I have been asked if I feel I am a better person for the experience, or if I am better off for it. It’s not something I really dwell on as I can’t change it. However if I could change the past so it didn’t happen then would I? The answer is I don’t know. For the first 3 – 4 years the answer would have been yes I definitely would change the past so it didn’t happen, but now I am not so sure. In so many ways life is more difficult now, day to day living throws up so many challanges I didn't have before and confidence and superficial happiness are harder to come by. However I simply cannot deny that there are some really significant benefits that have come from the experience too, it just takes time for the madness to settle down before you can see them.
I have the most amazing relationship with my partner that I would never have had before. Pre brain injury I didn’t know what it was to have someone in your life that you really need. I had been in good relationships but I was always quite independent and didn’t feel I needed anything in the way of support or help. Consequently I didn’t see when another other person may have needed a bit of support, life came fairly easily so I assumed it was the same for everyone.
Now I look forward to getting home and having a chat with my partner about my day and how I have been doing and reflecting on how I felt or reacted at times and why that might have been, I need her in my day to day life and having that someone is really incredible. Furthermore I was able to be infinitely more understanding and supportive to her during pregnancy hormones!
I am also able to be far more supportive and understanding to other people in my life when they need it. Pre brain injury I was very much in the “speak to a doctor and get some pills” or “speak to a councillor who will fix you” camp when it came to issues around mental health. Life seemed to come so easily for me I assumed it could be like that for anyone, I was totally ignorant as to how immensely complicated we are as people. Now I can really emphasise with that person and understand the depth of their problems or concerns, help them to not feel inadequate or weak because of what they are experiencing.
Modern life doesn’t give us much time to stop and reflect but occasionally something will trigger a memory and I will be able to briefly ‘feel’ how I did in the early days, when I was depressed and really lost. It makes me aware of the places I have been to and the greater depth I now have as a person and how this experience has shaped me.
As desperately hard as it was during the first few years, and despite the daily battles, I now have a lifetime ahead of me to be a better parent, partner and friend because of these experiences (albeit a slightly more tired one!). Not only do I have the knowledge of how fragile we are I also have the strength that comes from fighting the fight and making it out the other side.
The more I think about it the more impossible the ‘would I change the past’ question becomes, and the answer will probably change throughout a single day. When I am tired and stressed I will feel totally different about it then when I have had some down time and am able to reflect on what a mad old game life is!
Through brain injury we have been given the most incredible insight into the crazy topsy turvey inner world of us all. We can appreciate that despite how it may feel we are all the sum of a fine balancing act involving billions of neurons and various chemicals that are all caught up in a dance more complex than the worlds largest computer, and that is really quite a rare and special insight to have.
This page has focussed on the positives that I can draw from the whole expeirence but in the interests of maintaining some perspecive I have tried to draw things together on the next page called 'making hay'.