I used to be just like you.
I used to have an extended family, an amazing career, friends and an accompanying social life.
I used to have dreams. I loved my life.
And then, in a split second, I got to here, the place where time stands still.
The world kept spinning without me, and no one noticed me hanging onto the periphery of it by my fingernails.
I thought I had time; I thought I would follow the path I had planned.
I had no idea that even the essence of who I am would be washed away like chalk from a blackboard.
It took me years to work out that my brain injury doesn’t define me.
It took me a billion moments of heart-wrenching pain to walk my way out of the labyrinthine dark tunnel that confined me, that imprisoned who I am so profoundly that the people who love me thought I was lost to them forever.
My soul, wracked with anguish and agonising grief, could no longer see. I was blind to everything I had once been.
How do you find your way back home when all the breadcrumbs you might have left are at the bottom of a crevasse?
How do you fathom what has changed when you no longer know who you were before?
How do you begin to fix something when you have no idea what broke?
How do you see outward when you can’t even see inward?
How do you see what others see when you look in a mirror, and all you see is the ghost who used to be you?
Somewhere inside, there was an unheard voice that said, ‘I will have my life again.’ Named tenacity, this innate part of my blueprint drove me from the unseen depths.
Brain injury takes away the promises you made and can now no longer remember or keep. They came from a heart that knew who I was and everything about me, my life, my loves and my responsibilities.
How do you keep promises when the connections to them are severed?
Brain injury takes away the ability to hear your inner voice. You act from the automaton, but you can no longer think.
You can’t see backwards or forwards; you can’t visualise new dreams. You become confined to living in perpetual moments of unimaginable inner chaos.
You can no more watch or monitor your self, your actions or words any more than you could a stranger living in some far-off world.
This is a place that is beyond understanding. You are the only one who can feel the dark recesses of the soul where a whole you used to be and live.
The grief is limitless, and then, one day, after many years have passed, you become the only one who can see inside.
You can’t explain what you can see, and you can’t understand it either, but you finally know once more that it is there.
Who you are, who you have always been, is still there buried beneath the surface, beneath a vast layer of cognitive and executive dysfunction.
You finally realise it is your brain that is broken – not who you are.
I am still me; I am buried beneath the surface.
One day I will sail my ship home to you. One day we will all know that my brain injury doesn’t define me.