I’ve re-written this intro too many times to count, but I guess that all I really need to say is “My name is Linda, I suffered a mild traumatic brain injury and I want to help people”.
It’s taken me over 3 years to build up the courage to do this, but I finally feel ready. I feel ready to share my story – the ups and the downs – and if I manage to help just one person it will all be worth it! It’s important to remember that no two people’s stories are the same, especially when it comes to a brain injury, but this is mine….
On July 31st 2014 I fell off my bike. I was cycling to work in Dublin’s City Centre, a screw came loose on my mudguard and it jammed my tyre, sending me headfirst over my handlebars onto Camden Street. It all feels like a bit of a blur – but what I do know is that I didn’t have a scratch on me, my helmet was broken and I just felt ‘weird’. Later that day I found myself sitting in front of a doctor being diagnosed with severe concussion and whip lash. I would later discover I had suffered a mild traumatic brain injury.
I couldn’t work, I couldn’t socialise – I felt isolated, alone and clueless if I’m honest. Surely I didn’t have a brain injury? They’re just being overly cautious! I don’t have one single bruise on my body – and I bruise like a peach! But yet, I knew something was different. Something had changed and I couldn’t figure it out. There were too many ‘Why’s?’ to ignore…
The 'Why's' of my Brain Injury
Why can’t I sleep, but yet I am so tired?
Why can’t I bare to be in a noisy room or public area?
Why is it so hard to hold a conversation?
Why am I getting so frustrated with everything and everyone?
Why can’t I get off of the Luas even though it’s my stop?
Why did I just walk out in front of that car?
Why am I sitting here on the path crying when all I want to do is get up and go home?
Why do people keep telling me that I’m not ok, when as far as I can tell I am?
Why won’t this pain in my head go away?
Why don’t I feel like ME anymore?
Learning to Manage my Brain Injury
In my head the key to all of this was to get back to work – if I’m well enough to go to work then I’m fine. Logical thinking at it’s finest!
So, I did everything in my power to get back to work. That was my goal. Initially, it was how I gauged how well I was doing in my recovery. I can tell you now that, although I thought getting back to work full time was a short-term goal, it was a goal that took me over 2 and half years to achieve. I would try and fail, and try again, until eventually I found a plan that worked for me. Along the way I also realised that getting back to full time work wasn’t the ultimate goal, it was learning to manage my brain injury. And when I had conquered that everything else would fall into place.
I went along with the Occupational Therapist, the Vocational Therapist, the Social Worker, the Consultant and I did EVERYTHING they advised. I became the model patient – “They’re the experts so I will do as they say”.
I also did my own research when I could and introduced myself to a whole new way of living. There were many small changes – like not looking at my smartphone every 5 minutes, wearing headphones to block out noise when in public, drinking lots of water. And there were some bigger changes – that chocolate bar and cup of tea may taste good and make me feel better right now, but that roasted kale and camomile tea will get me back to living a normal life much quicker!
The only time I found some relief from the pain in my head was when I was exercising – be it out running, working out in the gym, or in a yoga class – or practicing mindfulness. So I began to incorporate both into my daily routine where possible. For me these 2 activities were vital ingredients for my recovery!
The Highs & The Lows
My journey tells the story of how I got to where I am now (the amazing highs and the lowest of lows!) – back working full-time as an Account Manager in a busy Marketing Agency in Dublin, living a balanced and healthy lifestyle. I still have my struggles, but the good days definitely out-weigh the bad days! I hope my story will help others – both those suffering from a mild traumatic brain injury and their family & friends. All of our journeys are different, but hopefully something, somewhere along my journey, will help you on yours.