This blog is probably the hardest of all blogs to write since I will share how my tragic accident happened that broke my back.
I made it my goal to verbally share what caused the accident with the ladies in my Tropic team once I was out of the hospital. That time has now been and gone. Nothing like a room full of women all hanging on your every word, to push yourself out of your comfort zone! To be honest, though, the women in my business are all so empowering and having got to know many of them on a personal level have also learnt that many suffer from a whole host of mental health conditions. In fact, many join the business in order to conquer their anxieties, phobias or lack of confidence. I do my best to support and motivate them, giving them the confidence to achieve the success they want with their Tropic businesses in the way I have with mine. We are all equals in Tropic, whatever our title, which is most unlike many corporate businesses. This and many other reasons are what makes being a Tropic ambassador so empowering! So, we share, love, and lift each other up; more like family really, which is why I wanted them to know all of me and felt compelled to share what happened. The team responded with warm hugs, and even applause, which left me in tears.
Well, the next step I feel, is to share with you exactly what happened. I have reached the point where I realise that if people judge me, then they are not true friends. None of us has the right to judge others… for anything! I really don’t care about anyone who forms a negative opinion on me based on what was a horrendous experience and which I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemy.
Martin was obviously asked continually throughout the summer “how did Nikki do this?” to which he would reply “It’s too traumatic to talk about” or “we are just focusing on her recovery”. The few people who asked me on their visits were also told “I can’t talk about it just yet.” Bizarrely, people try to second guess or fill in the gaps when not given the information they want. I’ve since been told by friends that they thought maybe Martin and I had been practising some elaborate new sexual position and I fell from the chandelier in the process (I WISH!) lol. Others thought that I may have been spectacularly dragged off a clifftop by my over boisterous dogs or perhaps I had fallen whilst inebriated by alcohol! All great stories to tell as to how one may have broken one’s back! But the truth is very different.
Martin and I decided early on that we wouldn’t just make up a convenient lie to take the easy route. We felt that we needed some time to compute what actually did happen and come to terms with it, then subsequently, being led by me, openly tell people the truth, but only when the time was right.
Whilst in Sheffield at the spinal unit, I met many lovely people with spinal cord injuries caused by some very traumatic and often quite elaborate reasons, from falling off a horse whilst show jumping, wrapping their car around a tree to slipping on a rug or falling over the handlebars of a bike after hitting a stone! Each time I was asked how my accident had happened and my mouth just dried up; I was left like a gawping goldfish with mouth wide open and nothing coming out. People would quickly retreat and say “you don’t have to say if you don’t want to,” but eventually I did. I found the most precise, accurate and truthful sentence to sum up my accident…
“I experienced a ‘stress-induced’ psychotic episode which led me to falling off a roof.”
Now you can see why it was so difficult to share! (Well it was for me anyway). There is you see, a great deal of stigma with mental health and being this is something a little out of the ordinary (hardly your average panic attack whilst ‘rescuing a cat off the roof’), it was quite terrifying to tell people. The word ‘psychotic’ conjures up an image of a dangerous ‘knife-wielding’ maniac like the schizophrenic murderer in psycho (who also gives a bad name to those who suffer from schizophrenia). The truth is psychosis has many forms and mine is fairly unique in that it is not linked with any other mental health disorder or condition. Yes, I did have delusional thoughts and lost touch with what was real and what wasn’t, but there were no voices in my head … just horrific visions of all my worst nightmares coming true and feeling utter fear that the world was about to end (which it very nearly did for me!).
I am 95% convinced my psychosis was triggered by my being put in a ‘hypnotic state’ during an online BWRT (Brain Wiring Recursive Therapy) session to break my addiction with Nicotine gum. This is a new type of ‘non-hypnotic’ treatment that I was told was completely safe. I had also experienced other stressors in the week before when two of my daughters did not send me a birthday card which broke my heart, but I felt something click inside me and knew something was wrong almost immediately after the therapy session.
I did a ‘live’ on my FB profile back in July where I talk about this bizarre experience just 2 days later, obviously not knowing what was to come. Whilst I had been promised that I would NOT be ‘hypnotised’ or ‘put under’ during our Zoom therapy session, I experienced REM with my eyes violently flickering and when I opened them after the session I expressed how my head felt ‘scrambled’ and I felt very peculiar. My eyes were very sore for the next few days and I thought I had conjunctivitis. The following day after this zoom session I started experiencing an unsettling feeling of anxiety (something I don’t usually suffer with) and I could not find focus or find the ability to concentrate. I struggled to do a pamper that evening and had to ‘act’ my way through it. Within days I had my first panic attack. Trying to convince myself that I could get through this, I struggled on, but eventually told Martin that I was getting very anxious and ‘I didn’t feel right’. I messaged and called the woman who had done my treatment to explain to her what was happening too.
Sadly, by the time I went to the doctor with Martin nearly 1 week later, I had already slipped into a psychosis where paranoia and fear make you manipulative and clever at hiding things. I think I knew things were quite serious but merely said I was struggling with anxiety and panic attacks. The doctor prescribed me diazepam and mental health called me to make an appointment for 28 days’ time! A little too late since 2 days later not knowing the difference between reality and non-reality I dropped backwards from a roof… first taking a blow on a wall sectioning my neighbours’ gardens before hitting the ground. My only memory Is that I was living out all my worst horrific nightmares in my head and was trying to escape from ‘evil’. It was not pre-planned and I feel strongly that people should know it wasn’t an attempt to take my life.
I went down to the end of our side garden to try and run away. I couldn’t make the jump into our village green and so decided to climb on a wall where I ended up on the roof of an outbuilding (pictured below) with a plan to escape through our neighbour’s garden. Martin discovered me, however, and the next thing he was on the phone calling 999. I panicked and with delusional thoughts running through my head and not realising what I was doing… threw myself backwards from the top of the roof.
It’s very difficult for me to pass the window at the top of our stairs because the ‘said’ roof is in view. It makes my blood run cold as the outcome could have been so much worse and I may not have been here to write this blog. I did take a photo for you though as I know if it were me I’d be curious as a reader.
The paramedics strapped me onto a spinal board and fixed me in a head brace, and I was rushed to A & E. My poor husband was told after the initial scans that I could be paralysed from the waist down and doubly incontinent. There was no good news! He saw the x-rays and believes to this day that it’s a miracle I can even stand.
So, after my operation to stabilise my broken vertebrae and having been given the correct drug to get me out of the psychosis, I was back in the room. I was Nikki Rodwell again, flat on my back unable to move, being told I would remain like this for 4 weeks before my bed could be raised. As reality started to sink in, I remember crying and looking into Martin’s eyes and saying how sorry I was for doing this to myself, or more importantly to ‘us’ knowing that this was going to change our lives forever and couldn’t be undone. He just held my hand and said “that wasn’t you who threw yourself off that roof, it was ‘mental health’.” Which I realised was so true. No matter what the outcome, he made it clear he was with me ‘in sickness and in health’. I realised there and then that I had to fight this as hard as I could and make damn sure I got back home to him and our life as an able and fully functioning wife. Well as close as I could get to it!
This term mental health…. Something I feel some people seem to almost ‘enjoy’ labelling themselves with, whilst others pooh pooh mental illness even exists when they themselves have their own form of undiagnosed mental health! I think ALL of us could do with a bout of counselling at some time in our lives, even counsellors themselves readily admit to needing it. There are a lot of people in this world who do not respect or understand that people do truly suffer at the hands of ‘mental health’. I feel blessed that I do not suffer from a chronic disorder such as depression, anxiety or panic attacks and my heart goes out to those who do, as my brief experience of it was simply awful; it must have such an adverse effect on daily life. No, it would seem that I am an all or nothing person. The happy, positive, life-loving individual who presents on social media is very much me. I am mentally strong in my daily life since I learnt to conquer my depression and social phobia back in my early 40s.
The brain however is a very complex and seemingly fragile thing which ‘there by the grace of god’ can suddenly go wrong out of the blue for anybody and for me, when it is overloaded with a certain type of stress. I am truly blessed that this wasn’t my time to leave this world; that it was my back that took the blow rather than my head! They say ‘Pride comes before a Fall’ well I say with pride AFTER my fall and with my head held high, that I am a survivor of ‘mental health’.