Regular readers of this website will recall the awful toll of dangerous dog bite victims amongst our postal workers that occur every year. Some keleading to serious injury, and even deaths!
Few people understand the long term damage sustained by victims of such attacks, amd certainly not the mental hea;th damage endured. Our readers may recall the experience of one postal woman and CWU member, featured on these pages back in 2018 and the associated video.
Clair Kami - My PTSD Journey So Far
I started my job as a postwoman, a fresh start and complete career change for me to start a new journey.
Six weeks in I was happy, confident with my role and excited and ready to tackle my first winter and Christmas period as a postie. Then it all changed!
I was unfortunately and unexpectedly attacked from behind by a dog while getting a parcel from my bag… The dog (Staffordshire bull terrier) bit me on the back of my lower left leg leaving quite a bit of muscle/tissue missing and I was sent to hospital for surgery.
I found myself so much more conscious as to what was happening around me, constantly looking over my shoulder, checking gardens and wondering whether the rustling crisp packet or autumnal leaves blowing in the wind is a dog sneaking up on me again.
I spent most days/nights whether in work or not, on edge, worrying, scared, struggling to eat, sleep and having recurring nightmares 3-4 times a week. The nightmares were the worst, I would be stuck in a square white room, surrounded by many dogs that appeared to be held back by a few inches on leashes, but no one was there holding them, no windows, no doors to escape, I was trapped.
Thankfully after some Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT), these nightmares gradually became less frequent. I also learned it helps to speak out about my experience and share what I have been, and am still going through,
I have done media work and travelled to several postal units to talk about my experience and raise awareness about dog attacks and the after effects it had on me. It was therapy in itself for me knowing I could possibly be saving someone else from going through something similar or even just showing that its ok to not be ok and to share those feelings with others without feeling judged.
Although I got great benefit from speaking out I was still suffering in my mind many times, not knowing why I still felt so scared, the overwhelming sense of fear when I was outside was unbearable at times.
I had regular panic attacks, severe anxiety, depression and very high stress levels all aggravated by me not understanding why I still felt that way after a couple of years since getting attacked by the dog, always wondering, surely I should be feeling better by now? It’s been how long?
I was diagnosed with PTSD Level 2.
I completed a Mental Health First Aid course with the CWU in January.
This opened my mind to so many different mental health conditions and gave me a great awareness as to the complexities of them.
After my diagnosis I felt a sense of relief. Finally I know why I’ve felt this way for so long and better still, from the MHFA course, I understand it too. It all started to make sense. I had to stop beating myself up with the thought of ‘why do I still feel like this, it’s been X amount of time, I SHOULD feel better’. All these thoughts I know now are not true, I need to work with my thoughts. t’s understandable that I feel this way. I’ve been through a traumatic event and it has impacted my mental health so much that I need to work with my ‘new’ way of thinking.
It’s been a long road since the dog attack in 2016 and I know my journey is far from over. I’m not going to let it define me. Instead, I will use it to my advantage to help others which in turn helps me.
One of the biggest things I’ve learnt on my journey is to speak up.
If you’re not ok, that’s ok!
Share your thoughts, problems and experiences. It helped me so much and I’ve recently learnt that my sharing of my story and being brave enough to speak out has in turn helped others to feel like they can speak out too!
Brilliant news - I’m achieving my goal, helping others to feel that they can speak out!
My Message for World Mental Health Day 2020:
IT’S NOT WEAK TO SPEAK
You can see Clare's original website report and video about her dangerous dog attack here:
See the Unionsafety E- Library for resources and reports in Dangerous Dogs and for Mental Health here