In 2004, while on a serene vacation on Koh Phi Phi island off the west coast of Thailand, serenity was replaced with terror as the island was engulfed by the devastating Asian Tsunami. Amid the chaos, I found myself alongside a group of courageous tourists who became the island's first responders, tirelessly searching for and rescuing the injured for what felt like an unending 24 hours, Until help arrived from the mainland, specifically from the Thai military.
My return to London, however, was not the refuge I hoped for. For five excruciating years, my struggles with PTSD went misdiagnosed and untreated. Despairingly, even after being forthright about my involvement in the tsunami search and rescue, I was deprived of even a basic assessment for PTSD by the NHS.
As the years passed, this oversight took a significant toll leading to the heart-wrenching loss of my career and the respect of loved ones.
When almost all hope seemed lost, Dr. Jennifer Wild from Oxford University stepped in. She not only diagnosed my condition but also provided personal treatment, recognizing and healing the invisible wounds that the tsunami had inflicted upon me. Her intervention was a turning point, bringing clarity and healing when others couldn’t see the unseen wounds etched deep within me.
After enduring the pain of the events in London and making it out alive, I felt that life was finally improving. It took several years but reconnecting and reconciling with my family and finally securing a stable place to live gave me hope. However, almost a decade after Dr. Wild's crucial intervention, I was presented with a Stage 3 cancer diagnosis.
The battle against cancer is grueling for anyone, but my journey was further intensified by its unfortunate timing: the outbreak of the COVID pandemic. Isolated in a foreign country during this global crisis, away from the comfort of family and friends, I faced a series of unprecedented challenges. Both my oncologist and surgeon were taken aback. In all their years of practice, they expressed they had never witnessed a patient endure and overcome as many grave complications as I faced throughout my challenging two-year cancer treatment.
I want to express the truth without embellishments: enduring over a year of cancer treatment in isolation was undeniably brutal. The experience of lying alone in a hospital ward, with the weight of traumatic memories haunting my consciousness, all while grappling with the very real fear that I might not make it through my cancer treatment, was an incredibly trying ordeal.
However, in the midst of this harrowing journey, a beacon of hope emerged in the form of Dr. Jennifer Wild's PTSD treatment. Her approach not only provided solace but also instilled within me a set of invaluable skills. These skills became a lifeline that ultimately saved me from the depths of my own despair during the isolation and fear that accompanied my cancer treatment amid the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dr. Jennifer Wild's treatment became a crucial foundation upon which I could build my resilience. It was as if she hard-wired me with the tools necessary to navigate the darkest moments of my life. Through her guidance, I was able to confront the ghosts of my past traumas and simultaneously face the uncertain future posed by my health struggles.
The juxtaposition of battling cancer and facing the pandemic was daunting, but armed with the psychological armor I gained from Dr. Jennifer Wild's PTSD treatment, I managed to weather the storm.
It's these experiences - from living with PTSD to surviving cancer amidst a pandemic - that I share on my mental health blog, ptsdjedi.com, titled "A Survivor's Journey of Healing" I named it as such because the waves that hit me on that fateful day weren't just physical; they rippled through my mind and soul for years after. My aim is to shed light on the often silent battles of trauma, specifically PTSD, and the labyrinth of challenges that cancer introduces.
Countless individuals, from children to adults, bear the weight of traumatic events in silence. My hope is that through greater understanding, early diagnosis, and heartfelt community support, we can ease the burden for those with PTSD.
My journey has taught me that my PTSD treatment wasn't a magic solution that erased the pain, but rather, it helped me manage the trauma more effectively.
While I've certainly encountered my share of challenges in life, it's also been filled with a variety of passions. I have a deep fascination for the arts, education, travel, and politics. Above all, ensuring human rights for everyone is of paramount importance to me because I believe that every single person deserves a voice, support, and a sense of dignity.
I warmly invite you to journey with me as we share, heal, and raise awareness collectively. Stay updated with my thoughts and reflections by following me on Twitter at @ptsdjedi.
Thank you for taking the time to read my journey.
Warmest regards, Sam.
The following link is to the BBC radio podcast that I participated in with Dr. Jennifer Wild.
I hope by listening to the podcast you better understand my journey.