Giving a ****

So I was inspired to jot down some some nonsense tonight because a distant friend of mine got in touch recently to tell me that a family member had suffered a bleed to the brain.

This took me back

My journey as a TBI survivor taught me a lot of things about people. It gave me the (seemingly at first) curse of seeing people for what they really are and I felt sad for a long time.

Suffering a brain injury is like nothing you can imagine

But it also taught me about the real reason I get out of bed every day.

Which is not Not for the nursing

.. that would be obsessive

Not for Reese

Although she does play a big part in why I do certain things in my life.

We are all humans

And my time in hospital and recovery at home in the years to come showed me that having a poor memory; shifting mood, poor concentration and often feeling tired over ‘small’ activities are not important in the grand scheme of things.

But it takes time to arrive to this conclusion

Things do get better. Everyone is different but we are all human beings for a reason, we have it in our genetic makeup to adapt and overcome. Millions of years of evolution can attest to that.

The only thing that is constant in life is change

Nothing stays the same. Whatever you’re going through in life you need to remember that things WILL get better. They WILL change. That goes for the good and the bad .

So that’s why I get out of bed. It’s because I know that whatever I’m going through will change soon. And l’ve learned not to fear the inevitable change now.

I live totally

I’m a clown. I embrace my clumsy and quite frankly ‘numpty’ demeanour which in all honesty makes me wonder how and why anyone would ever want to ale me seriously. I’m mad and I don’t care what people think about that or me.

Next time you’re feeling anxious, depressed, worried, sad, or fearing a type of change in your life try telling this joke to the person nearest to you:

Why don’t owls date when it’s raining?

Because it’s Toowet Towoo!

No one likes this joke except me. The fact people often don’t laugh makes me laugh.

Living through the harsh realities of life taught me what’s worth caring about and what’s not. Life is a lot simpler when you don’t give a **** .

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As I closed my front door behind me, I had one last glimpse at the to do list on my phone.

Haircut

Ice skating with Reese

Food Shopping

Petrol

This small list may seem innocuous to most brain-injury free people out there but this for me is a very hectic day, especially between shifts, at a job the statistics say I shouldn’t be doing.

Job 1

As I entered the barber shop..

It was packed. So an hour and a half later I left and drove me and dad to Bournemouth for the ice skating.

Reese stayed over my mums last night. I saw her for a few hours after work yesterday and had to go home shortly after. I was exhausted after my shift

Job 2

We arrived in B-town. My head felt so heavy already as I kept my gaze lowered to the floor as we walked down the long hill from the car park.

I’m working tomorrow. It’s Xmas day on Tuesday, and I’m working Wednesday and Thursday.

After 45 minutes of ice skating with Reese, I was left feeling drained.

My knees were wobbly from the fatigue and the dizziness had taken over.

I went to get my car so I could do the shopping before the shop closed at 4 (With Reese)

Job 3

In Tesco, it was pandemonium. People were angrily bumping into me with their trollies as I tried to navigate my way down the aisles.

My spatial awareness deficit means I often walk into people and objects

My head was becoming increasingly heavy and painful. At this point I was absolutely fucked.

When you’re in this state, all ideas of budgeting when your shopping become irrelevant. I picked up the closest things to me off the shelves without checking the prices.

Any price comparison ideologies went out the window. I needed to save my brain power.

We bumped past people with me doing my usual talking to myself to explain what I needed to do next.

Reese is used to me doing that

Job 4

All the pumps At the petrol station had ‘out of order’ boldly printed next to them on bright yellow signs. I wasted precious Neuron energy scanning the pumps to find one that was in order.

Job 5

We drive home and my mum collected Reese to take her to her house. Reese is sleeping over there again.

I’ve been in bed for the last hour trying To recover so I can see Reese for a bit.

Christmas is another time for me where I constantly feel as though I’m missing out on seeing my daughter.

But it’s ok. I look fine so I can’t be that bad

In the world most people live in, this behaviour is seen as moody or it’s just simply misunderstood. Try to remember not everything is at it seems for other people.

Writing makes me feel better when I feel down. It’s cathartic and therapeutic which does wonders for my head. It’s a release from the constant inertia of not being able to express to others, either when asked how I am or I have to phone in sick at work (again), or when someone angrily spats comments at me when I forget things, or bump into them, or when the government want proof that I have a disability, because it’s my way of shouting:

‘Under this Versade of looking like I’m ok I’m feeling so alone and fucking struggling and I don’t know how to tell you!’

Keep on keeping on

I don’t have a problem being honest about how I feel and I’ll be the first to admit to you that since I’ve qualified as a nurse I feel like I’ve bitten off more than I can chew.

If a person has had a serious head injury, their GCS will be less than 8

Mine was 5. Joy.

A severe head injury is when someone remains in Post-traumatic amnesia (PTA) for 6 hours or more

PTA is like having dementia. It’s horrifying and gives me nightmares to this day. I was in PTA for over a month.

Speech difficulties. Finding words. Fatigue. Headaches. Memory. Emotional impairment. Constant anxiety.

In the past when people have got wind of my symptoms, they’ve judged me and labelled me instantly. They put me in a box and swallowed the key.

I really can’t blame people for judging me either. Sometimes I really do sound like an idiot. An idiot on drugs.

Mum, dad and my sister took Reese to see the Christmas lights in Bournemouth last night. I really wanted to go but I was too tired.

I’ve seen Reese for 4 hours today. She’s just been taken back to her mum because my fatigue is playing up.

I won’t see her until next Sunday now, And I don’t mean to harp on about anything but I’m sad and a bit angry about that.

I always miss her

I’ve never even had her overnight on my own because of my night terrors. She’s nearly 6!

I’m constantly watching her face drop into disappointment when I tell her that I have to go now because ‘daddy needs to rest’.

After all these years that still remains a tricky one

On the rare occasion I do get invited out to social events, I usually have to say no. I’m not being negative it’s just frustrating sometimes when I really do WANT to socialise!

People often judge me as being boring or unsociable which is (albeit understandably) just not true

At work I literally feel like a bumbling clown hiding this secret that no one has any idea about. Like an undercover agent or something.

Eat your heart out James Bond

On work training days, I often clam up in front of the people who assess me making myself look as incompetent as the day is long.

Sometimes it just feels like my thoughts are wading through a thick swamp!

I know what I need to do, but my brain just takes such a long time to do it. I watch people’s faces as their already-made-up minds watch me make a complete nob out of myself. But I really don’t care about others’ opinions of me.

You’ve got to embrace what you are

I’m not ashamed of who I am anymore. Perhaps the nursing is the last bit of the ‘old Mikey’ that I’m clinging on to.

Either way I refuse to hide what I am now by trying to pretend I’m something else. What good will that do?

I did that for years when I was married. No thanks!

But Make no mistake, you won’t find a more grateful person than me. I’m so lucky for everything and everyone around me.

Although I might not get to see my daughter as nearly as much as I’d like, the very mention of her name is enough to keep me going.

I look forward to the day I can look after her myself for more than 4 hours

And that day will come. After all, all this would be a lot more difficult from a wheelchair. Or a coffin.

And sure, my days are tiring and filled with constant challenges that feel way out of my league

But when you have a severe brain injury life itself is out of your league. So I’ll continue to put one foot in front of the other and just keep on keeping on.

So here I am, sat here with a cup of tea and 8 days until I officially graduate.

I keep telling myself that whatever happens from this point onwards doesn’t matter.

Some of the ‘usual’ readers of this blog will know what kept me motivated.

Hidden illnesses

..whether that be head injuries, chronic fatigue, mental health issues to whatever.

Or for just being different …

…or being told you can’t do something, for whatever reason. Or perhaps just getting setback after setback and your goal is getting further and further away.

Learn to embrace aloneness

When I was being faced with an assault charge some time ago, I locked myself away for a whole month before my hearing.

I didn’t see friends or family for the majority of this time. Other than my family, nobody at my uni believed that I was innocent.

And a miracle happened

During that month I saw the truth which can be found hidden in the sound of silence which is inside every one of us.

Just being alone made me see the truth and that gave me the courage do tackle any obstacle coming my way.

In some Zen monasteries, when people arrive to start their journey of enlightenment, the monks will insist that they stay in a room on their own for 3 weeks before any ‘training’ can begin.

I was lonely for years. The ‘old mikey’ was so popular and outgoing that the new Mikey, in contrast, was a let down. And for a long time I hated him.

Society teaches us to ‘keep busy’ during stressful times

I was suckered into this for years. But as time was passing by and more and more friends were slowly dropping out my life because the ‘new Mikey’ wasn’t as fun or outgoing as the old one, I started to question this little theory.

After my head injury, aside from one, all my friends disappeared. I sat in hospital wondering why everyone’s phone was Suddenly turned off.

And All those who had come to my stag do only a few months before? They did a Harry Houdini

After I split with my wife, where were all the friends I had made while I was with her?

First they had gossiped, then they disappeared

For years I punished myself with alcohol (And sometimes a lot worse)

Drugs. Shock horror. Yes, this blog just got real

But when you’ve been at a point where you don’t care if you live or die you realise it’s important to be honest, maybe to throw other people a lifeline.

The answers we need are are in front of us. Not inside a bottle. Not in someone else’s head.

Learning to ‘go it alone’ and be comfortable with this was the thing that saved me.

From substances, alcohol, spiralling out of control and ultimately giving up on life

Being alone is the last thing I wanted. But circumstances meant that I learned to embrace it. Putting yourself first is something society tells us is bad. But unless you do you will have no hope of finding any sort of calm or happiness.

You’d be surprised by what could save you if you gave it a chance.

So not for the first time in my life I find myself in the same position Once again;

A day off sick from work

Unable to get out of bed until 4pm yesterday

When I tried to do normal things again today I ended up feeling wiped out

I’m meant to be having Reese now as I haven’t seen her in a while.

But I feel drained

I miss her but I have an early shift at the hospital tomorrow.

Nobody said once I was qualified it would be a happily ever after story

Yet here I am, wondering to myself if my health will let me down and not quite be enough for me to work as a nurse.

Just have to do what I can

It’s so hard for me to formulate sentences sometimes, At times I really struggle with word finding.

And of course most people are eager to speak, so I find myself rarely finishing what I wanted to say

At work, even with people I’ve known for years, sometimes I have to gaze quickly at their name tag, because when I first start somewhere new the cognitive process in my head seem to work at half half the speed as it normally does.

These processes aren’t that fast at the best of times

I talk to myself often. That’s just me making sense of things.

Sometimes I look like I’m flapping, but I’m not. It’s just me trying to make sense of the sludgey and acutely slow paced thoughts that are attacking my head all at once

It all has to be hidden, right?

The world is fast paced and overwhelming for people with a head injury, even just being in public is tough, let alone working on a busy hospital ward.

The important thing for us is not to feel ashamed of how we’re feeling, brain injury or not.

I’m not fast paced anymore

I can’t do a million things at once

Sometimes my communication is bad, slow and unfiltered

Unless I say someone’s name every day I’ll prob need to look at their badge quite a bit. The trick is to do it without them noticing

It’s frustrating and isolating at times but it is what it is and I’m happy to have the chance.

Now it’s time to formulate a plan to get myself feeling better, although I’m not sure what just yet.

Poem

This blog will not be shared on Facebook or anywhere else.

But I guess if you guys really are watching me you’ll see this too, right?

The only thing that stops me from taking myself out of this life is the promise that one day this life could be better for others.

People are so ugly towards each other. I’m 28 years young, but I’m tired.

There is no winner

I’m tired of ugliness. I’m tired of hatred. I’m tired of people doing bad things. I feel no fear anymore, just sadness.

’22 year old overdose has been admitted to A+E. She survived but will need care for months’

People today will say ‘she didn’t try hard enough’. This makes me want to leave.

We are all different. I am different. ‘Difference’ is fear for society. Society is terrified of difference.

I’ll never stop being myself, no matter how much people ridicule me. And I’ll never stop standing up for people like me. People who are misunderstood!

After my jolly knock to the head I don’t feel fear like you do. I live through my heart and with compassion to all beings, humans or animals, and this world is full of thinkers, not people who live through the heart or with compassion.

When I see others suffer, I suffer greatly. Maybe that’s my insecurity.

Doesn’t mean I’ll change though. Not for one second 🙂

Keep on keeping on. Because it’s the right thing to do.

A blog to say thank you!

11am, Poole hospital, 2012

A knock at my hospital door woke me up, I couldn’t go more than 3 hours without a sleep at this point.

Damn brain haemorrhages

An older nurse walked in.

‘Hi, my name is Jackie. You’re the student nurse right?’

She seemed to bark that phrase more than speak it. I could barely raise my head.

I wasn’t tied to the bed like I was in Mexico, so that was a plus

I told her that I was ‘the’ student nurse in question.

‘When can I go back to uni?’ I asked timidly.

‘That’s what I wanted to talk to you about’ she’d said.

This ought to be good

‘As amazing as we think you are about your passion for nursing, I’m here today to tell you that it will no longer be possible for you to study nursing’

The words hit me like a ton of bricks

‘Your determination is admirable. There are so many more jobs you would be great at! Just not the nursing anymore’

I was never angry at this

I learned to Never let your inner being be affected by by your circumstances.

As the years passed by I didn’t seem to be getting anywhere with my dream.

Most people doubted me. Very few encouraged me.

Taoism teaches that you should be watchful of your ‘dreams’, as they can become detrimental to your being.

I’ve watered this dream since I was 18. I’m now 28. But finally my dream seems to have blossomed.

For years I was dissuaded. For years I pushed my body, my symptoms exacerbated. Once or twice I thought Jacky might’ve had a point.

Nah

A severe head injury and 7 years later, it happened. Thank you to everyone who’s read this blog and kept in touch, thank you to those in other countries who lit a candle for me in a coma. Thank you for your prayers and well wishes. We all did it together.

Thank you to all of you for supporting me!

But I couldn’t have done it without the support. So thank you so much to those who deserve it (and also to those who don’t, no hate here) 🙂

I’ve so many more challenges ahead of me. I’ll have to stay so disciplined and focus on so much, it won’t be easy but as always, I’ll give it my best!