The one thing I have been told the most, post brain injury anyway, is just how lucky I am, that someone was obviously watching over me and how I should be eternally grateful to those that saved me and kept me alive. I never felt alive, though; I felt my quality of life had got so much worse, and I used to feel almost like I owed a debt to society because I was still alive. The majority of those that told me how lucky I was incidentally didn’t have a brain injury.
I am really nervous to talk about this because I don’t want to come across as ungrateful or a bad person, but this is why I don’t think I or anyone with a brain injury are actually lucky at all.
On 15th May 2007, I was hit very hard by a car being driven by someone speeding. I wouldn’t call that blessed. I was in a coma for 16 days and in hospital for almost six months. Then came years of exhaustion, confusion and social isolation; basically spending my twenties waiting for that day that I would be better, only it never came! I’m not sure that is what I would describe as having good fortune either.
Fifteen years on, and I feel massively left behind; I struggle and need to make a strategy to get through every day. I am so forgetful, disorganised and I struggle to find people I have anything in common with, so I still don’t think I’m riding a wave of good fortune.
Another thing people used to say was, “It could have been so much worse”, anything could be worse, though, couldn’t it. Some things are just bad, and it’s not necessary to explore how it could be worse. Lucky in my eyes would have been finding £20 on the floor, getting a kebab and a taxi home (back in the days when calories weren’t a thing, and I thought a kebab was the perfect way to end a night! Ahh remember those days?!).
I remember being jealous of people who got up and went to work for 12 hours only to be told that I was "lucky that I didn’t have to". Honestly, it was never about working 12 hours; it was about having the ability to do that, that I was jealous of! I remember friends going to Alton Towers, Glastonbury, other festivals, climbing mountains; all I could think was that I could never do that, and the journey to get there alone would finish me off! I honestly got so sick of being told how lucky I was to be still alive, I used to think that if I died, I wouldn’t know about it. That was an emotional reaction I had years ago, though and of course, I don’t think that now. If you feel down now, just remember that nothing is forever, and it will get better; you’ve just got to work for it!
A person with a brain injury has an invisible disability, meaning they will have almost certainly at some point suffered a myriad of mental health issues leading to low self-esteem and pretty low self-worth. The people who seem fine are either good at hiding it, or they’re yet to accept it, and it hasn’t really hit them yet. I’m mostly pretty happy these days, but I didn’t learn to cope until I’d accepted what had happened to me.
Apologies if I’ve just made myself sound extremely miserable and a terribly negative person to be around because I really don’t think I am! Well, at least I don’t think so anyway! Would I change it given a choice? Well, it’s not an option, so to be honest, there’s very little point in wishing for things that aren’t possible. I used to think like that, but it only made me feel bad about myself and a coping method I’ve learned over the years is not to even start down that path. To quote a phrase that seems to have become popular in recent years, “it is what it is!”.
I was given a score of three on the Glasgow coma scale; without the fast action and professionalism of the North West Ambulance Service (NWAS) paramedics and the trauma staff at Manchester Royal Infirmary (MRI), I would definitely not be alive today. Without the training and dedication of the many trained staff working in different fields within the National Health Service, I would not be alive either, without a doubt.
Every brain injury is unique and comes with its own challenges, some are better and others are far worse than mine. I don’t think I am lucky, but I am truly thankful for the devotion and commitment of the staff of NWAS, MRI, Salford Royal and Trafford General Hospitals.
Something that has been my saviour through the last 15 years is being more positive and staying upbeat, so what good has come from my brain injury? I am now more compassionate and a better listener; I appreciate life and its people more than I did before. I now make a big effort to see the positives in everything, to see the good in people rather than the bad.
To anyone reading this that doesn’t have a brain injury, don’t tell people with a brain injury how lucky they are OR shower them with sympathy either; it won’t help! We don’t want sympathy, it makes us feel inferior! Tell them something positive about the future, something to look forward to. There’s nothing as satisfying as having done something yourself or indeed done something for somebody else. Please help them do something positive; we don’t want a handout, we want a hand up, talk about the future, not about the past; they’re not going that way!