ACCEPT – ADJUST – MANAGE – LIVE YOUR LIFE – THE NEW ME
Living with a Traumatic Brain Injury
I am no different to anyone else, life is full of highs and lows, and no one said life was easy!
Born into a close-knit family in 1984, I am a twin with an older brother of only twenty and half months, we were quite the handful. Having said that we had a normal upbringing, outside of school we all went to Beavers, Cubs and Scouts and our interests stemmed from what we’d grown up around. Dad had been an amateur horseracing jockey and keen footballer, to which my passions still lie to this day.
Where did it all go wrong…..?
26th May 2005; fractured skull; brain surgery; can’t eat; shouldn’t drink – how life changed for me in the blink of an eye on my 21st birthday. I had suffered a severe traumatic brain injury, life turned upside down and I spent 162 days in hospital. Relearning the things we all take for granted, from learning to walk and talk again and becoming self-reliant, it was now a life-long commitment to the adaptation of a new ‘normal’. There had been a clear path of my care since the moment I was rushed into hospital on a stretcher on the 26th May 2005 to walking out the front doors on the 4th November 2005. After 5 long and exhausting months it fell at my door to pick the baton up and to keep progressing. The real understanding began of the reintroduction into the ‘real-world’.
You are never alone.
Initial planning at my bedside led to being immediately thrust into employment in the family business, Flus 4 u was born. Under the strict care and guidance of Dad I become an installer of chimney liners and solid-fuel stoves. Visually, (until I walked), no one was wise to my life challenges, outwardly elements of my recovery were well on the way to recovery. The overall picture wasn’t as clear though, my TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) had left a dramatic impression on me. Initially I woke up aggressive, but, after my brain surgery I was more patient than before my accident. Having been extremely luckily in maintaining my personality and memory, I did however lose my confidence. The biggest and most noticeable aspect to life after TBI. I relinquished my driving licence for 12 months, could no longer eat solids, I was deaf in my left ear, lost my sense of smell, my vision was blurry at times and my balance was never to be 100% again.
Surviving the rain, coming through a storm to enjoy the sunshine…
I believe, accepting my situation and adapting to it was crucial to my successful recovery. A new routine unfolded in my life after my TBI, I could no longer act and behave like many other twenty one year olds, I had to embrace the New Me and move forward the way I can.
Life is short, I haven’t let my TBI define me, it’s a reason not an excuse. Life goes on, I had a ‘comfortable’ period after learning to manage the effects of my accident, but then…Dad unexpectedly passed away without warning and I was left managing a successful family business without any prior experience.
The journey back from my traumatic brain injury continues to be fulfilling, little achievements mean more and I a new found appreciation of life, family and friends. Other than The New Me life hasn’t changed, the sun still gets up and world lives on the same.
I have highlighted the key elements that my TBI has affected. On paper they can be seen as common with those having not experienced the same life changing impacts as me.
- • Stress and anxiety
- • Tiredness
- • Concentration
- • Sleep
- • Daily-life
- • Covid-19
I run a family business and I take its success personally, I see it as a reflection of me and my own capabilities. It comes with stress and heightened anxiety, this is relevant to all business owners and I’m not alone in this, however, post TBI it is something that I notice more and more. It is common knowledge that any head injury comes with the reality of tiredness. How true this is, I have to work on my every movement, my lack of medical swallow 24 hours a day, ultimately I get tired quicker than most others. I reduce its impact by going to bed earlier and removing myself from situations that would bring tiredness on. I’m more sensible, I’ve adapted my routine to limit its effect on daily life. A knock-on consequence of tiredness after my TBI is my concentration level. I can no longer focus significant attention for long periods of time, simple things like reading a book I don’t enjoy, watching TV is harder. Again, I have learnt to adapt to necessities, not allowing this to have a detrimental effect on the important things in life. I need sleep, it helps my balance, concentration and mood. Equally, the lack of sleep has an effect on my balance, ability to carry out the most mundane tasks and is undoubtedly the most debilitating aspect is I will end the day with a headache. My sleep patterns have never returned properly after my accident, I find it very hard to ‘switch off’ for a full, complete nights’ sleep. This is partly due to my accident as well as the person I am and always have been. I do my thinking at night, my mind doesn’t switch off, I go over the events of the day, where I can improve, what I can learn and what I have to think of and remember for tomorrow, next week and so on. Although frustrating, it is a key to how I maintain the element of success in both my personal and work life.
My TBI was unexpected, I learnt many lessons in the days, weeks, months and years after, until today where I believe in ‘that’ saying we’ve all heard, ‘you learn something new every day!’ I have proven that good can come from bad, life is for living and no doesn’t necessarily mean no. I wrote about my journey back from traumatic brain injury to share my experiences, to inspire those that think there’s no light at the end of the tunnel.