was too much for her.

I have lived with the grief since then, all the lost moments etc but the worst was the anxiety. Some days I struggled to leave the house. I’d never had anxiety and panic attacks before.

Then there was the flashbacks.

Often every time I thought of my mum.

I reached a low point and started antidepressant medication. This helped a good amount but I thought this was me for good now, damaged goods. Not helped by my own heart diagnosis leaving me at risk of an SCA myself.

Isolation

Hand Disinfection, Disinfection, Mouth Guard

Fast forward to August 2020. I’ve been managing life. Pre-covid I enjoyed going to big sports events and gigs but I’d be riddled with anxiety in crowds. By August I’d had 3 lots of self-isolation and wasn’t able to see my loved ones in the brief reprieve, and everything got too much.

I had a week off work sick and self referred to practitioner health service. An NHS service aimed at the specific needs of doctors and other NHS staff.

Next, I was referred for therapy, all virtual and I thought probably of limited use (I am trained in CBT and applying this wasn’t helping). I had the assessment and first session where we were able to trace back the major anxiety back to my mums SCA.

Next was using a therapy called EMDR, which has good evidence for helping with PTSD and trauma. I was really sceptical, especially as this was over WhatsApp video calls on my phone.

EMDR

Last week I had my final therapy session after 12 sessions. My rating scales have reduced to where the trauma is no longer affecting me in the same way. My anxiety is much more manageable as without my brain jumping to recycle trauma I can intervene and talk myself down from it.

I can’t wait for it to be safe to go to watch sports and gigs again to test out this improvement.

Most of all though, I feel like I have a more normal grief.

Able to laugh and cry when thinking about my mum without shaking, panicking and reliving the whole event.

I won’t ever get her back but at least my brain can appreciate all the happy memories etc without working through flashbacks and trauma – the biggest difference for me as a doctor who sometimes faces medical emergencies like an SCA (but they are rare because I work in mental health).

Towards the end of my therapy, I responded to an emergency call (that I wasn’t even obliged to), without a second thought, without panic or anxiety or a second guess and helped my colleagues stabilise and assess the patient until the more experienced help arrived.

I was so pleased with the difference compared to me feeling close to a panic attack at previous situations.

Overall if you or a rescuer have struggled with anxiety and flashbacks since an SCA then it’s worth looking at accessing counselling and considering EMDR.

Unfortunately in my area, it’s very hard to access via the NHS and I was looking into it privately before the opportunity came through. Using the appropriate websites it seems to be £40-80 per session.

Anyway thank you for reading this far and I really hope this helps someone else xxx

1 thought on “A more normal grief”

  1. Emma, glad to hear you also found EMDR unbelieably helpful too. One point, I was able to get 12 weeks on the NHS so surprised you couldn’t. EMDR is now my preferred therapy for any trauma. The NHS need to pull its finger out on this one. I did “hear” that the CBT’ers are a bit negative towards EMDR since they do not know how it works yet, guess it’s a case of pressuring the purse string holders.

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