Compassion

May 2013

I sat in the offices in my university going through the motions of having to formally admit defeat to my head injury by withdrawing from my nursing degree programme. Not five days before this, I had also admitted defeat at a prestigious nursing event where I was due to hand out an award in front of some pretty big names from my profession (like the CEO of NHS England).

I sat opposite a tutor who had also been attending the same awards ceremony up in London. She had been there to witness the soul destroying and humiliating defeat I’d given in to on that day.

‘When I tried to return to university; the pain, dizziness, sickness and vertigo symptoms that were with me at the awards ceremony just don’t seem to be going away. I’ve given it everything I have’ I’d said, looking up meekly at the tutor.

Fast forward a couple of months now. I’m sat  in the comfy armchair that my then long-term neuro-psychotherapist would talk to me in.

‘The pain, the depression, the trauma, it’s not leaving me. The nightmares are a living hell. There’s no way to say if this will get better, I have no one and I have nothing to live for. I really don’t know if I will be able to be a nurse now’ I remember saying, as tears filled my eyes.

‘It takes courage to admit that Mikey’, he’d said to try and comfort me.

I’d meant every word of what I’d said to him. I didn’t know if it was possible for me to even have a job let alone work in my dream job as a nurse

I had no one. My marriage was in pieces. I’d suffered a nervous breakdown shortly after being injured myself after the traumatic birth of my daughter, who very nearly didn’t survive.

IMG_0720

I was using a concoction of alcohol, diazepam, propranolol, zopiclone, dihdrocodeine and paracetamol (taken with aspirin) to try and escape the realities of my life by spacing me out as much as humanly possible.

I was suffering from PTSD, severe anxiety and depression. The nightmares and flashbacks were only ever waiting just round the corner from me, ready to strike at any time of the day or night. Because of my injury, it was so difficult controlling my emotions and thoughts now. Brain injury deeply effects the most valuable principles we humans need to function: our self-identity.

I didn’t know who I was anymore. Even my wife didn’t like this ‘new’ Mikey.

I was living and hoping to die from a seizure which would strike at any moment.  It was at this point where I really didn’t care if I lived or died. I won’t lie, I considered ending the whole thing on more than one occasion and I wasn’t afraid to do it.

The people around me showed no understanding of my condition and PTSD, other than my parents, who lived 120 miles away. People would talk about me, be vindictive and nasty about my new behaviour which was ‘not what the old Mikey would have been like’.

I had lost everything. My life was in pieces and there was not a single person who could understand the ‘new’ Mikey and his problems. I’d gone from being a ‘nursing celeb’ (as the editor of the Nursing Times had dubbed me) to having nothing.

Back to the university offices in May 2013

‘I don’t know what to do. Nursing is my life, it was always my dream to be here. Now I have to walk away’ There were actual tears at this point.

The tutor turned to me and began to speak. What she had said next changed my life forever:

‘This doesn’t have to be the end. I have something to say to you’ she had said.

‘Take another year out to recover. We will hold your place open for you, you won’t have to reapply’.

Even today, I am searching for the words to describe this incredible act of compassion and kindness, but I’m still drawing a blank.

‘But that means I would have been on the course for over 5 years, which is against NMC regulations. Who has arranged this?’  I asked. 

And then something magical happened.

‘I did’ she answered, her eyes also starting to fill. She was giving me a way out.

osho-quote-pain

Two weeks ago I completed three years of formal academic nurse training, something I initially set out to do 6/7 years ago.   There have been many people in my life who have not been kind to me, and by quitting nursing I’d have been throwing away an incredible act of kindness that was showed to 5 years ago.

There will never be anything I can say or do, even though I’m told my ‘dedication and commitment is enough’.

But the commitment was never only just about the nursing, it was about something far more profound, I fought for something I now believe can save us when we are at our lowest points in life, because compassion is more than just an act, it can change peoples lives for the better.

On behalf of my four year old daughter, who is constantly helping me come up with funnier and sillier ways ‘to make the sick children at daddy’s work better’, thank you from the bottom of my heart.

IMG_0153

 

Dispelling hatred 

I have as much reason to feel hate as anyone else and I’m sure I struggle with it as much as anyone too.

There is a secret, but it’s the hardest thing to get your head round. It involves the opposite of what’s been drummed into us. 

I left my ex wife with the agreement I’d be back, until she surprised me by asking me for me to sell my shares in it shortly after I had ‘temporarily’ moved out.

The same applies to hurt as well. There’s a secret for that too. 

I could’ve taken £250,000 with me as I was legally entitled to. But I said I wouldn’t, as we had agreed verbally years before. That was fair, nothing special. 

I can’t work full time ever again and some people think I was silly for doing that. 

I recently agreed to reimburse her for £20,000 her mum had leant me for my rehabilitation after my injury of my claim is a success. Even if I get £21,000, I’ve agreed she can have it. 

And rightly so. But it was something else I could’ve acted upon differently. 

She’s taking Reese away to Disneyland, the place we agreed I would get to take her to first. Plus it will be on Father’s Day, any other day would’ve been ok.

Hating her and her actions is foolish. It creates more anger and would only cause hatred. When you trust the one person in your life with everything and these things happen, it changes you as a person. 

I won’t hate 

I’ll love, Because the secret is this: 

Hate does not dispel hate, only love dispels hate. That is the law, ancient and inexhaustible. 


These personal experiences of mine can be applied to anything in life. I  have learned this by applying it to others who have viciously betrayed me in the past. 

Hatred is the dark, love is the light. You cannot do anything to darkness, the only way you can get rid of it is by introducing light. 

I’ve been keeping a secret when writing these blogs 

I’m not sure I’m ready to tell my stories yet, or if it’s even safe. Or wise for that matter. But my brain injury is only one of the stories. 

It’s one I’ve been able to tell, albeit with a great deal of risk. 

I will live my life in truth. Truth doesn’t need an opinion or explanation, it simply is. I’m not commenting on anything I’ve spoken about here today, so nobody can feel antagonised by it. 

It’s simply the truth, that’s all. 

The big question

I’m watching with excitement as my classmates are finishing up their studies this year and securing their first career posts as qualified nurses. It reminds me of how amazing it must feel to be going through these final stages of the transition after three years of hard work,  I cannot wait until it’s my turn for this.

All final year students feel a real sense of impending doom as they move into the realms of ‘its on you now’ nursing

But I’ve got some of my own issues that I have to take into consideration when It’s my turn to find a job.

Each time I have completed a placement in the past, I’ve come back to uni absolutely cream crackered and in desperate need of some down time. My personal life has suffered as I put so much into keeping my head above the water for my job, I don’t have the capacity for much else. But I’m happy with that.

However, when I secure myself my first nursing job in a year and a half’s time, the big question that’s been hovering over my head for five years will finally be answered.

Will Mikey look sexy in a qualified nurse’s uniform?

I already know the answer to this, I look like a chef in my uniform. Although it’s hard to digest I’ve come to terms with this realisation.

On a serious note, I guess what everyone else is focusing their energy on when they start their first posts as qualified nurses is making the right impression and building good rapport with their new colleagues.

Being a student nurse for 7 weeks at a time is something I’ve mastered

But it remains to be seen whether I can hold down a nursing job for the rest of my life. Hopefully my divorce will be complete by the time I qualify, but what about all the other not-so loving gifts life throws at us?

There is no way to answer this question until I see it for myself. This isn’t being a defeatist, it’s being realistic. I won’t give up on anything regarding my job, I’ll put myself through anything to qualify and maintain being a nurse. However, with this rationale comes the inevitable truth that other areas of my life will suffer massively, as they have done in the past and continue to.

Nursing is a sacrifice for anyone that takes it on

So I’m no different to anyone else. But I’ll echo what my dad said to me about this question a few months back: whatever problems you’ll have working as a nurse, I know you’ll find ways around them.

I’m fearless not because I don’t have fear, but because I feel fear and do it anyway.

And that’s all it is. I’m going to give it my best and I also know that I’ll find a way around any additional problems I face with the head injury. It’s funny because I think that saying you ‘believe’ in something  almost implies that it’s something you’re not certain of. People don’t say ‘I believe in the sun’, because they know it to be true. Although that might not be the case for people living in England, we don’t see the sun from one ‘summer’ to the next.

Truth doesn’t need an opinion, it is what it is. It can’t be changed, only discovered

The truth is simple: If other areas of my life become so severely affected by my drive to work as a qualified children’s nurse that it puts a real strain on my happiness: I’ll find a way around it. I don’t know the future, I only know that I really will jump off a bridge before I quit nursing. So yeah, the question lingers. But I feel like a snarling animal begging to be let off his lead and attack, because after 5 years of fighting I’m so ready to answer this question.

 

 

There is always hope 

Just a very short blog today. 

Two days ago marked the day I’ve been dreaming and working towards for the past 8-9 years: the end of university lectures. And how I am feeling is difficult to put into words! 

I’ve put myself and my family through so much chasing this dream of mine. 

Sure, I still have another 18 months to complete my hours, but the first stage of my journey is nearly complete. 

Going into my final placement will push me to my limit and be a real catalyst for my symptoms

All I do is believe, what else can you do? Fake it until you make it. After all, when I woke up in hospital and I was dribbling all over the place, I was told nursing wouldn’t be possible anymore. 


90% who suffer my injury remain in a vegetative state. 80% do not return to work. I state these figures again not to show off, but to serve as proof to other head injury survivors that there is always hope. 

I’ve learned that when the odds are stacked against you, sometimes it’s all you can do to believe in yourself. From hospital, to the police station, to people trying to cause me to fail to where I am today, it’s been a ride,  As I predicted 3 years ago.
It feels good to be here. I’ve a long way to go and my focus hasn’t diminished, but increased. As I said from the beginning, I can and won’t let anything stop me getting there. 

I’m trying my best and you can only fail if you don’t try.

Nothing has changed in 3 years, other than my love for forgiving people who have turned against me. So I thank them equally as I thank my family and friends, because I will get there. 

Nearly time to go! 

I’ve felt really different the past week or two, which is a rare occurrence as I spend a lot of time living in the here and now very happily. 

Nonetheless, something has felt really amiss.

And now I know what it is.  It’s been a long time since I’ve felt this sad, it’s been weighing me down this past week. But After some time to myself this evening, I now realise that it’s due to the fact I’ll have my last university lecture next Tuesday. 

There’s a lot of emotions flooding my mind right now. I think I’m going through the equivalent to the male menopause. 

I’ve wanted this so much for so many years, and I’m feeling sad! What’s that all about?!

But then I gripped myself. I’m not sad or even scared to be a qualified nurse, that will be a dream come true when it happens in 14 months.  It’s the idea of leaving a very big part of my life behind, It’s been 6 years since I started at this university.

I also have the brain problem of loving familiarity and intensely loathing any form of change

Man, I can’t tell you how sad it feels to think I’ll be leaving All the amazing people in my tutor group, the cohort and the tutors behind. I feel really sad about it. What a soppy nob. 

I struggle with change and I’m very black and white

This has been my life. I’ve sacrificed everything for it. Southampton uni is a good uni, but for me it goes deeper than that, this experience was something special. 

Plus my uni friends won’t ever know how amazing they’ve been to me. From day one I’ve said that I’ve never known such a great bunch of people. And from day one I’ve said none of them will realise the pivotal role they’ve played during some very difficult (and seemingly impossible) times in my journey to become a nurse. Even with my memory problems, I’ll never forget it! 

I’ve never fit in and never felt accepted in any way. This has been the only place where I have, if not by all. Sure I annoy people, but no one has tried to get rid of me which is how it usually happens. 

Plan of action 

Anyway, it’s time to man up. This was only ever a stop gap needed to achieve my overall goal. That’s the main reason I’m here, everything else (like the people I’ve met) was just a bonus. Time to be logical and stay focused, I’ve got a long way to go before I get there. 

Although i must admit, I can’t tell you how amazing it feels to have experienced that bonus. 

Judgement

I hate drama and I hate making a fuss. I use these blogs to work through my day to day challenges and see what comes up when I do, sort of like a meditation. But even I can say how pleased I am of how far I’ve come since my accident.

I learnt that observing thoughts rather than acting on them is the best way I can live my life.

133229caaeab3ad0575712c3514ceb40

Even when the thoughts hurt, or they stir up an emotion in me. I also observe that it’s very easy for other people to make judgements about things, even when they themselves have never experienced it. I don’t hold it against anyone though, it’s called being human. I’m far from perfect.

I don’t judge you. I wouldn’t last five minutes in your shoes.

Even when I know my daughter is visiting Disneyland, which created a lot of disappointment in me, I observe the feeling and just get on with it. I’m a huge Disney fan, she only watches the films with me. We just finished arranging for my beauty and the beast poster to go up in my bedroom! I would love to have been the one to take her for the first time, I’ve never been myself.

At least she’ll enjoy it

Alas, when you find out that she’ll be visiting euro Disneyland on father’s day, all those feelings of disappointment come flooding back. But in a way, I should thank my ex wife for this opportunity. I thank her for giving me the chance to deal with a very difficult set of emotions in the right way and thereby allow me to grow.

osho-quote-experience.png

So I’m happy for all experiences, good or bad. I’m staying in my own lane and doing me, That’s it! It’s amazing how simple your life is if you allow it to be. The truth is the truth, it doesn’t need a comment or expressed opinion. The truth speaks for itself, and it always will.

 

 

Playing for England

And Just like with my nursing, I’ll die before I say no to that.

A pretty dramatic ending to my last blog. It was almost certainly the reason it got another 50 or so views, but as soon as I’d published it I knew that I’d probably tempted fate with that one.  What a numpty.

dickhead 2

As with most things in life, but particularly after having suffered a severe head injury, it is important to know your limitations, otherwise you could make things a lot worse for yourself. And believe me I’ve learned that logic the hard way!

As I mentioned before, the staff at my uni had gone through a lot of effort by cancelling the mandatory two students to represent them up at Westminster Abbey in order for me to attend and stay up there overnight.

However, after speaking with my mum some more about it, a one night stay in London just wasn’t going to be enough. After I told the uni this a couple of weeks ago, they still pushed for more funding. Unfortunately I found out today that they won’t be able to.

Attending a prestigious event in Westminster which finishes at 8pm and then traveling back to Bournemouth in the same day with a TBI isn’t noble, it’s stupid.

Even without a brain injury that would be tiring!

But it’s all good

Of course I’m disappointed. If going to work everyday is like playing for England at Wembley then this would have been the world cup final! However, if you get to play for England that is amazing enough, the world cup final is just a bonus.

A few years ago I had a GCS of 5. I had injuries so severe that doctors didn’t even know if I’d make a recovery.

And yet here I am about to achieve my all time dream of becoming a fully qualified nurse, so how can I really be too upset about this?  As I said to the dean of my uni today, we are so lucky with our cohort as we have so many amazing people/nurses there’ll be plenty of other fantastic candidates to choose from, most of which who would probably do a much better job than I could anyway!

I have the stamina of a hungover 80 year-old tortoise with a sprained ankle.

tortoise.jpg

Besides, it’s on day’s like today after uni lectures that I realise just how much I struggle with fatigue, even when it’s not expected. ‘Spontaneous fatigue’ if you like.

I’ve had quite a few people question my rationale for living on my own with no interest in starting a relationship lately, and the answer is just too complicated I don’t even bother to try and explain.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing I loved more than treating someone who I really cared for to everything I can and spending time with them doing soppy stuff.

But after days like today, when I need to be on my own and do my own thing in a quiet and dark room remind me of why I have chosen to live like this.

Giving it my all in other areas of my life mean that I don’t have much capacity left when I get home.

But I’d rather play for England (that’s my metaphor for working as a nurse for those who are relatively new to my blogs) than be in a relationship just for the sake of it. Ok I might not be qualifying for another year after my classmates, but that’s only a drama if you make it one. As always, I’m relaxed and just going with the journey, with a smile on my face the whole time, because life is too damn short.

Relax

Who knows, I might even be lucky enough to get another chance to do something like this in the future. But look, I’ll be honest with you, I’ve never really given a shit about the world cup. All I want is to go to work with my invisible squeaker and see what happens when I make even less of an effort with my filter than I usually do.