Brain injury: a hidden disability: Mark's story

I’ll start with what I was meant to be doing but never did.

I was working. It was usual on a Friday that you never got your wage when you were meant to. That Friday it was a bit later. I usually played football on Friday nights. But that night because the wages were late I wouldn’t have got there on time. So rather than going to football I decided just to go home for a shower and a bite to eat. After that I was going down to see my two girls. I was driving the work’s van and on the way I saw a friend of mine outside the pub. I stopped the van and spoke to him. He asked if I was coming round for a beer. I said ‘yes’. I saw my 2 girls. For some reason my younger girl said ‘don’t go round to the pub’. Looking back it was like she knew something.

I went round to the pub, met my friend and had a few beers. He left about 10pm. I stayed on and then the pub had a lock in and so I stayed on after hours.

Then that was that. I can’t remember anything that happened after that. I know though that I was assaulted after I left the pub.

I just remember days or maybe it was weeks in hospital. One day, my sister was there. She had come up to visit me. I was still unconscious. She told me though that I said ‘don’t go’. It was as if I had recognised her voice.

Sometime later I came round. Even when I was conscious I didn’t realise how bad I was or what my injury was. I was on another planet. I still feel like that – I’m in a world of my own. It’s as if there’s two lives going on – everyone else is getting on with their lives as normal and I’m trying to deal with something that’s hard to understand.

It was 2-3 years ago. It was a nightmare when I woke up.

One time my sister had arranged to go to the opera or something on Glasgow Green. I said ‘why are you going to this?’ I couldn’t understand.

Now it’s different. It doesn’t get better as time goes on. You don’t get better but you get better at dealing with things. You work out how to deal with things.

I saw a social worker and a doctor at the Royal. I got introduced to the Brain Injury Unit in the Gorbals. I started going. It was a couple of bus journeys to get to the Community Treatment Centre for Brain Injury and through quite dodgy areas. Then I stopped going. I got worried about leaving the house.  It was the fear factor. I had seen someone getting attacked.

At one point I wouldn’t go out at all. Then a psychologist from the Community Treatment Centre for Brain Injury came to see me at my house. Another colleague came with him and he took me out. First I went with him to the shop, then on the bus. We worked at it slowly. I got there eventually.

I also decided that I didn’t want to live like a caged animal any more.

I began to get involved in things. I started with swimming.

One night I was standing outside a bus shelter, coming home. I saw this fella looking over at me and at the old lady who was waiting inside the bus shelter. The fella came over. He asked me about a bus. I said ‘No, it doesn’t go from here’. Then I saw two other fellas. They came over. Then they attacked the fella that I was speaking to. I was standing outside the bus shelter and heard all this racket going on. I went in and got the old lady and got her to come and stand beside me. She was really terrified. I was wondering what I would do if my bus came first, before the old lady’s bus. But hers came first and she got on it. If the lady hadn’t been there I would have walked away. As she was there I had no option but to go and tell her to stand with me. I felt better first and foremost for helping but even more because I could overcome my fear.

My life has widened out since then. I’ve started playing football again two nights a week. It’s 5 a-side – with my friends. They’re people who I’ve met through swimming and things. I had lost my friends when I was working 7 days a week. But now I’ve made a lot of new friends – just through talking about football and that. I play with two different lots of people. They don’t know what has happened to me. I don’t want them to know but if they ask I’ll tell them.

I had been told that people with brain injury go into themselves. I made myself talk to people. I’m one of the lucky ones.

Before my head injury me and two friends used to go into a club, a disco for deaf people. We played pool and football with people there, things like that. I got interested in sign language. I felt left out as I couldn’t understand it or use it. Back then I was thinking of learning it but I didn’t have the time to.

Deafness is a hidden disability as well. Since my injury I’ve been thinking of going back to this and learning to communicate with deaf people. Through a friend of mine, I went to see a girl who runs British Sign Language classes. I’d like to do voluntary work. My spelling’s really bad after the injury. Deaf people sign the alphabet. Since seeing her I’ve learnt to sign the alphabet and I’m going to sign up for classes later this year. It’s going to be twice as hard for me…but where there’s a will there’s a way.

I’ve got a plot (allotment) now. I got it to get out of the house, another thing that would stop me sitting in and looking at my four walls. I’ve put totties in, onions and strawberries. People there are quite helpful. They share stuff. I’m picking up wee bits from people. You meet people. It’s a really big plot! I’ve got blisters. You get a buzz. It’s good. It gets you out and meeting people.

At Headway, I’ve started writing people’s names down in my diary. It doesn’t work for everyone doing this but it helps me. We’ve just begun to wear name badges at Headway as well. This is good.

Every time I lose or forget something I put it down to the brain injury. It could be just normal. You need to say to yourself – ‘It’s going to happen’ and be positive about it.

Further information about Headway can be found at www.headway.org.uk or you can learn more about how Digby Brown can help people who have acquired a brain injury.

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