Harriet Barnsley This Too Shall Pass

Audio Episode


My name is Harriet. On May 31, 2014, when I was 21 years old, I was hit by a car at over 100mph. This happened while standing at a bus stop in Birmingham with my friend Rebecca, who died at the scene.

As a result, I use a foot splint/crutches/wheelchair and live alongside a TBI, psychosis, and bipolar. I write about life post-crash.

Harriet Barnsley

[00:00:00] Harriet Barnsley: So I was hit by a car at 21. So I was just kind of just becoming a grown up person, like just learning how to do the world. And it was all really very active and now I can't do lots of active things. So I just make a point to read as much as I can, learn as much as I can, help people as much as I can. Just savor all the beautiful things in life is everything. So, so gorgeous and everything's so wonderful when you sit down and you watch it and you just see the world happening. And it's amazing that it works and that we're alive in this instant. I just, appreciation is just one of the things I do all the time.

[00:00:52] Ed Watters: To overcome, you must educate. Educate not only yourself, but educate anyone seeking to learn. We are all Dead America, we can all learn something. To learn, we must challenge what we already understand. The way we do that is through conversation. Sometimes we have conversations with others, however, some of the best conversations happen with ourself. Reach out and challenge yourself; let's dive in and learn something right now.

[00:01:43] Today we're speaking with Harriet Barnsley. Harriet is a survivor being hit by an automobile at a hundred miles, 101 miles an hour, that's traumatic. And surviving it, coming out of it, that is something that has a story behind it. Harriet, could you please introduce yourself, let people know just a little more about you, please?

[00:02:14] Harriet Barnsley: Yeah. So hi, I'm Harriet Barnsley, I'm 29 and I live in Birmingham in England in the UK. Um, I was, yeah, hit by a car as a pedestrian over a hundred miles an hour the day after I finished my degree in philosophy. So I was 21 years old. I wake up from a month on coma to find out that my oldest best friend had been killed standing, who was, stood next to me on that night. And that I would need a wheelchair for life. And then, so it's been eight years, I've had, and then I've had eight years of recovery. Five years into the recovery, I developed mental health issues, developed psychosis, thought I was dead and ended up getting sectioned and put into a hospital twice. Um, and now I'm doing really well and the happiest I've ever been. And kind of just want to share it as a kind of, you can cope with whatever life throws at you because you can. Even if that is a car, you know.

[00:03:27] Ed Watters: Yeah, literally. You know, that is something to deal with and it's amazing that you're alive, so there must be purpose to that. What do you see coming out of that and going through that? Do you find more purpose and more reason why you're here, out of going through that?

[00:03:55] Harriet Barnsley: Um, I find it's clarified things. Yeah, it's, it's, it's made, as I accept, because becoming, I became disabled, but my sister was born disabled. So I already had quite a good idea of what the disabled world was. But I was chatting about this to my friends at wheelchair tennis and they were saying,

[00:04:19] You know, as disabled people, as people with big traumas and challenges and physical day challenges, we just kind of get on with it a lot, seem to get on with it a lot better than a lot of people that seem to be struggling. It just kind of makes you realize that, you know, the fine things like, if you're eating and breathing and alive and talking and that, that is wonderful and beautiful in and of itself.

[00:04:42] And I kind of just want to, it's, it, and it's made me, yeah, it's made me just want to be able to help other people considering what I've gone through. And it's made me also want to raise awareness around dangerous driving because it's just such a, it's a thing that doesn't need to happen.

[00:05:00] Ed Watters: Yeah, that's a big one.

[00:05:02] Harriet Barnsley: Yeah, it's going to be like my lifelong calling. I think it's just, I think I'm going to try and go around to like schools and colleges and talk to young people and try and tackle it. But it's just, it's just a lot. It's just a massive, massive problem that just doesn't get enough attention.

[00:05:19] Ed Watters: I agree. Now, the driver was a drunk driver that hit you. Is that correct?

[00:05:25] Harriet Barnsley: Yeah.

[00:05:26] Ed Watters: You know, it is a big problem and this is a good way to help raise awareness. It's going to affect people for life and sometimes with their life, it's not a good thing. So how do you plan to advocate this in the world? Do you plan on podcasting, writing a book, speaking engagements, or all of the above?

[00:05:57] Harriet Barnsley: Uh, probably, yeah, all of the above. So, at the moment I've, um, I'm writing a book. I'm writing, so I started writing a blog. So, I was hit by a car in 2016. I started writing a blog in 2000, no, sorry, I was hit by a car in 2014. I started writing a blog in 2016 to try and make sense of what I was going through and to kind of communicate with the world that a lot of people kind of just thought I'd got back to normal.

[00:06:25] Like you can just get back to normal after that sort of thing. And it became quite, it became quite a big thing. I was frustrated that people didn't really understand what the struggle was like. And I didn't particularly understand what I was going through so I started writing about it. And then yeah, I've now, I'm write,

[00:06:40] I'm in the middle of writing a book, which is, it's going to be called, Thrown because my life is thrown off course. And we were also, we were thrown 50 meters into the park as we were hit by a car. Um, I've started, I've done a public speaking course. I'm going to go try and do public speaking engagements to raise awareness of it. I'm just doing what I can to kind of try and help the world and also to help myself at the same time.

[00:07:11] Ed Watters: So how does, how does this affect you still today? It's been eight years so when you speak about it, does it take you back to that incident? And do you remember much about it other than waking up?

[00:07:28] Harriet Barnsley: No, I don't remember what happened. I don't remember the day or the weeks before I, um, so I don't get flashbacks or painful memories, which I'm very grateful for. Uh, vaguely I remember waking up. I kept falling in and out of consciousness because I had a subarachnoid hemorrhage, which is the brain bleed, brain bruise, and a stroke on the brain. Um, I've made peace with it. I've made the most, I mean, it took me a very long time to make peace with it because I don't, I don't know how you accept that sort of tragedy that's thrown at you.

[00:08:01] Ed Watters: Yeah.

[00:08:01] Harriet Barnsley: I don't know how you can be like, Oh, okay, this has happened. I'll accept it and move on. So, but, but I am, I have made peace with it. Um, so I'm absolutely, well, I was always fine to talk about it because it's such a big part of my life. It made sense for me not to be afraid or annoyed to have to talk about it because it's, I get asked all the time, especially when I'm in my wheelchair, people are like, What happened? And they make jokes like, Did you do it in skiing, or did you do it in football, or did you fall down the stairs? And it's just, I don't know. So you just, if I would be really, really angry, I think if I hadn't made peace with what had happened to talk about it, and I didn't want to live in anger, so.

[00:08:47] Ed Watters: I, I really relate with that understanding because it took something from you, you know, and you really can't put a value on that and getting it back is impossible.

[00:09:01] So rebuilding something that's comparable to it, that's kind of the essence of what we have to do when we deal with the traumatic injury. And it doesn't even have to be an injury, it can be just traumatic.

[00:09:20] Harriet Barnsley: Any trauma. Yeah.

[00:09:22] Ed Watters: Any trauma, that's right. I think it's really, really important to focus and understand the trauma that we've went through. Has this individual reached out with an apology at all to you?

[00:09:41] Harriet Barnsley: No, people, but people, people ask me cause there's two people that were drunk drive racing down the road for miles and they just happened at one point to lose control of the car and it crashed into the bus stop that we were at. But, um, yeah, people often ask about the drivers, [00:10:00] but, but as a, as a person who's lost my oldest, dearest friend and my ability to walk freely or have energy, I have chronic fatigue with brain injury, I can't spend my life like focused on them. I can't, I don't.

[00:10:19] Ed Watters: Yeah.

[00:10:19] Harriet Barnsley: And

[00:10:19] Ed Watters: Well, that's good.

[00:10:20] Harriet Barnsley: they're, I'm indifferent to them, you know, they could, they could, if they ever did reach out, which they're not going to, but nothing they can ever say will make up for it.

[00:10:33] Ed Watters: That's true.

[00:10:35] Harriet Barnsley: And people are always like, Oh, they deserve to die themselves or they deserve to be in jail forever. And I'm just like,

[00:10:45] I don't know, I don't know. You know, killing someone that's killed someone is just creating another, another murder, another killer. Like, I don't know. I don't know what the solution is. I don't the solution for me is to just never focus on it and just worry about myself and helping other people rather than the men, were like, that did it.

[00:11:07] Ed Watters: I like that answer. Um, you know, we, we often put focus on those individuals where they probably shouldn't get any focus. But, you know,

[00:11:21] Harriet Barnsley: People like to blame someone.

[00:11:24] Ed Watters: Yeah. Yeah. How do we put focus on, this can't go on anymore. And, you know, really, I've heard such things as putting breathalyzers in every automobile as standard equipment.

[00:11:41] Harriet Barnsley: Yeah, you, really, Ed, you shouldn't be able to drive unless you pass a breathalyzer in the car. That's one option.

[00:11:48] Ed Watters: Yeah, but I mean, yeah, I, I, if that is a good technology that's reliable and it doesn't give you headaches if, you know, you need your transportation. Yeah, I believe there has to be something done about this because, you know, I'm even guilty of, in my past days, getting behind the wheel and driving when I know I shouldn't have. I tried, I tried not to. Go ahead.

[00:12:25] Harriet Barnsley: We're all, like, I'd say that most people are guilty of breaking the rules of the road or the laws of the road in some way. But no one ever really wants to admit it because it seems to be very much, I find it's difficult to talk about it. Because you want to say occasionally, you know, I didn't follow the rules of the road and then you'll have someone shout at you saying, Well, you should, that kills people. That's not, and that, and that's not a helpful exchange.

[00:12:50] Ed Watters: Right, right.

[00:12:51] Harriet Barnsley: You know, I think you should. Yeah. Sorry, carry on with what you were saying.

[00:12:55] Ed Watters: Well, it's, no, it's personal responsibility. I really think that if, if you are a responsible person and you weigh the dangers and the outcome of what if. It, it really made me think and now I, I won't drive when I'm drinking. And if I know I'm drinking, I'm going to put myself in a situation where I don't have to drive and I make that a point.

[00:13:28] Harriet Barnsley: It's a repeated conscious decision, isn't it? Throughout, all the time. Just, you know, unfortunately, some people don't make that decision. And that's because all of, all of, all of the things that happen on the road, that all of the crashes and collisions that happen on the road, they're generally because someone wasn't paying attention.

[00:13:47] It's not, if we're all following, that's why I kind of, I like the idea of driverless cars, just because I find it bizarre that we can drive cars that go like, that go way past a hundred miles an hour when the speed limit is below that anyway. Why can we race cars? You know, I don't think we should, as humans, we should be given that, that ability.

[00:14:10] Ed Watters: Yeah, at least go to a race track where it's isolated for that purpose. Because you never know when a child or somebody's coming across the street on a bike or walking. You know, there's consequences every time. You know, you may think you're getting away with it, but you're going to end up getting caught and going through a bunch of headache, or killing someone, injuring someone.

[00:14:44] Harriet Barnsley: Or you'll just, you know, be one of the people that gets away with it, that makes other people think they can all do it. It's just encouraging people.

[00:14:54] Ed Watters: That's a good point. Yes. So, so really it is about educating people and making people aware of the dangers. And really it's like that scared straight program where you really need to see what's going on out there.

[00:15:14] If you watch the, yeah, if you watch the newscast about what happened to you, none of them thought you should have survived. And frankly, you probably shouldn't have been here. So really, this is a good purpose for you to be here is advocating some sort of, maybe autonomous cars or whatever to,

[00:15:40] Harriet Barnsley: Something.

[00:15:41] Ed Watters: Yeah,

[00:15:42] Harriet Barnsley: Just addressing the issue. Yeah.

[00:15:44] Ed Watters: Yeah, a think tank. Getting it being thought about that's, that's really the first step. Talking about it, getting it to be known, and we've known about it forever. But yet we still are here allowing it to happen.

[00:16:04] Harriet Barnsley: I agree.

[00:16:06] Ed Watters: You went through 70 plus minus hours of surgery because of this and some of the

[00:16:16] Harriet Barnsley: Sorry. My most recent surgery was three weeks ago. So it's eight years on, I'm still having surgery.

[00:16:22] Ed Watters: Yeah. Yeah. That's just crazy. You know, I understand about dealing with chronic pain because of surgeries. How much pain do you still deal with because of what happened back then?

[00:16:40] Harriet Barnsley: Um, so I have chronic nerve pain in my foot. Like it's, um, the sciatic nerve, my sciatic nerve was severed so I have, and I've had my little toe amputated since then. So I have constant nerve pain throughout the day. Medication doesn't really treat, but yeah, it could be, it could always be worse. I just accept that. Um, I have chronic fatigue. So I used to be able to run and walk, and do lots of athletic things, and stand on my feet for ages and I never will be able to again.

[00:17:11] So it's like mourning that life as well. But, and I, again, I, again, I don't really focus on the, the, the hardships or the things that I struggle with because they end up just eating you alive if you just look at those.

[00:17:29] Ed Watters: Yeah. So what do you do for entertainment now that is different from what you've done in the past for entertainment?

[00:17:41] Harriet Barnsley: I think it was, so, I was hit by a car at 21. So I was just kind of just becoming a grownup person, like just learning how to do the world and it was all really very active. And now I can't do lots of active things. But, so I just make a point to read as much as I can,

[00:18:02] like learn as much as I can, help people as much as I can. Just savor all the beautiful things in life, is everything. So, so gorgeous and everything's so wonderful when you sit down and you watch it and you just see the world happening. And it's amazing that it works and that we're alive in this instant. I just, appreciation is just one of the things I do all the time.

[00:18:30] Ed Watters: Yeah, so you lost your best friend, you know, that's hard to think about. How, how has this affected your friendships and acquaintance, even with your family?

[00:18:47] Harriet Barnsley: Yeah, it's, it's, she was, she was the closest person in my life and she was my oldest friend. And I just, and I, I was bullied in school, so I didn't have many really other friends. And I just, it's made me quite closed off and I put the shields up and protective.

[00:19:06] I just, it's hard to relate to people that like, so I'm meeting people now and they meet, you know, I make friends with like, say, I mean, I'm 29, I make friends with people that no one really seems to have the time to support each other as much as, you know, an old friend has the time for you. But all these new people just are so busy with their own problems that it's quite hard to, um, to rely on other people.

[00:19:33] Ed Watters: Yeah, yeah, that's, that's something else. So Harriet, what, what do you want the world to really understand about you and what you've went through?

[00:19:50] Harriet Barnsley: After everything that I've gone through and that I went through that day and everything that I've gone through since then, and it's been a lot, a lot of different challenges [00:20:00] just thrown at me. The main thing I just take away from it is just keep going. It's just the joy that I feel now, particularly, like, it's so, it's just, I, it feels so beautiful to be alive. Just to, and I've had massive periods of depression where I couldn't function. I thought I had to die to escape the pain and I've made it through that and I'm working to, to support people that are suicide or just to help. But there is always, there is always hope. There is always, keep going is my overall message.

[00:20:38] Ed Watters: Yeah. So is there any groups that you're associated with and you attend right now?

[00:20:47] Harriet Barnsley: Uh, well, at the moment, so most, the most recent one is I've just signed up to do a fundraiser for November. It's just the only, I'm just looking at, I got the t shirt came through today. So I'm just supporting Samaritans, which is just, uh, their, their mission is to have, is to reduce the amount of suicides. That's their mission to support people that are considering taking their own lives. So that's, that's my latest, um, charity I'm supporting. I, I like to support a few different ones, it depends where I am and what's calling to me and what I've, what I see my friends struggling with the most. I just, yeah.

[00:21:33] Ed Watters: Yeah, you know, I'm learning to do that myself right now is, uh, reassociate myself. And crowds are very hard for me. You know, it's all right. I don't freak out or anything but

[00:21:48] Harriet Barnsley: But they're still hard.

[00:21:49] Ed Watters: I feel very uncomfortable. Yeah, they're hard, you know, because I still have that sense of, well, I'm different.

[00:21:57] Harriet Barnsley: Yeah.

[00:21:58] Ed Watters: You know, it's weird that I even feel that way. Do you feel that way?

[00:22:06] Harriet Barnsley: Yeah, I, but I just, I make a point, I make a point to talk about how I feel as much as possible or write it out and just get it out. Because I find if you keep it all inside, I mean, it makes you feel even more shut off and separate, doesn't it? So,

[00:22:24] Ed Watters: Yes. Yeah, that's, that's a good word of wisdom right there. If you keep it in, it's just going to make it build and get worse. So

[00:22:35] Harriet Barnsley: I'm a good example of that cause I kept it in for five years. And then I just thought, I just put my head down, didn't really talk about how hard it was, just tried to carry on. And then I got so mentally ill that I thought I was dead and I thought I was living in hell. And I developed a really, really severe mental illness that I now, that I live alongside now. That if you don't let it out, it'll come out of you somehow.

[00:23:00] Ed Watters: Yeah. So, so I know that you've had bouts of psychosis and this comes out of this injury and accident. Uh, I really understand that kind of, because just the mental torture and that traumatic experience, it does affect your health in many ways. I, explain to us how that occurs and why and how it just happened.

[00:23:42] Harriet Barnsley: How what occurs?

[00:23:45] Ed Watters: This bouts of psychosis with you. It's a mental health disorder, but it's onset is because of your injury.

[00:23:56] Harriet Barnsley: Yeah. How did that happen?

[00:23:59] Ed Watters: But it took a while. Yeah, it took a while for that to transpire. How did that happen?

[00:24:05] Harriet Barnsley: I learned quite, so I found one thing particularly when suffering with mental health issues or mental illnesses, one thing that's really good to do is to educate yourself on the, the, um, the diagnosis or the symptoms that you have. So I've learned that and I did a course on psychosis that, the same that, often something can happen really, really traumatic and then it takes five years for the psychosis to develop. I don't know,

[00:24:34] I don't know the logic behind that. But mine was exactly five years later and I just, I'd spent the, I'd spent, well, I survived something I shouldn't have. So I spent five years saying, I don't know how I'm alive. Like, if you get hit by a car, if you get hit by a car at 40 miles an hour, there is a 90% chance you will die.

[00:24:59] Now I got hit by a car at 101 miles an hour and didn't die. And so I just kept telling that to myself and I just, I told myself that all my injuries were specific to me, my brain injury, my physical injuries, and my life and my challenges were all just me. And no one else knew what I felt like and no one could relate to the pain and that ended up making me really, really detached and really, really

[00:25:26] depressed and really like detached from reality. I started to see reality, it's just, I saw them, I saw the misery everywhere cause that's all I could feel. And then I convinced myself it was hell. It was, and then convinced myself I was already dead. And you start getting just warped thoughts. Um, I don't know if that answers your questions? It's how I got there.

[00:25:50] Ed Watters: Yeah. Yeah. Well, that answered it very well, Harriet. I understand that, you know, feeling those feelings can really make our mind, which kind of controls itself, it seems, just, uh, will take us in places. So my point behind this is going back to the drunk driving thing, ripples in life matter. It will always affect somebody by the choices that we make. So choices that we make should be choices that are going to make good ripple effects when that ripple hits somebody.

[00:26:41] Harriet Barnsley: Yeah, the choices you make should be in line with your values and just, you know, treat people as you'd want to be treated and, and just put positivity, and put good thoughts, and, you know, put goodness into the world. And if someone's struggling, offer them a space to talk about it, you know, all that. It's just, we need, we need more people to look out for each other, I think is the overall thing.

[00:27:10] Ed Watters: Yeah, it's Gandhi, uh, be, be the change you want to see in the world. And, and really that's, that's what we all need to be. So any call to action for our listeners today, Harriet?

[00:27:30] Harriet Barnsley: Well, Ed, the main one again is if you're struggling with something, just please talk to someone about it.

[00:27:40] Ed Watters: All right.

[00:27:41] Harriet Barnsley: Just please let it out. Or if you can't talk to someone, write about it or just like express it somewhere. Just get it out of your system because that's, that's, that's life saving.

[00:27:56] Ed Watters: Yes, it is. I believe that. So how can people get a hold of you and connect with you?

[00:28:04] Harriet Barnsley: Um, they can find me on Twitter, I've got, I'm on just Harriet Barnsley and they can find more on my blog, which is thistooshallpass464. But if you type Harriet Barnsley into Google, it should come up with those things.

[00:28:22] Ed Watters: Harriet, I can't wait for a book on this and more so a podcast. I would love to hear a podcast on all of this, you know. So think about more ways to get out there and do what you're doing, it matters. And I thank you so much for doing that and much more for being here today with me on the Dead America podcast.

[00:28:48] Harriet Barnsley: Thank you very much. I like the idea of a podcast, it's not a bad idea. But yes, thank you very much for having me on yours.

[00:28:56] Ed Watters: Yes, I think you'd do a good job on podcasting and it's a great way to connect with people. We need much more of that in our world today. Conversations and stories. Let's change the world.

[00:29:11] Harriet Barnsley: Yeah, let's.

[00:29:12] Ed Watters: Connection.

[00:29:12] Harriet Barnsley: I love it.

[00:29:12] Ed Watters: That's right. I love it. Thank you, Harriet. Have a good day.

[00:29:17] Harriet Barnsley: Thank you. Bye.

[00:29:23] Ed Watters: Thank you for joining us today. If you found this podcast enlightening, entertaining, educational in any way, please share, like, subscribe, and join us right back here next week for another great episode of Dead America Podcast. I'm Ed Watters your host, enjoy your afternoon wherever you may be.