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,