I haven’t written one of these for a while and I have loads to say so ill do it in chunks. I write them primarily for anyone with a brain injury and if you are anything like me then you will have a terrible attention span so I try to keep to a max of 1500 words. This is the first chunk, I have no idea how many chunks there will be because I’m also terrible at planning but lets start before I use any more of my 1500 words!
I was reflecting the other day on how much traumatic brain injury has transformed my life, the change was instant and much of my recovery has been adjusting to that change.
The day before the accident I was a student in Manchester that worked in a bar in the busy and vibrant city centre. I loved to go out drinking, socialising, training at the gym, staying up all night, more drinking and even some studying. Being around mates, always being on the go and always having a laugh was so much fun and I vowed to get back to this way of living.
It was 2007, they had been out a while and never really appealed to me but during my stay in hospital I remember seeing lots of adverts for different Irish ciders served in a pint glass over lots of ice. Those adverts used to make me drool in fact I used to visualise sitting on the patio on a hot day and drinking one, I couldn’t wait! I longed to go for a night out, that was my focus, my end goal if you like. I remember the neurologist doing his rounds and telling me about the dangers of drinking. I remember thinking “yeah whatever mate!” confident that I knew more about the effects of alcohol post brain injury than a consultant neurologist. In a similar way to when you were 16 and knew more than your parents about… well anything in life.
That is one of the few memories I have from my time in hospital, some of the things I went through during my time in hospital were very distressing and are particularly painful for my family and friends to recall. I however don’t remember much about the 6 months I spent there, I do remember having lots of visitors and being Mr Popular often wondering what all the fuss was about. I remember feeling quite confident of my life returning to how it was, I remember being fairly confident that I could walk out and get on a bus into town to prove how well I was. The fact I had a bandage covering a tracheostomy scar on my neck, I weighed under 8 stone, my speech was very quiet and stammered, I would get exhausted walking 10 metres down the hospital corridor and forgot anything I was told a few seconds later are all good reasons why I was wrong. Oh yes I also had no money and was wearing my pyjamas and slippers, they were good reasons as well! The reason I thought this way was that I didnt realise or understand, I don’t think I even attempted to understand I was just totally unaware! I had whats called poor insight into my condition.
Poor insight of my condition means that I had very poor understanding i.e. I had no clue about the seriousness of what had happened to me. This is classic behaviour of someone who has recently survived a serious traumatic brain injury. Our brains are the mechanism by which we make sense of the world and that mechanism only a few weeks earlier had been hit by a Ford Fiesta hard enough to rattle around inside my skull and knock me unconscious for 16 days. No wonder things didn’t make sense!
Hospital is not a real environment, if I needed my bed, needed to eat or go for physio then it was no further than 20 metres away and if for any reason you’re going any further then you are pushed there in a wheelchair. I was protected from just about all elements of real life, I thought I’d be fine back in the real world but I didn’t have a clue. Hospital is only the initial part of your recovery to ensure you’re stabilised and stay alive! Infact you could say that your recovery and adjustment doesn’t really start until you’re discharged
So skip a few months and I was back home in Scarborough and keen to push on with my recovery, the time had come for me to have a bottle of that golden cider I had been drooling over for so long! I went on an afternoon when it was quiet because I hated noise and loud music, I found it so confusing and fatiguing which I was convinced was a temporary thing that I wouldn’t have to deal with for long. I forget who was with me but I remember choosing the venue for my comeback a place with no music, the legendary Lord Roseberry in Scarborough. Roseberry’s was our first Wetherspoons Pub, I have many happy memories of being in there and it was familiar. We approached the building from the side door to go upstairs, everything normal until I got inside. Something had changed it smelt different, you could smell things other than smoke, the smoking ban had come in on July 1st and you could no longer smoke indoors. I never smoked so this should have been great but it was just confusing, part of a night out was smelling your clothes the next day and wretching from the stench of the smoke. That was familiarity but it was good news for all the nights out I planned to go on as my life returned to normal! Ey ey!
I was soon distracted by the smoky confusion by the arrival of my cider, this was going to be amazing the moment I’d been waiting for! That golden cider was going to excite my tastebuds and slip down my neck like golden nectar the moment I’d been dreaming about was upon me, I waited a few more seconds before taking a sip…… URRRGGHHH!! It was disgusting! It reminded me of that little bottle filled with a mixture of spirits you stole off your dad to take out on a Friday night when you were 14….. Erm that other kids stole off their dads and they drunk. Having never done such a thing I wouldn’t have any idea! ANYWAY my expectations of the bottle of Irish Cider I had so been looking forward to never came true, my tastebuds seemed to have changed.
Disheartened I returned home at about 5pm to find Top Gear on the TV, I used to like Top Gear mainly for Richard Hammond who’s book I had been attempting to read for ages (double vision means that reading is something I have difficulty with). Richard Hammond had a Traumatic Brain Injury when he crashed in a jet car at 200mph in 2006, although my circumstances were much less cool our injuries were remarkably similar (he crashed a jet powered car at 200mph and I got run over by a Ford Fiesta outside McDonalds!). I found him to be a great source of inspiration and hoped I could make as good a recovery as he had. So imagine my surprise when the next 3 programs were also Top Gear, digital TV was in its infancy and required a set top box (remember them!), being a university student for the last couple of years I hadn’t really kept up. I went to check the channel and I thought it was some sort of joke!
Before I was admitted to hospital I spent a lot of time in pubs both working and as a customer, it was somewhere normal and where I was comfortable and knew well. All of a sudden things had changed, they smelt different and there was no smoking in pubs! I didn’t like alcohol and there was a TV Channel called DAVE?!? I Wondered when channels Peter and Steve would start broadcasting? I had double vision, I was so easily exhausted, had difficulty speaking and spoke with a bad stammer. The world was somewhere I didn’t fit anymore, although changes like the smoking ban were coincidences beyond my control they just added to my confusion and dropping confidence. I used to have so much energy it was like my body had aged 60 years, I went to bed for the fourth time that day I was always so tired!
I remember that day well and although I can look back and laugh at it now that was the start of some bad times for me. TBI is so often followed by times of depression as you start to understand what has happened to you and think of the implications this will have for the rest of your life. I wanna explain why depression is actually a good thing but not now I’ve gone over 1500 words, thats for the next chunk!
👇🏽 If you liked it or can relate in any way then please leave me a comment below 😊