It doesn’t matter where she is. Every time a gravel truck passes by 27-year-old Courtney Eyre, her heart begins to race. This anxiety sprouted from the loss of her brother-in-law on December 1, 2014.
D-Jay Bartlett, 32, was killed in an accident after he got a flat tire on Hwy. 401 in Bowmanville; and lost control of his gravel truck.
Almost immediately following his death, Eyre noticed a change in her mental health.
According to a study done by Psychologists at the University of Liverpool, called Psychological Processes Mediate the Impact of Familial Risk, Social Circumstances and Life Events on Mental Health, life events are the strongest predictors of well-being. The study found that traumatic life events are the biggest cause of anxiety and depression, followed by family history of mental health disorders.
Overwhelmed with sadness, Eyre’s pain transformed to anger. “I was angry at the world and I took my anger out on those that were there for me,” she said.
Although gravel trucks prompted most of her anxiety, her husband was also a trigger. “My husband looks just like D-Jay, so it was a constant reminder,” she says.
Seeing a gravel truck would spark many emotions in Eyre. Her heart would skip a beat she said, and she would struggle to catch her breath. Even with friends, Eyre would drift off in a daze and clam up, just remembering the accident. With a racing heart she would find the nearest public bathroom and hide away. Eyre says she would break into tears until the anxiety subsided. This anxiety impacted her daily life greatly.
In a 2014 study called Unexpected Death of a Loved One Linked to Psychiatric Disorders, researchers at Columbia University found that a sudden death of a loved one raises the risk of major depression, excessive use of alcohol, and anxiety disorders, including panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and phobias.
Courtney Eyre’s loss left her with severe anxiety. At one point, Eyre was reluctant to leave her house. “I could go a week, maybe over a week, without going outside of the house,” she explained. The anxiety was so overwhelming Eyre had to drop out of school, and has yet to return.
Filled with frustration and anger, Eyre learned over time that it wasn’t the world or her loved ones that she needed to be angry with.
To overcome her anxiety, Eyre started talking about her feelings. In time, the feelings began to ease. Now when she sees a gravel truck, she reminds herself that it is normal for them to be on the road. Tragedies happen, she says.
“I still do have anxiety. It still takes my breath away when I see gravel trucks…but I don’t freak out. I don’t come down into tears and I don’t avoid going outside anymore.” She says.
Though it is still a difficult topic for her, even a year later, the most important thing she has learned is not to stay silent.
A Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) study published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, found that more than half of those who reported symptoms of depression did not see a need for treatment. Though 40 per cent of workers surveyed said to be experiencing significant depressive symptoms, 52.8 per cent of those did not see a need to seek help.
Courtney Eyre, however, learned that seeking help is the most important part. “Don’t keep it to yourself talk to somebody about it, if you keep it to yourself it only harms you more,” she said. “You need to talk about it. You need to get your feelings out and you need to get the help if you need it.”
As science continues to speak for mental health challenges, so do those affected. By talking about these issues, the stigma will continue to disintegrate and open the stage for more research and treatment.