Stephen's Story
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Stephen's Story

What was the problem before therapy started?

Since the Hillsborough disaster, where I played a key role, I have felt guilty and been unable to forgive myself for some events that took place.  This has led to severe depression and mood swings like I have never known.  I have been unable to cope with certain situations, for example being on my own and memories of Hillsborough because of high levels of anxiety and panic.  When panicking I experienced strong physical symptoms and uncontrollable emotion along with flashbacks of extreme horrific images from that day.  This extreme anxiety led to almost total avoidance of numerous triggers which was preventing me from socialising, being alone and basically from living a normal life. At the lowest points my isolation led to thoughts of suicide.

How did it develop?

I was brought up to believe that blokes are strong and girls are weak.  I always had a belief that I'm a strong bloke.  My emotional reaction at the Hillsborough disaster was opposite to what I expected of myself, my belief that I'm strong was shattered.  I developed new beliefs such as 'life is not fair', 'the world is dangerous' and 'I cannot cope, I am weak'.  This led to everything else crumbling around me.

What kept it going?

Following the Hillsborough disaster, I avoided going out alone, going further than local area and anything that triggered memories of Hillsborough, e.g. crowds, mesh fencing, tunnels, subways and S6.  Avoiding the memory of Hillsborough prevented me from mentally dealing with it; this meant that the memory wasn't processed and filed.  This meant that it was still floating around and brought disturbing flashbacks and nightmares.  These left me feeling extremely anxious and thinking that I was still responsible and weak.

What's changed since therapy began?

Anti-depressants were increased when I first began therapy as these were having no effect on my depression.  I looked at what my activities were by keeping a diary and rating my levels of achievement and pleasure.  There was not very much in my first diaries particularly in the evenings.  This led to changes to TV viewing habits and I endeavoured to add more pleasurable activities such as hobbies, interests and more physical activity. 

I felt that people were putting on me and I realised through the diary that I was in a habit of doing things that I didn't enjoy, to try and please other people.  We worked on assertiveness.  This helped me to achieve my own goals as opposed to other peoples by realising my rights, saying no and explaining how I felt.

I was given the PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) leaflet - it took me three weeks to actually read it because it was difficult to face up to what it might say.  When I did read it I realised that lots of people were having the same sort of problems as I was.  To read that people felt similar and had similar symptoms made it seem reasonable that I would be feeling like I did.  This realisation made me feel more confident that I could deal with my problem.

I purposely went out of my way to face other fears such as subways, tunnels, mesh fencing and the Hillsborough area.  My anxiety has reduced but hasn't completely gone when around Hillsborough.

Talking through the events of the disaster has made more sense of what happened and I remembered things that happened that I had forgot.  I realised that the tragedy happened because of an accumulation of factors and a succession of events.  I will never think of it without sadness and feeling upset but I know that I wasn't to blame.

How can I build on this and take it forward?

Keep up and possibly increase activity levels so that I don't fall back into bad habits, an increase in physical activity is going to be beneficial to my health in general. 

Keep working on exposure; keep talking about Hillsborough and visit the general area regularly and repeatedly until I don't feel strong anxiety.

This page was last updated on 2010-11-18 09:10:45

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