The problem with a brain injury is that it’s not visible.
It’s easy for employers or colleagues to not understand. Having to explain it on a frequent basis gets quite embarrassing. People don’t understand why you can’t do something or remember something.
I fell downstairs at a tube station and I hit my head very badly and was taken in ambulance to the hospital. That was in January 2011. I tried to go back to work a week later. And then tried a week after that, as the doctor said it was just a concussion. I kept trying to go back and struggling.
I went through a year trying to manage this by myself but coaching has made a massive difference. When I think back now to my first year; I feel so sorry for that person. How do you help yourself when you can’t even think properly?
Work became a stressful part of my life. Professional life is a big part of my identity and I take a lot of pride in my work so that knocked me pretty hard.
I worked as an HR and Office Manager for a charity. During my recovery period I went down to HR Officer.
After the accident – not knowing what was going on and being out of control was tough and it was difficult to communicate to others. I had terrible headaches that didn’t go away, was throwing up, and was feeling dazed and confused quite a lot. I wasn’t sleeping well and had memory and concentration problems and was very sensitive to noise.
With a job coach I could talk through how I was feeling and examine my thought processes to look for the root cause of my difficulties. Having someone else say ‘what you’re feeling is normal’ and explain it to my employer gave me a sense of calm. I had someone to back me up and validate what I was going through. That in itself was a massive win!
It was an open dialogue which was brilliant because Kieran would take things out of our conversations to work around, always checking with me to make sure he got the right end of the stick, which he always did. It was free flowing and definitely centred around what worked for me.
I think that is very good because no two people are the same and definitely no brain injuries are the same.
The sessions were practical – going through different ways of working. My multi-tasking was impacted. I had to work out how to be effective in a different way and we looked at different techniques to do that.
I had an aversive reaction to noise due to the accident (Hyperacusis). We figured out techniques to approach that. Before, I’d be sitting at desk and someone would have a conversation over the office that was loud and this would have derailed me.
Now I’ve gotten used to the idea of noise and calm myself down using mindfulness techniques as one example. I remain in my own space and slowly deal with that and change what I’m working on i.e. avoid work that needs a lot of concentration and attention to detail such as figures.
I have come to rely on four key words that have made a big impact on my daily living: Patience; Persistence; Positivity; and Reflection.
Today I am back in my position as the HR Manager, which is the job I always wanted. And while I still have to deal with some of the symptoms I have come to realise that while my accident and the resulting brain injury is part of me, it doesn’t have to define me.