Monday, July 14, 2008

Only just getting better.

I felt the need to post on here again after a long break; I just feel I’ve got so much to get out. I watched the 2 documentaries re: 7/7 on Channel 4 this week, and while found them hard to watch, ultimately, in reflection, feel better for doing so. I feel that finally after 3 years things really are starting to get better.

The last 6 months has been by far the hardest of all. The first 6 months I was just numb, and it was ok to still be bothered about what happened, the next few years were tough, but I still hoped things would work out, and that symptoms of PTSD would eventually dwindle, but after 2 & ½ years I started to try and force it out of my life and my mind, I was sick of it. And the more I tried to push it out, the more it came back, only with more vigor, and aggression.

Every train journey to work became a frantic imagining of disaster, I would wonder if someone had laid a sleeper across the track to de-rail us, what if the train caught fire, if we hit another train, and of course, what if the guy next to me had a bomb in his toolbox/bag/suitcase etc etc. Only my logic told me that if it was to happen again, it would be too obvious for it to be another young bloke with a home made bomb, so I would watch for what EVERYONE else was doing, and imagine how they might attack us. Then I would plan what I would do in each situation, how I would stem bleeding, and comfort people, try to calm the situation. The same would happen as a passenger in a car, and most terrifyingly, on aeroplanes. So every day would become a traumatic event in itself, in just as much detail as the one that really happened. It was on a flight back from Milan that I had my first mega panic attack; I thought I was going to have a heart attack. But all I could see was flames rushing down the plane at us.

After this I thought I was losing my mind, I felt I couldn’t control my thoughts and worried I would end up in mental hospital. I would break down all the time, and go out randomly wandering the streets, not wanting to go home, but not wanting to go anywhere. I really felt I was going mad. There were a few weeks when I was really close to killing myself to escape it. I think I was as close to doing it as you can get, without actually doing it. I thought about hanging myself, throwing myself under a train, even going back to King’s Cross and throwing myself under that train because I never really felt like I ever got out of there. I didn’t have a clue what was happening to me, and why I was getting WORSE after 2 & ½ years. I also in the midst of all this broke up with my girlfriend, she had helped me so much, but I felt bad for taking that from her, and ultimately didn’t know what I was thinking, or how I felt about things. It wasn’t fair on her.

I also didn’t know why I was worrying about all this, and not mourning the death of my mother, now 18 months ago. Her death was in itself sudden, I found out she had terminal cancer a day before she died. It is the fact all this distracted me from giving my mum the attention she deserves that angers me most about the bombs. The fact that in the middle of my most traumatic time, I missed out on processing her death, and am only now just beginning to work through that, now there is space for it.

But it is also, a reason why I think things worked out better in some ways too. Because after 7/7 I had to move home, and would tell everyone about what happened, over and over again. But it was hardest at night when I was on my own, except I was never really on my own, because Mum, with her crazy sleeping patterns would always be up. So she was always there to talk to at the hardest times, when I couldn’t sleep at 2.30am, or had an awful nightmare. And I got to be with her for the last 18months of her life, which I would have largely missed if I had been working away.

Things are LOTS better now. I had CBT therapy, and all I can say is that it really works. My therapist gave me a hard time, in a good way, and questioned and queried and contorted all my negative thought patterns related to the bombing and public transport. Till I learnt that, actually I didn’t have to stay in a constantly prepared state, and that I didn’t need to worry or process it anymore. I was done. And now after watching the recent documentaries, I really feel like it is done with. Yeah, I got really upset watching them, and if I think about that day I can bring it all back right down to second by second events. But then I am always going to remember it, and it will always be a horrible memory, but that’s all it is, a memory.

So now I feel like I am only just starting my career, re-starting my life. While I have worked over the past 3 years, it has only been the odd bit of freelance work, and a full days work would only be about 3 hours worth because that’s all I could do in the state I was in, if I could work at all. But it gave me something else to worry about, a tiny respite within all the other bad stuff that was constantly in my head.

I am now in the process of re-branding my business, finding premises and hopefully some grants to pay for materials, and cover some rent. I am going to advertise my skills, and hopefully be successful. Watch this space, or as soon as I have a business website up, I will link it, and you can watch that space instead!

Monday, April 09, 2007

What a few months...

You really wouldn't believe the month I've had. In brief:

1. Went to Berlin for 4 days so went shopping to Chester for new clothes in anticipation of German temperatures. Tried to get under the Mersey on the underground, except it was ON FIRE so I couldn't get down at Lime Street where I usually do, then every station on the circuit (it goes round in a loop under Liverpool) was shut down and evacuated as I tried to enter it as I tried one station after the other.

2. Finally set off for Berlin, stayed in London for two nights prior to flying from Stanstead. Got the willies on the tube as the driver got a message Holborn was shut down and evacuated as I approached it and I saw everyone exiting Holborn as we went through at top speed. Turns out the power went down because of a bust water main.

3. Finally got to Berlin. Ate a freeze dried Air Berlin ham sandwich on the flight. Spent the first night with my head in a German toilet with food poisoning. Was exhausted for the rest of the time we were there, effectively only getting one full day to see what we wanted. I would love to go back though.

4. On returning home my mum had been taken seriously ill in hospital, her lung had collapsed and there were other complications. She died on the 19th of February within 24 hours of being back in the UK and finding out she was ill.

5. Had tickets to see The Black Keys in Manchester and despite my mum’s death 4 days earlier I went as I felt at a total loose end. Booked a taxi to get home from the station, the driver FELL ASLEEP SEVERAL TIMES on the way home and smashed another cars mirror off.

I won’t ever forget that 6am call from the Hospital, the type where you know what is going to be said by the first ring of the phone. But despite all this, I actually feel quite upbeat. I try to focus on happy thoughts of my mum as much as I can, and just get on with it. All the other stuff however, I don’t know, people have commented that I am particularly unlucky, but I believe you make your own luck so that doesn’t faze me.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

The Blog Digest 2007...

… by Justin McKeating, includes a post I wrote on here, about when I went down to London to mark the first anniversary of the bombings. I got my complimentary copy a week or so ago, it’s well worth a look. If you are familiar with the blogging phenomenon it is a good summary of spot-on blog material from the past year, by people who want to write, about what they want to write about. Surely there is no better motive to write. If you aren’t familiar with blogging then it is a good, broad overview of just what all the fuss is about, in a familiar form. I’m honoured to be included in it, I’m no writer, I design and engineer products, so it is a nice surprise to be in it. Cheers Justin! Have a look!

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

I have written only one thing since that post, I just haven’t felt the urge to write that I had when I started this blog. But that doesn’t mean I had “got over” the very reason I began writing on here. In fact, the last couple of months of counseling were the hardest by far, and I probably only really began to deal with what happened at this time. I have now finished counseling, and generally feel great, better than ever, but sometimes it does creep back. Usually in a subconscious manner, I’ve actually been getting quite a few horrific nightmares lately, while I have had bad dreams before, never this many, and never so graphic. But generally I’m doing good!!

It was always my intention to turn this blog into one based around design (product, furniture and industrial) when I felt like I had run dry, and hopefully it will soon, when I can get back into writing with more regularity. Getting something published, albeit only one and a bit pages, has reminded me that I do actually enjoy writing, and it has pulled something good out of an otherwise pretty bleak year.

Hope to be back sooner rather than later.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

...eerie calm...

I recently found the MySpace profile of Craig, a 35 year old NYC police officer, who, now prematurely retired, was evacuating the Subway beneath the WTC as the South Tower collapsed above him. He is now retired due to continuing PTSD, and potentially dying from Pulmonary Fibrosis brought on by breathing the air from Ground Zero, as he immediately returned to work to aid the rescue operation. The EPA told them it was “safe” to breathe.

Here is an extract from his account. At this point Craig had, with four other officers had evacuated the Subway station beneath the WTC…

“We all met in front of the token booth, and reported the station clear. We were told to stand by, and that more units were coming. So, nervously, we waited, in the momentary eerie calm.

It is impossible to describe the noise that we heard next. It was deafening. The concourse mall doors, rumbled, then exploded open towards us, and a wind hit me so hard that I actually had to hold onto one of the blue I-beams supporting the station ceiling. Then, as quickly as it started, the saloon style mall doors swung closed. Stunned, I looked to the cop next to me, and began to say, "What the fuck wa..", but never finished my sentence. The mall doors imploded this time, and a stronger wind pulled me off my feet, and sucked me towards the concourse. I skipped like a stone off the white tile floor, through the doors, rolled up two short flights of steps, and came to rest, as I smashed into a cookie stores facade. Everything went black, and I thought about not calling my mother back, as I slipped into unconsciousness.

I don't know how long I was unconscious. When I awoke, I couldn't see, or breathe. I choked, and spat out powdered dry wall, and god only knows what else. I reached for my flashlight, and winced in shock at the pain that shot down the right side of my chest. I checked myself to see if I was bleeding. Satisfied that I wasn't, I clicked the flashlight on. The only bright spot it could create, was directly in front of the beam. The flashlight was completely useless, from all the choking dust in the air. It was pitch black, even with the light, and I couldn't see my hand in front of my face. I shakily rose to my feet, and tried to get my bearings. However, I had no idea where I was. I felt heat to my left, and knew not to go that way. I thought about what had happened, but the last memory I had was being pulled off of my feet, in the direction of the concourse doors. So, I put my right hand on the wall, and started forward. There was so much debris that I tripped over and over again. I could barely keep upright. I felt a stack of newspapers, and knew I was in the newsstand just upstairs from the train station, in the mall entrance. I continued forward, with my right hand on the wall, and blindly staggered through the newsstand's candy and magazines. I finally came to the edge of a tiled wall, and felt my way down the stairs, and back into the subway station. I was wracked by a coughing fit, and wanted water to clear my mouth and nose, as I saw a small beam of light pierce the dust in the air. Coughing, I headed for it. The light was coming from the subway entrance. I climbed the stairs, and in horror, looked at a scene that reminded me of photos of London, during the blitz, in World War II.”

Tour Change - A 9/11 survivor’s story, Craig 9/11.

He goes on to discuss his disabling PTSD, something I know all too well, something which happens when your normal life becomes momentarily horrifically bizarre. That moment won’t fit with the rest of your life, no matter how much you try to force it, and it is literally enough to make you mad. We exchanged messages of encouragement and understanding; I found that largely our emotions are almost identical. I am still in counselling, and would love to say I am doing great, I was, but I feel like I’m going backwards. Yesterday, Monday the 11th, was particularly bad.

On Sunday evening I couldn’t sleep properly. I just felt really uneasy, turns out most of KCU felt the same, and it seems to be some sort of “shared anniversary” symptom. As if 9/11 and 7/7 were chapters in the same book.

This lack of sleep probably contributed to me having an accident at work, I dropped something on my foot and thought I had crushed my toe. So I spent the 11th in A&E at the Royal Liverpool Hospital. I hadn’t broken anything, just the nail at the base. When I got in the back to see the doctor I got the worst flashbacks I have ever experienced, I thought I was going to vomit. Of course, the last time I was in A&E was the 7th last year at Royal London, and the signifiers of hospital, and my own blood, had triggered me to recall much from my visit to hospital last year which I thought I had forgotten.

I am sure none of us will ever really forget.

Monday, July 10, 2006


Only a few days after the 7th last year I knew I would feel the need to be back in London to mark the anniversary, I just wasn’t sure how. However on the evening of the 6th I felt I should make my way to Kings Cross the following morning. So 3 of us who left our hostel the same morning a year ago made our way to Kings Cross, however this time we went from Angel as opposed to Barbican to avoid making an exact repeat journey. We decided to use the tube, perhaps it was a show of resolve, but it was probably most likely out of laziness. We had already commented how the Underground was bound to have undercover officers all over the network, I actually felt quite safe and I was impressed and pleased that everyone seemed to be commuting as normal.

There was a large police presence underneath Kings Cross, and I made my way up to the station the same route we were evacuated. We met other fellow passengers who also felt they should be here on this day and at 8.50 we said a few words to remember those who never completed their journey and had a quiet moment of reflection. After spending a short time at St Pancras church where some of the other passengers laid flowers we broke away and continued with our day.

We then spent the day on Oxford , Regent and Carnaby Street, only stopping to mark the 2 mins silence by standing at Oxford Circus. My phone was going off all day as I received texts from friends wishing me well, bad things bring out kindness in people.

In the evening we met up with others in Islington and headed over to Soho. Obviously I knew the way, so I led us to Piccadilly Circus via Kings Cross. We had to run for the Piccadilly Line connection which meant I had no choice of carriage/ position/ not standing next to a someone with a stupidly massive rucksack, and we ended up in the middle of the first carriage. Once on the train I pointed at the floor and gestured that it was here where it happened and I pointed out the eastbound tunnel junction out the window on the right hand side (you see the wall disappear), the exact point where it happened.

I was ok until 11.30pm when I completely broke down in a bar in Soho, the day had finally caught up with me. All the pretending that it was “just another day” and trying to distract myself was futile. I have been the same all weekend, before, I was able to speak about it without feeling anything, now every time I do so I want to cry. It is the sheer violence and senseless waste of life which is hitting me.

I came home to find many kind messages left for me on here. Thank you for your kind words and thoughts. Once again, this has shown me that bad things bring out kindness in people.

Monday, July 03, 2006

It's hit me.

I can’t sleep, partly because it is just too hot, but partly because I think the “anniversary affect” has finally hit me.

Damn! I thought it was going to bypass me.

It’s not just the anniversary which has brought things back to me, tomorrow I have my 5th counselling session and last week was the toughest yet. The first few sessions I just skirted the subject and talked about what I wanted from counselling and what periods I found the hardest over the last year. But last week I finally talked about IT. I stopped speaking about it months ago, at which point it became a script of an event that had happened to someone, not necessarily me, and only an outline of images, sounds and smells. When I talk about it with my counsellor she asks me what I saw, what I was thinking and my emotion at that moment, because I haven’t spoken about it for so long I have to engage with it, think about it and put myself back there. I have to mentally go back and forth to reassemble it all and put it back into place. It’s not easy, nobody has ever asked me what it felt like to be there, but now I am forcing myself to remember.

The emotional part has been the stumbling block for me, and is still proving the hardest part to overcome. For the past year I have done things which would have made me happy before last July, but I don’t feel happy doing them. And some sad and tragic things have happened also, yet I don’t feel sad. I have spent 12 months for the most part feeling just average, never high, never low and I’m slowly breaking this barrier down.

I know that later today I will sit in a room and talk mostly about how I waited to die on a near pitch black train for 40 min’s almost exactly a year ago. My counsellor remarked: “that’s a long time to wait to die”. Yes, it is. It is that feeling that I was convinced I was going to perish there and then, no question, which made me want to vomit on a train last week. Suddenly I feel this emotion at the strangest of times, but at least I am feeling something for a change! When it happened I thought I was dead, it went black, silent and everything stopped, for a few seconds I was knocked out. When I realised I wasn’t dead, but instead in a train filling with smoke from a fireball which was about to consume us, I waited to be burned alive. When I realised it wasn’t a fire I waited to suffocate, and when I realised I wouldn’t suffocate I still thought I would be maimed or killed by another train as it sped down the tunnel. Either way I was convinced I would never see daylight again.

I did, however, and I know I’m lucky. But I feel so guilty, guilty that I not only walked off that train without helping anyone, but stood there for 40 minutes only metres from people who needed help, yet I did nothing, I couldn’t see them. I feel guilty I am not making the most of life, and am still wallowing in all this, when people don‘t have the opportunity. I feel guilty for moaning about how I feel, and how I’m struggling, so many people came off worse, so many people lost loved ones. And not only in London last year, but anywhere this happens, and keeps happening.

I have just caught a repeat of Live8, the weather is hot and muggy and on Thursday I catch the train into London to go to the same exhibition I was exhibiting at last year, with the same friends and staying in the same student halls. It feels strange. I will be in London for the anniversary, but will do little to mark it, I’m not sure what I want to do on that day, if anything. I wish it was just another day… but it wont be… whatever I do that day I know my thoughts will only be on one thing.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

A brief update.

Just a quick update to let you know I haven’t gone forever.

I initially pursued counselling on the 9th of January, a month later I had a single session/assessment and was referred to another counsellor. I was then on a waiting list until 2 weeks ago. It has taken me 5 months to gain counselling. It’s pathetic, I felt ignored. In my first session I was diagnosed as “clinically depressed”, however, I have had 3 sessions of 8 so far and it is going well.

I am in a new relationship of a month and it is also going well. Jo is extremely understanding and supportive, and best of all lifts & removes me from the mental state I have been wallowing in for months.

I have more work after a long drought and have been commissioned to design furniture for a school playground. I seem to be getting my motivation and confidence back, slowly.

The London Assembly reports etc. have all washed over me, I no longer have any interest in “that”, I have been doing my best at getting back to being me again.

What better way to get back to being myself than spending last weekend at Download festival @ Donnington Park. I could give an in depth review but I wont. All in all it was a great weekend away with great friends, great bands, scorching sunshine and far too much pear cider.