You are only one decision away from a totally different life

In our latest blog Michelle Munt shares openly and honestly her experience of brain injury and how it changed the way she viewed her life. Michelle writes a brain injury blog called Jumbled Brain through which she shares her experiences, challenges and stratergies with others on the brain injury journey.

Being in the wrong place at the wrong time

9 December 2014 changed my life. I was on my way to work, but I never made it as I was the only causality in a car accident. Well, that’s not entirely true. There was the Buzzard, too who didn’t make it, so he had it worse than me. The Buzzard (a bird of prey) probably saw some “breakfast” and swooped down. But the truck behind me didn’t have time to avoid him and the bird smashed his window. The driver couldn’t see that I had started to slow for the queuing traffic ahead, and he slammed into the back of my car. I was shoved from the inside lane of the dual carriage way, smashing into the central crash barrier. Not really anybodies fault, and it could have happened to anyone, so why me?

I started to question my fundamental beliefs

There’s 2 things I have firmly believed since, I can’t remember when:
  1. Everything happens for a reason, it just takes time for you to see that reason.
  2. If you want something enough and you are prepared to really work for it you can achieve it.
But neither of these sentiments seemed to fit why, virtually at random , I had been in a car accident that caused my traumatic brain injury. So as I struggled to do simple things like read and write, I realised these sentiments were wrong. Until now I had just been lucky, and rubbish things happen. End of. So even as I started to make some progress I spiralled into depression. These two beliefs and motivators had been blown out of the water. I didn’t know how to continue. I was terrified of the future as I felt I was no longer in control.

Facing even more tragedy

Along side this my Mother unexpectedly  passed away a few weeks after my accident. My Dad was struggling with his own health also. Being 80 he wasn’t as sharp as he was in his day, but he’s still an intelligent man. But even after the shock of Mum’s death had passed, his memory seemed to be getting worse. He was finding some tasks more difficult than he had previously. Eventually he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s which is a degenerative condition of the brain.
It is a horrible disease and it’s heartbreaking to watch him go through it, but that’s when the penny dropped.  I was able to relate better than anyone to what he was going through because I had experienced most of it as a result of my TBI.
The brain fog, forgetting what you were saying, trouble finding the right word, confusion about directions, the massive mood swings…… I could go on all day."
Maybe fate had decided I had to go through this to be able to better cope with my Fathers ailing health. Now I had to be strong for him in his time of need, that was my purpose. I found renewed strength now I had those two beliefs back in my site. A neuropsychologist had  once explained to me that actually as positive as these beliefs may sound they are extreme. Therefore I am at risk of putting myself under too much pressure to succeed. I don’t disagree, and I seem to expect much more of myself than I do of others. Essentially I am my own worst enemy.  I hold myself to higher standards than I would reasonably expect of someone else. I had never seen it that way before, and I tried to change my approach. But actually it’s who I am so I’m embracing it now.

My experience gives me a special and important ability

Perhaps my TBI happened so I could learn and have more insight to what it feels like to realise you can’t always trust your own thoughts. How you can find yourself in a world that at times you barely recognise. And because I really want to be able to support my Dad as much as possible, I had to fight to improve myself so I could be there for him in his hour of need. 
I may not be the same as I was before, but maybe that’s OK. Life is a journey, and we continue to learn."
Like how a cat that has a bell on it’s collar might be initially disadvantaged, but in time it learns to be a much stealthier hunter. So it’s disadvantage eventually teaches them to improve themselves. I’m not suggesting that sustaining a TBI is a good thing, because it’s not. Of course I wish it had never happened. But I also wish my Mum was still here and my Dad was well. Sometimes the genie in the lamp isn’t in the mood, no matter how much that lamp sparkles after you had given it a good polishing.  But like when you’re dealt a bad hand in a game of cards, you are forced to make it work for you. Maybe this is just another example of me being lucky with which side the coin fell on. But I do hope for some people it will act as a ray of hope. I still don’t know what the future holds for me, but I’m no longer afraid because this has shown me I’m stronger than I thought. So bring it on.
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