I saw a speech and language specialist at my local hospital as I found I was having difficulty swallowing and often would start choking. As well as teaching me some exercises to help the muscles in my throat relax, she recommended I get in contact with the charity Headway. They run local support groups in most areas and she thought it might help me with my recovery.
I wasn’t sure if it would be for me but I was keen to try anything that would help me through this.
I contacted them and an Occupational Therapist called Annette came to see me. She ran a group who long term would like to move back into the work environment and she also explained more about brain injuries in general. She had coping methods. Often this helped identify some of the more common symptoms. The group got to see they weren’t alone in this long road to recovery. They met once every two weeks and all they asked was that we pay £5 to cover the cost of running the group.
The other members were all lovely people, many of whom had had strokes and some had a traumatic brain injury like me. We were all normal people who had suddenly had the pause button pressed on our lives. Annette was very patient. Some would interrupt or shout out because their injury meant they struggled to concentrate or put a filter on their thoughts. But we all got on and I did come away feeling I had learnt something. It helped me feel like I was doing something to take control of my situation.
As with many victims of brain injury, I struggled with depression. One day at the group I broke down uncontrollably. This loud wailing sound came out of me like I have never heard before or since. I remember Annette’s face looked both concerned and terrified at the same time. She took me to one side and we had a chat. Annette told me that they can also offer counselling and she could arrange for a lady called Chris to come see me at home.
I think I had hit a new low. Even though I’d always thought I’d be too uncomfortable to take part in talking therapies properly my defences were down.
I had previously been to the doctor who told me to ring the Well being team for cognitive behavioural therapy. But they had taken a month to decide that because I had a brain injury, it wasn’t suitable for my recovery. They made a referral for me to see a Neuropsychologist but there was a long waiting list. So as I needed support despite my reservations this seemed like a good option.
To my surprise I did find myself opening up to Chris. I say surprise just because I had always been reserved and kept things to myself. But she just got me talking, without making me feel like I was being interviewed. She explained there are no right answers and its not like you’re supposed to just have an epiphany. But over time I started to see things in a different light. Things were still traumatic and I had this weight on my shoulders but I started to deal with it better. In time I was booked in with the Neuropsychologist and so my sessions with Chris came to a natural end.
But whilst we both agreed I still had challenges to face, I was now on the right path to recovery, instead of floundering at sea.
I would recommend other brain injury survivors get in contact with Headway. They also support the carers as its equally distressing for them. My partner James decided not to meet with them as he was so busy at work. Seeing as now we were solely relying on his income he felt he needed to just buckle down. But I know for others Headway do give them the assurance they need. It can be very difficult living with someone you love who has been affected by a brain injury.
What has helped you through the tough times?