Simon’s TBI Story, a Guest Blog (March, 2020)

This blog post is taken directly (with permission) from a comment that was made on one of our blog articles (on www.lapublishing.com/blog), and was quite intriguing and interesting. Meant to encourage, this story comes straight from the man that experienced it. We hope you enjoy this new post, and if you have a story you’d like to share, email it to bill@lapublishing.com for consideration! Now, onward to Simon’s story….

Life makes us who we are in accordance with the ‘gifts’ we are born with.  Affected by my parents’ divorce at an early age, I could be emotional at times and, being a male, this could be embarrassing.  Effecting how I viewed myself, this was made worse by others taking advantage of low moods.  That brings us up to 1979.  Aged 15, I had ambitions of joining the Royal Air Force.  On 25-7-79, my life took an unexpected turn for the worse.  Apparently, I was knocked off my bicycle by a car.  I have no memory of that day or much of the three weeks proceeding.  Emerging from a coma two weeks later, I learned why I couldn’t move.  I’d broken my neck in three places and was paralyzed from the neck down!  I also learned I’d survived brain surgeries at two different hospitals and had a tube in my throat.  As the months dragged by (5 in all), I was showered with praise for my attitude at having survived something the best medical opinion said was extremely unlikely.  I guess that praise was incorporated into my belief – I could achieve anything!  This made it so much harder to cope when things that were not returning as I believed they would.

Unfortunately, I could not return to finish my last year of school and the familiarity of a place I had called home for many years, the friends and family I knew so well, were being left behind by a planned move being brought forward when I was discharged.  In deference to my mother, I could not blame her for wanting to leave when she did.  So, I was an introverted, quiet, shy type before the accident, except with friends, of course.  The tbi had given me the gift of ‘inhibition’.  I embraced this gift and delighted in this new found freedom to express myself.  Even so, I discovered this ‘gift’ to be a double-edged sword.  I could not engage brain before putting mouth into gear – something which caused no end of problems for me and others.  Trying to get control of this aspect of my behaviour is like trying to break in a wild horse.  Yes, you get ‘thrown’ many times and end up hurting yourself and others.  But I would encourage all ‘new riders’ not to give up.  Eventually you get control and ‘tame’ this beast!

Anything in life worth achieving doesn’t come easy.  There are costs, of course, but the rewards you get are well worth the effort.  How do I know?  Well, hand in hand with my recovery, was the ever-present storm clouds of failure and depression.  It tries its hardest to convince you the fight just isn’t worth it – the costs are more than you can bare – you’re not worth it.  This isn’t ‘normal’ depression, this is severe, clinical depression.  At my lowest points, I nearly did something unforgivable – I nearly succumbed to that temptation.

It took me some six years to achieve my first full time job.  Four years later, I was privileged to start work as a hospital porter, at the same hospital that saved my life!  It was the best job in the world.  I even met a lady who would become my partner and mother to my children.  I became epileptic four years after starting.  They were very understanding and gave me three months paid leave to recover.  Lorraine and I argued frequently, and I believed this triggered the epilepsy.  The job meant everything to me, a place of sanctuary from domestic turmoil.  Because of my work ethic, I was supported for many years.  My memory and concentration were affected to such an extent that I was forgetting patient’s appointments and routine jobs.  I got involved with Union work for the disabled and became the hospital’s disability spokesperson.  I did two parachute jumps in my own time, despite impaired balance.  I won a gliding scholarship.  I even abseiled the tower block twice!  17 years later, due to a crumbling relationship and the effects of the epilepsy, I lost my job and home.  That was the last time I was tempted to take my life.

I heard an engineer say he was going up to the roof of the tower block.  I was very low at that point.  I got off at the ninth floor and made my way up to the roof.  I got within 3ft of the edge and looked over.  If depression were a person, he would have shoved me off there and then.  I thought of the many people who I had inspired with my story, staff, patients and others.  I thought of the example I would be setting if I killed myself.  And what about the people who saw me jump?  Who would have to clean up the mess?  I couldn’t do it.  Depression was going to lose again.  After my partner and I separated, I spent seven months in respite care.  Now, I live in a bungalow with my dog, am co-chair of my residents’ association and enjoy close ties with our children.  I am happy.

Returning to the analogy of breaking in a wild horse.  When you’re ‘thrown’, don’t just sit there and give up, keep getting back in the saddle!  Ok, you can’t change what has already happened.  What you can do is not let it dictate how you lead your life from now on.  You are stronger than you believe you could ever be  I know.

– Simon Limbrick, United Kingdom

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