My Attempt to Escape Reality: The Big Move Down Under

I made many attempts to escape reality, but this was a particularly bad one.

Leaving home felt so difficult. I love to travel and have travelled lots, so this unsettling feeling and fear of travelling was rather unusual to me. But I ignored it all and pushed through; I decided that I was going to move to Australia one way or another.


WHY DID I GO?

I still don't understand how I found the courage and stupidity to fly away from everyone that cared about me, during such a hard time. I had recently had a mental breakdown, and was only starting to recover from said mental breakdown (I’ve hit rock bottom many times – you can read all about it HERE).

But moving to Australia felt like an escape; I felt like I could run and hide from my mental illness. It turns out that no, one cannot do this!


LIFE DOWN UNDER

A few days into my life changing adventure and I woke up with the right side of my face paralysed; half of my face was completely frozen and numb. Even my eye had to be taped shut, as I couldn’t move it without physical aid.



At first I thought "it's a stroke", but after a visit to the emergency department, I was told "it's actually Bell's Palsy".

I ended up needing a lot more professional help though, and in the end it became clear that nobody knew what was wrong with me, or how to deal with it. And not knowing the health system in Oz or anyone that could help me with it, I hit rock bottom fast.

Within a few days of the facial palsy, I also developed this unbearable pain on my face, down my throat & neck. All this was on the right side only. My left side must have been thanking it's guardian angel!

Still, the pain was extreme, and it was always there. Suicide often crossed my mind; I just needed to stop the pain somehow, ya see.

I used to describe it as if someone was pulling a rope out of my face, through my throat & neck. It was horrific. Everything hurt me, even sunlight and the wind on my face would leave me in agony, I was THAT sensitive.


THE SEIZURE(S)

Yes, there were seizures. One morning, I woke up to find my tongue was cut and there was blood in my mouth. I'd had a small seizure. I was also twitching all the time, we're talking really sharp muscle spasms that stopped me from speaking. Two days later, I experienced a major seizure. 

The bigger one ended with me in hospital; I woke up in a hospital bed with no recollection of how I got there.

Turns out, I had a tonic-clonic seizure (a type of generalized seizure that affects the entire brain) and an ambulance was called out for me. I had been unconscious for hours. Apparently, I was shaking violently (think The Exorcist) and eventually I just stopped moving and stared into space (again, The Exorcist), and repeat.

In the ambulance they sedated me (I was told) and in hospital various test were carried out, including a Lumbar Puncture or Spinal Tap (it’s called that because they tap your spine to get liquid from your brain so find out what the fuck is happening up there). But I had hardly any recollection of any of it. 


WRONG DIAGNOSIS 

After a few days in hospital, it was explained to me that I had Ramsay Hunt Syndrome and not Bell’s-fucking-Palsy. I use the word “fucking” because I did my own research (Doctor Google) and I did tell many doctors that it didn’t feel like Bell’s Palsy as Bell’s Palsy is pain free and I was definitely pain full!

Ramsay Hunt Syndrome is basically Shingles which affects facial nerves. This results in paralysis and extreme pain to the surrounding area (it was bliss(!)). The pain actually has a special name too, it's called Post-herpetic neuralgia.  I'm so fancy.

I was also told that my seizure was a result of the crazy cocktail of medications that I was given. I was literally taking drugs every hour of every day; I was on pregabalin, oxycontin, amitryptiline, codeine, tramadol, and then some. I was seeing little green men and singing Tiny Dancer (by Elton John) most nights.

If I wasn't so in need of those drugs, I could have made a lot of money selling that shit. I later found out that these drugs were good stuff! Did you know Pregabalin and Oxycontin are two of the most wanted pharmaceutical drugs out there?! I’m talking Black Market, of course. Serious dollars.
Anywhoozle, it was too many drugs; I basically overdosed on legal drugs. I was rock 'n' roll and didn't know it!


MORE COMPLICATIONS 

When I was discharged, the hospital was kind enough to provide me with speech therapy.

My case was so rare that I ended up having two speech therapists come over to my house every day for over two months. They treated me as their little project; I was their guinea pig which worked out well because they gave me 150%. Once my treatment with them was complete, they even used my case in training material for future reference.

I made great recovery, and luckily, I now have full movement of my face again. Huzzah!
The paralysis lasted approximately six months. Long enough, I hear you.

Unfortunately, during these six months, I also had complications due to the Lumbar Puncture they had to carry out in hospital.

When I fucking fuck shit up, I fuck shit up! Go big or go home, AMIRITE?!

Following my Lumbar Puncture, I was left with Cerebrospinal Fluid leak. This basically means that a hole is left where the needle was injected for the Lumbar Puncture, and fluid from your brain keeps leaking through this tiny hole in your spine until it is closed somehow.

Symptoms include:
  • Severe spinal headaches (which are more severe in the upright position and are alleviated by lying down with the head lower than the chest)
  • Nausea
  • Tinnitus
  • Horizontal diplopia (double vision)
  • Change in hearing
  • Blurring of vision
  • Facial numbness
  • Tingling of the arms
I was so unwell, again, that I ended back in hospital. It was so bad; any movement left me in tears from the severe headaches and the nausea.

A week later I was taken into theatre for a special procedure called Epidural Blood Patch. This is a surgical procedure that inserts your own blood into the area with the leak, in order to close the hole in the dura mater of the spinal cord.

This left me so extremely stiff (on top of the original Ramsay Hunt Syndrome pain) that I needed help with any minor movement, including sitting on my high toilet seat frame. Needless to say, I loved my time in Australia (Not).

I don't think I've ever felt so lonely in my life.

My mum eventually decided to fly out to Oz to help me. I felt awful that she had to pay for a ticket and travel all that way because of me, but I couldn't travel and couldn’t have been happier to see her.
During all this physical illness, my mental illness was also trying to kill me. I will never forget the pain and despair, and how small, low and worthless I felt during those months.




COMING HOME 

Once I left the hospital for good, a pain specialist asked me "why are you still here? You're not well and your mental health is deteriorating. You need a lot of support, or you won't get better. So, why are you here?"

Those words sent me packing. After four months, I decided to give up on this "adventure", and within days, I was on my way back home.

It hit me that I was only still living this hell in Australia because I thought this was the way to escape my mind.


"Wherever you go, there you are"

Basically, I couldn’t escape my mind; I can’t escape my mind. It’s just not a thing I can do.
I needed to go home and face what my mind was trying to force me to see & feel; which was to STOP and FOCUS on myself, on my health, on my life. Things needed to change and running away wasn’t the answer.

Australia is one of the worst times of my life, and this is going to sound crazy, but I am grateful for that experience now.



That experience taught me a lot; I aged ten years thanks to it, but it forced me to stop. My body mentally and physically stopped working, this gave me no choice but to stop everything, and begin again. So, I let myself be sick; I didn’t give up but I gave in and let myself hit rock bottom, instead of fighting it. For me, it was the only way to start healing.

Analysing my life and my choices was no longer an option, but a necessity.

I'm more aware now, and so much wiser. Don't get me wrong, I'm not wise...just wiser than before. And I'm still on pause mode, trying to recover from this plus many other times that I didn’t take care of myself. But I'm finally okay with that; I’m still alive, I now have awareness, and I’m coming home to myself.

Thanks for beating me up, beautiful Land of Oz, I needed it.

And this, my friends, is how I started to learn that self-care is a priority!



PS: It must be said that I do not, in any way, blame Australia for what happened to me.

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