Warren McKinlay, from Braintree, Essex, served in the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers for seven years, according to The Mirror. McKinlay was in the prime of his life (just 35 years old) when his entire reality was turned upside-down.
McKinlay's life changed forever when he was out for a motorcycle ride with a colleague. The Gazette News explained that McKinlay's colleague lost control of the motorcycle, and McKinlay was thrown into a tree at 60 miles per hour.
The accident left McKinlay with a broken pelvis and back, as well as two punctured lungs. The Mirror stated that McKinlay pulled through and was even able to be with his wife, Sarah, during their daughter's birth four months later. But McKinlay's injuries didn't all show up on an X-ray.
Even though he had physically survived, McKinlay believed that he was dead. He told The Mirror, “I convinced myself I was actually dead. I felt I was literally a dead man walking. It was as if I was a ghost."
McKinlay explained that his surroundings as he recovered may have contributed to his feelings. “I was treated at a time when many soldiers were coming back from Afghanistan with no legs and no arms. I was surrounded by stories of death – it was like I was in a living nightmare. I refused to eat as I thought there was no point as I’d already died. It was like I was living in an alternate reality."
McKinley was suffering from Cotard's Syndrome. According to Medical Daily, Cotard's Syndrome is a very rare mental illness. People suffering from Cotard's Syndrome may believe that they are dead, missing organs, or even immortal.
Medical Daily described a man named Graham who suffered from Cotard's Syndrome. Graham stopped eating, because he believed that he was dead, so there was no point in eating. He also started visiting cemeteries to get close to death.
“I know it sounds utterly bizarre, but I genuinely believed I’d died in the crash, but for some reason my spirit hadn’t moved on," McKinley said. “I was convinced that I didn’t have to eat, because I was dead I had no need for food any more. I’d sit for hours in a room refusing to talk to anyone. I’d gone completely into a shell, Sarah was loving and tried everything to help me, but I felt I couldn’t share what was happening to me."
McKinley wasn't diagnosed with Cotard's Syndrome until he finally confided in his therapist that he thought he had died. McKinley told The Mirror that he was shocked and refused to believe his diagnosis at first.
Therapy, paired with antidepressants and antipsychotics, has been effective in treating Cotard's Syndrome, according to Medical Daily. McKinley underwent therapy, met another man dealing with Cotard's Syndrome, and was able to recover from this condition.
Though McKinley still deals with the daily effects of living with a brain injury, he continues to make great strides forward. He told The Mirror that he has joined Team BRIT, a racing team consisting of injured veterans. They race all over the country, and McKinley is focused on living life again.