Talking Point

“I have re-entered my own personal lockdown”

During Mental Health Awareness Week, Sarah Pinch discusses her journey recovering from a serious accident and why, no matter how difficult, it is always important to ask for help.

I am, according to Myers Briggs and most people who know me, an extravert. I love being around others, I get ideas from external stimulus. Whilst I have grown to value silence, my go to is always with others, in busy places.

In 2021, Julia Middleton asked me to record a short video for her initiative, Women Emerging from Isolation. It was the first time I had recorded and shared widely, how hard I found the enforced isolation of the pandemic. 

Since the end of the final lockdown, I have reverted to type. From my home in Bristol, I love being out. I have relished trips to the theatre, the opera, I have run two half marathons and many 10ks, I’ve been to gigs and exhibitions, had dinner with friends and joined in real live events once more.

So, imagine my horror (for many reasons) when I fell down the stairs, all 15 of them, on Good Friday. I am OK, physically, I can walk and I did not hit my head. But I have re-entered my own personal lockdown. In the last five weeks I have left the house only once for pleasure, twice for the hospital and once to get my hair cut; which was such an important act for my mental health, but my goodness it took some planning.

In Mental Health Awareness Week I wanted to share the challenges of having such a traumatic and serious accident. I hope it might help someone else. 

I am isolated and I have to plan everything. From ensuring my clothes are accessible to me, to getting help to tie my trainers, to only going up or down the stairs once a day; there is no spontaneity in my life. 

Many mornings, when I wake up, I forget for two seconds I’m injured, then the pain comes and the tears, for the loss I have endured. Pain which is exhausting and at times all consuming. I mainly sit down. All day. I have to ask for help for pretty much everything I want to do.

It’s hard. There have been many tears and I have gone from desperately wanting to be outside with others, to worrying about the risks, concentrating on the pre-planning, ensuring I have thought it all through from every angle. Sometimes it is just too much and I have to say no. No, I cannot because I am too anxious about the risk.  It is simply not worth it.

This Mental Health Awareness Week, I want to say that for those of us who are strong, sometimes we need help, and we find that hard. So let me share this. Every single time I have asked, the answer has been yes. 

My dearest friends have been cooks, flower arrangers, sous chefs, clothes assistants, laundry supervisors, sock finders, shoe lace assistants. My team has been off the charts. Bonding on the extension to their JDs has been hilarious. Who knew hanging out the washing was part of the accountant director’s role?  Or picking up my daughter from school, fell to the account manager in her fourth week.

Recently on a Teams meeting with two clients, we clarified;  ‘If it looks like we are sitting on Sarah’s bed, that is because we are’. ‘Welcome to our world,’ said Shani Dhanda and Victoria Jenkins. Two of the most inspirational women I know. Two women who are on the Shaw Trust Disability Power 100 List.

It is a world I did not know I would enter. But I am privileged to do so.

I have learnt so much in the last five weeks and I am still learning, about myself, about society, the NHS, friendship, allyship and about how I definitely now believe resilience is a four letter word. More on that later.

Never assume. Never presume. Outward strength is often armour. Ask. Do not step in if we don’t need you, but if we do, don’t hesitate. Do not offer help, if you do not mean it. Be kind. Be thoughtful and always remember, this could be you.

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