A Man Derailed
One of Mental Healthy's resident bloggers Paul Holmes tells us about his incredible journey from the night of a train wreck, through PTSD and depression and out the other side.
By Paul Holmes
On November 7th 2003 at exactly 9pm I was a train driver heading back to my depot ready to sign off for my long weekend. I was looking forward to doing all the things you do at a weekend. Maybe see friends, have a meal, perhaps my wife and I would go up to London and see a show? The world was our oyster. Life was good.
The night that changed my life
Shortly after 9pm that same night, there was an explosion. It was not like an explosion you see in films. There was no mushroom cloud of smoke and flames. It was an electrical explosion. The overhead power cables had fallen down, hit my driving cab window and earthed its 25000 volts. This was barely three feet from my head. It proved to be a long night.
I was blown off my seat and was helped back up by my guard who came from the back cab to assist me. All power was lost; the train was almost pitch black except for the lights operated by the trains’ batteries. I was numb, I could feel my face had been injured but was just in shock and I switched into auto pilot. The train was evacuated and I had to sit there for hours waiting for managers to appear. As I did so, I heard the train die, as its power faded and the air hissed out of it body. The lights became dimmer and all I had was my torch to keep me company.
That night will remain with me for the rest of my life, and yet I only remember seconds. It’s strange how your mind seems to look after you by suppressing certain things in your life. The problem was it could not do it all the time, so I suffered with PTSD and anxiety attacks. If I was not suffering with this my mood plummeted in a depressive state.
Trying to resolve these problems via NHS proved very difficult. Long waiting lists for therapists, whose first language was not English, and simply being given antidepressants and told to come back in three months to see if they have worked. It was proving to be a very frustrating time. My whole life had been turned on its head and no one seemed to care.
A downward spiral
Over time I became a recluse, I could not leave my house and due to my wife having to work long days I was alone a lot of time. I turned to writing out my thoughts onto paper initially and then in the shape of a blog. I then tried to find others in similar situations and was amazed at how many others there were at home, ill, feeling abandoned and no one seemingly helping them.
When I was let go from my job, due to not getting well quickly enough solicitors, more psychiatrists, neurologists and therapists got involved. It turned my situation into a real mess. I felt like a ball being kicked about by everyone, I was just a file being passed from desk to desk, no one seeing the face that lay behind the bound pages.
Writing as therapy
I sort solace in my writing. Here I could write what I want and get responses from other people who maybe experiencing similar situations. They were all very supportive and encouraged me to keep going. All the anger and depressive thoughts were poured out on the blog and this enabled me to think clearly and use each entry to take stock at where I was.
The one thing that became apparent through my writing was that I wanted to be well. I did not want to be depressed at home anymore, I wanted to make a positive contribution to society again. The turning point came when, due to steroids for my injuries and antidepressants that made me feel hungry all the time I had ballooned to nearly 30 stone in weight.
I had to go to yet another appointment, but putting one foot in front of the other to just walk proved too much. My ankles hurt, I was out of breath and my chest began to pound. I sat on someone’s garden wall and thought, “That’s it, I am going to die.” I waited for surging pains in my chest to happen. Incredibly it never happened. I was scared but also thankful. I should have died at my crash and I felt I was close to death sitting on that wall. I had a second chance and knew then I didn’t want to die and I wanted to fight back. And fight back I did.
My second chance
Overnight I changed my diet, I started to try exercise. Firstly with just walking and then I went to the gym. It was a terrifying experience but I had to face all my fears head on, I could not go backwards anymore. I wrote about the more positive things I was doing and again got a good response from people in the online community. I had no intention of actually writing a book. Someone suggested Chipmunka publishing and they accepted my first three chapters, which was mainly from my blog. The opportunity that they gave me lifted my mood even more. In the summer of 2009 when I held my book in my hand was one of the amazing days in my life.
What writing has done for me
The book reminds me of two things. Firstly the dark times of a life that seems a million years ago and also the strength I found to beat the horrible symptoms of depression. I still have my down times but they are measured in one or two days and not months as they once were.
Writing played a huge part in my recovery and I would recommend it to any sufferer of depression, it really can make a difference.
Paul's book 'A Man Derailed' can be purchased here: