I Suffered a severe traumatic brain injury in April 2012. Two week coma, Sepsis, MRSA, ringworm, petechial and subarachnoid haemorrhages, frontal lobe haematoma, numerous fractures to the skull and neck, you name it. Was resuscitated and air lifted back home from a country on the other side of the world. My ambition is to become a child health nurse despite my recurring symptoms and problems that come with living with a brain that's injured.
So what have I actually been doing with myself for the past 3/4 years since I would frequently blog about being a children’s nurse with a health disability?
Starting to understand myself a bit more I guess. Meet some places that I ran from in myself, that I would deny or judge as wrong.
I started realising that all my life I’ve spent a lot of time creating splits, within myself and others, mainly of right and wrong. Better or worse. Good and bad.
Because I wanted to feel better and the way I thought I could do this by always being the right one, the better one or the good one.
It turned out that was a lot of hard work
I started to realise that It’s pretty tough basing my happiness on being perceived in a certain way, by myself or others, which is the same thing really.
Why did I do this?
Who knows? Maybe it was because I couldn’t live with who I was as a person. I hated myself.
So what am I left with so far after 4 years of determined ‘searching’ and reflection?
I don’t know really. But the obsession with wanting all the answers to questions like these is disappearing. And I’m left with the ordinariness of not knowing what the fuck this is all about. But I feel a bit better about that now days!
What if all along, this was just about drinking a cup of tea? Or reading my book. Or going for a walk, or feeling completely miserable and lost. Or having a beer. Or just being in a really bad fucking mood.
Oh shit. What if this has all just been a wild goose chase?
Then I may as well enjoy the chase as much as I can.
And anyway, drinking a cup of tea has never felt better 🙂
I’m not sure that it really resonates on a conceptual level for me
But since I’ve been in a relationship with the wonderful Dee Brown, which is now been for the best part of three years, what it points towards feels rather profound.
If you haven’t heard the term, maybe look it up and see what you think before carrying on with this blog so it makes a bit more sense.
A man I know wrote once:
If you find yourself leaving your true nature or heart throughout the day, becoming stressed or losing touch with peace, take a few minutes to reconnect. This can be done by lying down, taking a walk, meditating, reading a book or having a bath.
All the above are helpful ways to reconnect with myself during busy periods. In fact I find myself constantly looking for ways to reconnect and remember that I am not this anger that has arisen, or this sadness or helplessness that is apparently ‘who I am’ in this moment.
But I consider myself even luckier because I have something else which has turned out to be a blessing …
Spending time with Dee, or even just connecting over the phone for a few minutes, is like a magic tonic for the soul that I am unable to verbalise..
..or simply sitting with her, nothing needs to be said. I couldn’t give a fly’s fart about any conversation or needing to fill the space with words when we’re together, if it doesn’t feel needed.
When I’m with her there is a profound relaxation of my nervous system. This was a new experience for me and there was a lot of resistance to begin with.
It’s like I’ve taken a small dose of valium or something, there is an intense physical relaxation that’s very noticeable.
In the beginning, when I would find it challenging to accept certain things about myself which I’d (and others) had unconsciously (and consciously) chosen to reject or dislike all my life, it was a real shock to see that Dee could love those parts, almost unconditionally, even if I couldn’t yet.
For the first time in my life, it seemed like the more I could surrender to being myself and less like someone else, the more she would love me. Literally, the more myself I would be, no matter how bizarre, the more love would flow.
This initially helped flex the self acceptance muscle and I slowly started to realise that the parts of myself I’d been rejecting all my life was maybe just a choice I had been making. An old pattern, which maybe wasn’t useful anymore. After all, if Dee could love those parts of myself, why couldn’t I?
Without a beard I look like an 11 year old boy
Being in such a loving relationship, with someone who is my best friend as well as my right arm, along with the blessing of an amazing family, has helped me realise that maybe there is no need to fix or change anything about myself.
Maybe love is not about being perfect. Maybe love just is, and it doesn’t give a shit what I’m like as a person.
Before realising this I think I may have had it all wrong..
This is the voice of a part of myself I often referred to as Terry, who’d always find fault in my actions.
After meeting Terry, I decided to give him a different job. One that didn’t involve constant criticism.
When I look at plants, or when a really cute cat headbutts my leg and purrs, I spend time with my daughter, cook and laugh with my parents, hug my sister, be in the company with Dee: all the above mixes into one.
When I am able to give myself to the moment and forget about any pre-conceived ideas about how I should be as a person, or how life should be, all the above become indistinguishable. If only for a few moments. But those moments seem to be enough.
I use the word love. It’s indescribable, its as sweet as a peach in treacle, and it feels like even the ‘L’ word can only point towards its true essence without fully capturing it…
So when I look at a cute cat that makes my heart melt, I might see a flicker of Dee. Or if I’m looking at a really cute baby, I might notice my parents in there somewhere. Or if I’m staring at an amazing tree in the middle of the countryside, all of a sudden I’ll see Reese!
And now when I hug Dee, something else happens. It’s like the hug is imbued with ‘something else’..
Over a period of years, the love that was so objective and dependant on circumstances has started to widen to include that idea of ‘something else’.
I’ve gradually started to see, when consciousness outweighs identification, that the ‘something else’ that is imbued in the hug, which communicates everything and beyond, actually has the potential to be seen as imbued in everything else too.
There might be a lover (Mikey) and a loved (Dee, parents, Reese) but when the idea of love only existing between these ‘objects’ is relaxed, I started asking myself; ‘what if there isn’t actually any boundary to this feeling we call ‘love’ at all?’.
Vaccine or no Vaccine?
“I got them to jab me in my left arm because I like to spoon you on my right side’.
It’s becoming more and more obvious to me that the idea that love only exists under certain circumstances, i.e. between two people and without ‘stressful’ circumstances might not be 100% accurate, thats it could actually be seen everything, if one chooses to look, and it could be available at any given moment, no matter how dire the moment might seem.
Having the experience of such an amazing family and Dee has helped me stay open to this theory and I am confident it will continue to do so
Maybe love really is everywhere. Maybe it’s a choice to see, if I choose it over other old patterns, which is visible which and can be tapped into in any given moment..
…Or maybe not….
.. I haven’t finished with the exploration yet. But for now, the experience of love in itself seems like enough of a blessing. I’ll keep you posted!
My time during lockdown has been an interesting one too say the least.
I’m hearing lots of stories of people enjoying the quiet time and opportunity for reflection
Whereas I’ve touched on levels of drama and darkness I truly believed I’d transcended, or ‘moved past’, many years ago! Alas, we learn something new every day.
I’ve learned that when living a clean life full of health and vitality, it makes no difference to what’s really there under the surface. In fact, it probably just keeps it hidden for a bit longer until you’re ready to face it.
Everyone knows: healthy body healthy mind. But I’ve realised that darkness was always there regardless of how monk-like my lifestyle has been, and was just waiting for an opportunity to rear it’s head again.
I am not a Himalayan yogi who is abstinent or who is free from all ‘negative’ emotions and thoughts. Maybe believing that was just part of this new ego which was created to fit in with a different group of people I currently find myself around.
Whether it’s been trying to fit in with some sort of gangster or criminal lifestyle, becoming a children’s nurse ‘against the odds’ or a level headed guy who has mystical experiences and meditates for hours and hours everyday, it’s all just been a character I’ve built up to help me feel like I’m fitting in with those nearby at the time.
Over the past 5 months, I have become very serious. I’ve not allowed much room for play.
Which is a stark contrast to the person I believed myself to be up until now
But neither is true, because I’m not either. I’m consciousness having a human experience in this body.
Talking of which, my body is not in the best of health. Society would class me has having an ‘invisible disability’, if people chose to see it, but no fucker can see it anyway, so why buy into that?
My brain was damaged severely 8 years ago which altered the course of my life completely.
I do live with the effects of this, meaning my mind isn’t completely clear of thoughts like most spiritual seekers and yogis would profess, because a huge aspect of life after sustaining a severe brain injury is full of extra little gems like severe rumination, mood swings, depression, anxiety, frustration, word finding problems, memory loss, exhaustion and confusion (‘I get that too, don’t worry!’ said everyone).
Thats not the makeup of a yogi or a spiritual seeker surely? Well this just in..
I’m throwing my hands up. I’m not a yogi or spiritual seeker or anything. I’m a human being who doesn’t know what the fuck is going on half the time. I’m in no control whatsoever.
And because no one can possibly even see the invisible challenges that are there, I’ve built up a nice little ‘victim’ persona to help me navigate my way through life.
I do not feel I understand the rules to the game that everyone else is playing.
I also do not blindly follow the rules that everyone else is able to simply accept without questioning
So there are two big reasons as to why I’ve maybe always felt like such an outcast and never really felt able to ‘fit in’ among social groups.
After I woke up from my coma, it was like I could just ‘see’ things as they are. I could read people, I could sense their emotions, their intentions, their energy. I kept seeing things before they happened and it all seemed so obvious, but not to anyone else!
I just don’t feel I can relate, or I feel that I’m on such a different page to everyone else I just go around in circles trying to explain myself. All I want to do now is talk about aliens and communicating with entities. Who the fuck has time for that?!
The more I realise that words aren’t helping, the more I try to talk. This usually ends with feelings of isolation and frustration and often feeling like a complete nobber who should probably have just kept his mouth shut.
I realised today that I hadn’t written an honest blog for a long time.
This is partly because my new ego was scared of exposing itself as a fraud.
Make no mistake, 90% of what I’ve written here doesn’t sound quite like I meant it to sound, but I guess that’s all part of the lesson.
I’m not a criminal. I’m not a nurse. I’m not a spiritual seeker. I’m not a man. I’m not a ‘doer’ of anything.
All this stuff going on around us which we think we’re in control of would happen whether we’re here or not.
A few months ago, while sat randomly at the dinner table with my parents and sister..
‘I’ve got to say I’m so lucky to have you two as parents and I really do love you both, I mean it. You piss me off sometimes but i’m so lucky’ I said, as I watched my dad twitch from embarrassment from my words.
Ok, so I’d embarrassed them. Fair one. But no one could hide the instant rise in vibration that was now palpable in the room!
However anxious you might be feeling right now from becoming ill from desperado virus, or however unwell you’re feeling because you are ill, connecting with your heart space is something that any of us can do at any time.
Your ability to breathe without coughing could soon be taken away temporarily..
…but the Dopamine, Oxytocin, Norepinephrine and Serotonin (or ‘love drugs’) can’t.
Increased blood flow, stress reduction, longer life expectancy, lower cholesterol and increased immunity (to name a few), these are a few of my favourite things.
No more ‘chasing the buck’ and spending every hour under the sun sat in the office so we can over indulge in copious amounts of unfulfilling items that come wrapped in plastic packaging that will soon end up in the sea.
No, now we’re being forced to spend time with our families at home and shop only for the bare necessities..
Mind you, thanks to desperado virus there is now going to be a generation of kids that will be able to say they spent actual time with their parents!
It seems that life has had enough of our obsession with the material and our neglect for being kind to each other and the planet..
..clear Venice waters…
….a visible Beijing sky…
…for the first time ever, Dolphins have swam into the shores of Mumbai.
But don’t be fooled by dolphins and my beautiful daughter, ‘love’ is inside us, not outside.
So you don’t technically need a spouse or family, siblings, friends or any of that to experience love. You already are it and guess what, I reckon it might be the only thing that can save us. Want to practice?
Try telling a joke to strangers..
…or simply say hello. Make someone laugh.
Buy a family member or friend some flowers for no reason.
Look at the sky for ‘entertainment’ before you reach for your phone.
I’m not jumping on the ‘positivity towards coronavirus’ band wagon here, those of you who know me know I’ve been writing blogs like this for years.
Desperadovirus, much like my fight to become a nurse with a brain injury, is just another platform.
All I’m gonna say is this:
When I was being ventilated and the doctors were resuscitating me, I wasn’t thinking about getting myself better so I could go back out and earn some money to pay the bills..
Or ‘oh no, I wonder what work will think if I have to call in sick’..
…or ‘at least my electric city bill will be more affordable this month’.
I remember lying in that coma with the smell of dried blood and vomit on my shirt..
..and remembering all the children that were out there that I wanted to make laugh when I would get better and become a qualified nurse.
I remember feeling my mum cling to my arm as I lay there ‘unconsciously’ as she would tell me ‘you’re going to be alright, you’ll get better and come home to work as a nurse and help people just like the doctors are doing here for you’.
For years I thought that it was my love for ‘nursing’ sick people that had kept me alive…
..and for 8 years I clung onto becoming a nurse because it was only through that I felt I could experience love for myself and other people. It was that love which kept me fighting through hell for so long.
But then I started to realise that the very love I craved was actually available to me at any given moment and I didn’t need to punish myself by working a job that ran my health into the ground and kept me from watching my daughter grow up.
Maybe what’s going on in the world right now could be our opportunity to realise that we all already are love and that we can tap into it whenever we want.
Maybe we don’t need to be scrambling around and working every hour under the sun to find it.
Maybe we don’t need to be running ourselves and the planet into the ground to find it.
Maybe we don’t need to be ‘working’ or ‘doing’ anything to find it.
Maybe that’s all the planet is really asking from us right now? Who knows..
As as kid, seeing how ugly people were to each other in the world really fucked me up.
‘If you can’t understand them, join them‘, my genius mind (I’ll call him Terry for sake of ease) persuaded me.
Following Terry’s advice, I decided to do a load of drugs and partake in alcohol and got myself involved with some naughty people who were into being really naughty.
‘You need to fit in with the crowd otherwise they’ll see that you’re not really all these things and you’ll be rejected’ Terry have a way of convincing me.
So he helped build me a personality that suited someone who was a violent, alcoholic, drug taking, womanising but sensitive soul.
Always good to have the sensitive soul part to fall back on, just in case I did decide to make a return form the dark side
Then suddenly, after spending a random Thursday night sleeping in a South London police station waiting area, Terry and I had an epiphany to become a children’s nurse and save the world.
So I cleaned up my act, got married, moved to Bournemouth and renounced my life of grime.
And Terry helped me to build a new personality to help me fit into my latest role, which consisted of being someone who;
Wanted to become a qualified nurse and help everyone
Could make children and people laugh under any circumstances
Was great in life saving emergency situations
Then a trip to sunny Mexico really fucked things up for that persona.
So after a divorce but finally qualifying to become a nurse (albeit with a hidden disability and with many years of shit in between), I decided I had to resign after only 4 months of qualifying.
After realising my ‘dreams’ of becoming a children’s nurse were just that: dreams, I had some crazy mystical-as-fuck experiences.
So now, Terry convinced me to become uber spiritual instead and join some meditation and yoga classes.
To be fair to him he worked his arse off with this persona…
..which consisted of the following traits;
Never feeling angry or having many thoughts at all
Just being generally all round mystical
My lifetime of very different personas were all built to protect me from feeling inadequate and help me fit in with whatever part of society I was trying to inveigle my way into.
Each time I’d subconsciously create a new persona, Terry would say;
This is the one that will fit!
And each time it would fit for a short period, but in the end I was always left feeling confused and a sell out.
The latest persona/mask is the only one I’ve been conscious I’ve been wearing..
..but I still thought this would be the one that fit.
Watch out for what masks you’re wearing, because whether the masks are seemingly shitty ones through the eyes of society (alcoholic, drug taking womaniser) or ones that are more socially acceptable (peaceful person who meditates for hours every day), you can’t escape the fact that you’re still only wearing a mask.
And sooner or later, you’ll need to give the mask back because it doesn’t belong to you, it belongs to ‘Terry’.
I have to apologize to all of you for allowing so much time to pass by without posting a blog.
The last you would of heard from me would’ve been in the day before my final review meeting at work, which was months ago. It’s been an emotional/strange time since then so please forgive me! You probably wouldnt believe me even if I told you lol.
During the meeting at work, back in March, I handed in my notice as a nurse
It’s been nearly 8 years of constantly pushing my body to be something that I clearly no longer have the physical or cognitive capabilities of doing after my brain injury. I tried my best for so long to squeeze a square peg into a round hole but the suffering I’ve inflicted upon myself trying to fight through my symptoms has finally taken its toll.
But even though my body suffered incredibly, the moments I shared with children and their families will stay with me forever.
I was able to find the real inner light inside me and over time I was able to let it shine out !
I realised the joy that comes from helping to ease the suffering of others and I dedicated the last 11 years of my life satisfying my desire to do it as much as possible.
Helping others is all there is and I was determined not to let a little things like severe brain haemorrhages stop me!
I feel blessed to have met such beautiful and amazing people on my journey..
..but It had it’s downs too. From being falsey accused of sexual assault, being assaulted myself and blackmailed into paying off my accusor of assault with my claim money..
..interviewed in a police station, facing a fitness to practice panel at university, discrimination from most of the arenas of work I attended whilst on placements and being constantly misunderstood in a world that I simply do not feel that I fit in with anymore…
..it’s fair to say that being a nurse with a brain injury wasn’t realistic. But something has happened when writing this blog over the years. From;
Wendy, my godmother who I’ve seenn a handful of time in the past 15 years,
Sarah, my old ward sister who I worked with 8 years ago but barely spoke to at the time about anything other than work,
Nerys, a bank nurse who I worked with maybe 2-3 times 8-9 years ago,
Frans, an old friend from Holland who I’ve seen a handful of times in my lifetime, but who kindly lit a candle for me when I was in my coma,
Bear with me while I make this point lol
..These are a few random names out of hundreds of people who’ve contacted me over the years after reading a blog post which resonated with them and who decided to get in touch with me.
Regardless of what we do for a job or what our likes and dislikes are, communication with the people above and hundreds more like them made me realise that whatever we’re going through in life, we’re all in this together.
Texting and chatting about love island or asking someone ‘how are you babe?’ through text isnt real communication
But when those of you who read my blogs felt the urge to contact me, there was a dissolution of egos on both parts and we communicated on a deep and humanistic level, if only for a few moments.
It became clear in those few moments of communication with you that we are all the same, it’s only our egos that make us think otherwise.
I like to think those egoless moments of communcation with you was true love and ‘godliness’ (for want of abetter word): because we had the freedom to be truthful about who we are and it was agreed that ‘yep, I have this problem too’, if only for a few precious moments.
Over the years you beautiful people helped me realise that we are all a oneness. We are all part of the same energy and I see myself in every single one of you.
This journey became far more important than the end result
Everything you know about ‘Mikey’, or ‘Michael’, is slowly disolving. Sorry I cant be more specific about that. The metaphysician Ananda Coomaraswamy put it this way, “No creature can attain a higher grade of nature without ceasing to exist.”
I’ve realised through years of intense solitude, meditational practice and extreme life events that our energies are all the same and constant, i.e. ‘eternal’. It’s only our ‘personalities’ that make us think we’re different.
‘I’m a Muslim’
‘I like bodybuilding’
‘I enjoy alcohol’
A personality is a mask thats just become stuck to our faces – Sadhguru
These blogs have brought me together with so many of you over the years, if only for a few fleeting moments at a time, which I always cherished and will never forget. I dont think i’ll be comntinuing with anymore blog posts, I think they served a purpose for a time and now I need to move on to the next useful tool I can use.
Your support and compassion over the years is a testament to the human spirit, something that I once lost faith in.
I sat upright in the chair facing the occupational health doctor as she asked me the million dollar question:
So what exacerbates your symptoms in the workplace?
Now there’s a question ..was my reply. I listed some obvious ones (to name a few);
Needing to plan tasks
Needing to read and/or write a lot
Anything that requires memory
Any new information that has come out of the blue and is unplanned
.. I think I finished with ‘you get the picture. Pretty much anything that requires any brain activity or cognitive stimulation’.
If I’m being honest with you, I didnt take to this doctor to begin with
We spoke in detail about my symptoms and how they trigger other symptoms etc. After about an hour of quizzing me, she turned quite suddenly in her swivel chair away from her computer to face me. The words she spoke resonated with me and this was one of those moments in life that you don’t ever forget. In her friendly way she said:
‘Mikey, what you’ve managed to accomplish by getting here is truly remarkable. I will do what I can for you, you deserve that much. But every single one of your symptoms is exactly what a nurse deals with on a daily basis and I know you know that’.
Tears literally filled my eyeballs, she was saying what I already knew.
She handed me some tissues and the big, tattooed, bearded dragon covered in scars that doesn’t look like a children’s nurse (at all) had a nice big mouthful of humble pie while he tried to wipe the tears away in the most alpha-male way possible.
For 7 years I’ve been fighting for something I was told I’d never have.
In one of my blogs over the years I remember writing I know I’m struggling with a brain injury and I shouldn’t be doing this job. When I get there I’ll have to make a hard decision, but until then I’m going after it with everything I’ve got.
Well now I’m here, and I’ve struggled witrh my health more than I ever thought I would
Making kids laugh is my thing. To make them laugh when they’ve battled cancer for three years and they’ve not said boo to a goose in months was always enough for me.
I wanted to become a children’s nurse before my brain because I wanted to ‘make a difference’.
Now I can say that I couldn’t care less about ‘the difference’ and I’ve loved every second of this journey solely because of what it was, not for what it could’ve been because I quickly realized that the person I’d become after my accident couldn’t deal with the demands of the job.
Every moment I approached a child in hospital I never thought to myself ‘I’ve got to make them laugh’, it wasn’t a goal, I knew it would happen because I love what I was doing, not what I could do or what it could become. I know I loved it because it gave me freedom to be me.
I have my final review meeting on Tuesday where a definite decision will be made about my future as a children’s nurse following on from my occupational health appointment
I don’t care who you are reading this, it doesn’t matter what you do for a job or what your life challenges consist of.
If you’ve been following these posts I know that many of my struggles are shared by people the world over, whether it be because we share similar mental health issues or having a long term health condition, or whatever.
I just choose to be vocal about what every other single human being deals with on a daily basis, even if it is to a lesser degree.
We are all human and none of my symptoms, in any way, albeit to a different degree in many cases, are mutually exclusive to having a brain injury.
If you take anything from all these years of ranting please take this…
…anything is possible. This is your life and you have the right to live it exactly how you want to, regardless of how your friends or society think you should be. It takes guts but the rewards are limitless. The more impossible and ridiculous your dream is the better.
I’ve done my fighting
I went after my dream, now I’m going after ‘happiness’ (I don’t like that word, I prefer ‘bliss’ or ‘contentment’) and with exactly the same determination as I went after the nursing.
This isn’t goodbye just yet, just ‘adieu’. I’ll let you all know how Tuesday goes.
Thanks to all of you who have supported me over the years it really does mean the world to me.