3.  Back To The Future! –  (Social Isolation)

Ok I suppose Back To The Future is a weak link but it does crop up so look out for it! I’m actually going to talk about social isolation, a common issue amongst those who have endured a neurological trauma of some description and lived to tell the tale. It’s a cause of much stress and is often a very personal thing. It’s a subject that most of us find very difficult to talk about but I’ll have a go.

In 2007 I was in hospital in Salford and Trafford in Manchester – where I was living as a student at the time of my accident, and I recall that, in amongst the seemingly endless forms and psychological tests involved in the early stages of head trauma there was a question that kept cropping up which read something like: ‘Do you sometimes feel alone, even though there are others around you?’ TRUE/FALSE (tick appropriate box). I of course ticked FALSE! Of course I don’t feel alone if there are others around me! The clue is in the question, you crank! 

Over time I’ve realised what it actually means. Actually those with a brain injury can often feel this way; alone even when there are others around. There is something definitely different but they cannot explain what, we are often not as articulate as we once were so we have difficulty describing what is wrong. 

For me, the changes had no obvious physical symptoms but the symptoms existed in my head. It was like being inside a soundproof glass prison at times and even though I could see out and others could see in, I couldn’t make them hear me! The more I tried the more stressed I would get, the more stressed I got the more tired I became and the less likely still I was to make myself understood. People can easily fall into depression and I was certainly down in the dumps.

My accident happened when I was 24, and I am the first to admit that I was not the most mature of 24 year olds! The 14th May 2007 was the last time I was ‘normal’ (whatever that means!). I then spent almost 6 months in hospital and the next few years living in a strange world packed with rehab that involved occupational therapy, neuropsychology, speech therapy, neurophysio, and two support workers to help me coordinate it all. I would travel, thanks to my wonderful parents, to various medical appointments around the country including Liverpool, Manchester, London, York and Los Angeles. Ok not Los Angeles but the rest! My life was really quite interesting but also as far away from the regular life of many people my age as you could get. But then again the last time I was ‘normal’ I was a 24 year old student which I suppose isn’t that regular either!

So my life post-accident was quite exciting and gave me insight into having a brain injury and experiences such as seeing a psychologist, visiting Harley Street in London and other things most people would never encounter. My life wasn’t lacking in experiences but was lacking in starting a career, meeting a girlfriend, buying a house and starting a family to name a few that people may call normal. This makes me relatively entertaining for ten minutes in conversation but unable to find common ground with virtually anyone my age. 

I was taken out of regular life at 24 and have been dropped back in at 32 having missed the majority of my twenties. I find it difficult to fit in, I feel that I’m not part of the world I lived in. A bit like (here comes the Back To The Future bit…) when Marty travelled from 1985 to 2012 in Back To The Future 2 and found that he didn’t know how to ride a hoverboard, he’d never seen Nike shoes with power laces or automatic fitting jackets and he was freaked out by the giant hologram for Jaws 19.

These were all perfectly normal for the time but Marty couldn’t adjust because he was from 1985. I am having difficulty adjusting to right now because the last time I was ‘normal’ was 2007, I don’t feel that I belong as a 32 year old in 2015 

Attempting to make new friends with a brain injury has been a challenge, there are no end of people who will listen to your story, call you an inspiration and sympathize with you. It is nice that people say such kind things but I don’t want to be ‘an inspiration’ I want to be a valuable functioning member of society that has lots of mates, real ones not sympathizers! Many people my age are buying houses, settling down and having families. Now I suppose I’ll want to do that eventually but I have spent the last 8 years looking on Facebook with envy at all the people on my friends list around the world having fun, getting drunk. I have no interest in being 32, I want to be 25! Mentally I am 25 but physically I can only concentrate for a short time and I have to have a nap in the middle of the day! I have nothing in common with 32 year olds and there is no way I have the stamina to keep up with a 25 year old, I am socially isolated!

Please, please let me know if this is relevant to you and how you have dealt with it. Your comments could help others as well as myself!

Thanks for reading, 

Brooke x



13 thoughts on “3.  Back To The Future! –  (Social Isolation)”

  • I live in Italy and sometimes feel the same way – my Italian is good enough to communicate with people but not to make / understand stupid jokes – something I miss about living in England. When we have people around our house, the more fun and fast-paced the conversation becomes, the quieter I become. And then the inevitable question comes along… ‘are you alright?? why are you being so quiet??’ 🙂

  • Brooke your blog is wonderfully written and will give hope support and advice to many other brain injury patients… Where abouts in Yorkshire are you from? I’m from Scarborough but I live and work in Newcastle these days as a neurophysiotherapist so I found your blog very insightful especially the way you described neurological fatigue. I’m so pleased that you have shared you experiences, thankyou.

  • Wow! What a read! I’m from the Trafford area (but now living in Scarborough!) and was hit by a car aged 30, back in 1998. I suffered life changing injuries but purely cosmetic. My life as was was whipped out from under me in a flash but after surgery and physio you carry on. I think I can begin to understand how you are feeling and admire your honesty and openess in what you have written. My philosophy has always been ‘your life is what you make it’ … ‘Youve gotta carry on regardless of hurdles – it just takes longer to get over some hurdles’.
    Good luck!!!

  • Well done for campaigning for better road safety Mr. A great read and well done again for raising awareness for brain injury and trauma and giving us a greater understanding of what those with this type of injury go through. Shall share on my facebook assuming that’s ok with you? Best wishes for the future to you Brooke.

    Kind regards
    Stuart Mackenzie.

  • we understand the feeling of social isolation! my husband, fell 3 years ago and that triggered temperal lobe epilepsy, he suffers with complex partial seizures and tonic clonic seizures, he lost his job his car and his independence. i am a mum, and my husband cant be alone with the kids (sometimes he cant even remember he has kids or who he is due to his seizures), he gets very tired and is on alot of medication. we are 25 and we dont go out we dont drink and we barley socialise with anyone but family. alot of people lost patience not understanding what a huge impact his illness has had,we are getting older but our lives are very much on hold. we get alot of people saying “it must be hard for you both” and very few people, that are actual friends. life can be very lonely we can definitely relate to what your saying here.

    • Hi thanks for commenting, when I was really bad I was shocked how little understanding exists for neurological issues. I would have loved if there was a website I could access information and exchange ideas with others going through the same thing. Knowing you are not alone is a very helpful thing. I have had s great reaction to these blogs I would like to keep adding and maybe branch out into my own website.

  • Keep writing. You have great way of explaining – I am 32 and found myself in your shoes rewinding the years. How would I feel if it were me?

    I’m fascinated by your story but can relate more lately due to two friends in terrible accidents involving long term brain damage caused by brain trauma (not sure if that’s the right terminology) and more recently my father who has had two strokes. Stoke is different but can impact the brain similarly…I imagine some of the effects are the same…confidence knocked, doubting yourself, short term memory problems.
    The more people like yourself explain how you feel the more we can help our own sufferers and victims of similar fates and the more help we can offer and campaign for.

    All the best. Keep fighting and make sure you win
    X

  • I’ve just discovered your blog after finding you on Twitter. Thanks for sharing your experience, it’s my experience too.

    I’ve often called the social isolation like “plummeting down the social scale” Before the accident I could cope in most social situations, now I worry about them, about saying or doing the wrong thing.

    I’ll try to read through the rest of your blog.

    Thanks again,

    Andy

  • Hi there great blog! More deffinatley needs to be done to raise more awarness! Keep it up I kind of suffer from social isolation. It can be rather frustrating when you know you want to get out and explore but no real mates to get out with.I can relate in many ways.

    Your only as old as you feel age is just a number do what feels right for you and your situation .

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