I lived in North Kensington when Grenfell Tower went up in flames. 3 years later I am finally diagnosed with PTSD since that fateful day. I can never forget the pain I saw and the horrid things that went on that day. The smell, the heat, the pain. It makes me jump every time I hear a siren. When I smell smoke I have to close my windows and hide away in my bathroom. I have got a go bag incase of a fire at my own place so that I will have at least a charger, a change of clothes and a copy of my insurance documents just incase. That fire affected those who lived in the block and many others who helped out on that day. Honestly I can never forget that day. I am going through therapy now, and it is very hard. I just hope that I do not jump every time I see sirens.
Today I am posting about something that I am finding a little hard to speak about but, I find that blogging helps me to get things straight in my head and I know I can’t be the only person who is going through this as well.
From a previous post you will know that my mother and I helped out on 14/06/2017 when the Grenfell Tower fire happened and for years following I hid what I was going through from even myself. Until I basically exploded last year and I realised I could not go on ignoring it any more. I have now been diagnosed with PTSD from the fire and am starting a long journey to deal with this.
As I have started bringing the symptoms into the foreground I have found that I am noticing things more. I think I always noticed them but, my subconscious held onto it so I was less aware.
This has lead to an unfortunate incident at work which mortified me. On Thursday I was on the early train to London from where I live. I have done that journey so many times that I didn’t think that there would be a problem. Unfortunately, between two stations there was a large spark. I don’t know if it was large because at the time I was travelling it was still dark outside or whether it was because something had happened but I went into hyper-vigilance mode. Then at the next station someone who smoked got onto the train. I didn’t hear this person get on the train because I had my music on but smelled the smoke that had lingered on her. Hyper vigilance went up once again.
I finally got off of the train and was so anxious that I had to sit down. I finally went onto work and started work there. What I didn’t realise is that I had started the day off at an 8 or a 9 on the over stimulated side of the autism side. I did not make the connection. Because I did not make the connection I was unable to do things to calm myself down and by the end of the day my Deputy Directer pulled me to one side and said, “I think you may be over stimulated”. It finally clicked that that was happening. I realised that I was cranked up to an 11 or 12 for most of the day and I was soo tied. I honestly felt mortified because when it is just a normal over stimulation I am able to take the breaks I need and be OK but, because I had started the day over stimulated due to the PTSD I was blinded to it.
When I got home I agreed to start work after I had seen my therapist on Friday and that is how the link was made and I explained it to my Deputy Director when I logged in.
The next couple of weeks with my therapists we are going to look at coping strategies for me. Things that might help me click that PTSD and Autism are co mingling again and ways to get out of the “nowness” of these symptoms especially whilst I am at work.
What I want to say to all Autistic people out there who are struggling with PTSD too is to not blame yourself when these things happen. You can deal with the symptoms and you can survive. It does not make you weak asking for help and it certainly is not something to be ashamed off. Be strong and know that you are not alone.
Thank you for reading
So, today (Friday) I had a therapy appointment. I finally decided to seek help after struggling to deal with the Grenfell Fire. I got told I have PTSD. I put off asking for help because I felt there were worse off people then me and after the first 6 months my nightmares became intermittent. But after completely freaking out about a possible fire hazard I realised I needed help.
Since the fire I have gotten progressively worse. I used to use wax melts but wont use them anymore incase the candle starts a fire. When I goto public places I am hyper vigilant and if I spot a fire hazard I leave. I can no longer attend BBQs because of the smell. It is forever now associated with the smell of burning people. I need to get back to normality.
PTSD is something that might not hit you straight away but can be devastating. It is not just combat vets who deal with it.
On June 14th 2017 I woke up next to my boyfriend as we always did and I went to shut my window. I asked him “who is BBQing at 5 am?” We made breakfast and I went to check the travel. That’s when I saw what was happening. Something inside me turn off and auto pilot kicked in when I realised it was not BBQ but people dying.
All I know after that is I went to an appointment which cost me £100 to get to and from by cab.
When I came back from the appointment I chatted to the ladies in the estate and realised things were still needed at the volunteer shelters so my mum and I loaded the car up and made our way down by this point it was 2PM. I looked at the tower and I could still see flames. The smell was so bad that even the face mask I had been given did not help. I wanted to cry, scream and be sick all at the same time. Mum and I made the rounds and ended up at my childhood church which was a stones throw from the tower.
The sight I saw was chaotic. You had volunteers and their kids helping out. Survivors who were now displaced sleeping on chairs and kids who survived clinging onto their parent/parents for deal life.
Mum helped with the donations and I helped keep snack table stocked up. The, I went to where people were crying. I swear I was with this woman for 30 minutes but it felt like hours. I prayed with her until she got to see her mother. As I walked away a nurse who dropped everything to help out came and asked me if I was ok and I just broke down in to tears. The children’s faces, the pain and hurt and loss I was witnessing I could not comprehend what was going on. I still can’t. She asked me when was the last time I ate and I realised I hadn’t eaten at all so she got me food. Even though I was protesting saying give it to someone in need she fed me and hugged me.
I knew then because of my own health I had to leave I could not stay there any longer.
Mum and I left after a couple of hours and I was drained.
That’s when the nightmares started and the guilt for not hacking it out longer due to my mental health issues, my physical disabilities and everything else.
I put off getting help for the same reason I tried to get out of food… someone else needs it more than me but I pushed it down so hard it came back with a vengeance.
Please if you were traumatised by the fire, it’s never to late to ask for help.
Today’s thought of the day is to discuss what happens when you have been affected by fire. We have seen this oh so much and there are more and more people who are affected so what do we have to do to get through?
Having witnessed Grenfell fire and now watching Australia burn, I have come up with my own way of coping and that is to know that I have a go bag no matter where I am staying. My go bag is not complete yet as there are things I would like to put in it that I am unable to at the moment put in but currently my go bag consists of the following.
1. Spare change of clothes; 2. a phone charger for my phone; 3. a jumper; 4. some snacks; 5. a copy of my insurance policies, bank accounts etc; 6. A dosette box with a weeks worth of medication so that if I need to I can still be covered till I can get replacements; 7. A list of all my medications; 8. Landlords details
What I would like to have in my go back is a phone that I can use so I don’t have to worry so much about making sure I grab my normal phone. Cash so that I will not be left without anything;
These things will not stop you feeling concerned once you have survived or witnessed a massive fire, what it will do is give you some comfort to know that should you be in a position where you have to get out of the house quickly due to a fire that you are prepared and you are not left without anything. After witnessing Grenfell burn and seeing the awful situation that the survivors found themselves in, I want to do everything that I can to make sure that no matter what I am covered. It reminds me of the 5 P’s “Poor planning equals piss poor performance. I will avoid this situation so that I can avoid everything that could cause me issues.
Be prepared and you will hopefully never be caught out.