I have a lot to say about my recent years. Life changed as even I didn’t understand until after it started to begin. It has been a somewhat closure of recovery but also a realisation of continuing issues since falling 3.5 floors off a building, 3.5 years ago.
Where was I for those that do not know what happened 3.5 years ago?
I fell off a building’s roof on my 28th birthday party in Sydney, Australia. It was a moment like any other in this world and yet I took a journey one could or should not go through to learn survival lessons. It was far greater than any jungle expedition on Earth, it was inside society and dealing with the complex mental challenges of Brain Injury interacting with that same society.
I’ve been writing a book about my experiences, making a different journey unto itself. Apart from the recovery occurring on the outskirts of typing those pages. I studied Communication and for this reason I assumed I could write. I say assume because the next phase is hunting for a publisher. It is their decision on whether or not the writing is good enough for the same society described to then digest my story through publishing it. I am in the editing stage and getting closer to my publisher targeting practice.
Brain Injury is literally a portion of your brain bruised by impact and you realise that such injuries take years to recover. I have spoken to many who deal with their accident repercussions years later, even decades later. I did not know this possible truth in the beginning, nor was I taught this in hospital.
Some things I wrote in that book are certainly written by me, but I would not usually focus on all the moments and how they are displayed in every word. The truth is that the physical damage caused by Brain Injury is very real and it makes you change psychologically, although not in the same fashion as other mental illnesses.
WARNING: THE NEXT IMAGE CAN BE CONFRONTING AS IT SHOWS ME IMMEDIATELY AFTER THE ACCIDENT.
The damage is physical, mental illnesses or not, but your focus or ability to process some parts of life are very different due to that physical change. The difference caused by Brain Injury can often make everything feel so so so intense, for me that was what I found. Every little kick, punch, hit backwards was 10 x stronger than it would be if it was just normal old me. Work, Education, Money, Love, Hate, Judgement and Loss.
As my mind has calmed from the worst repercussions of the accident, I have not exactly. The individual inside me has changed dramatically to see the mental effects of others.
I am very fearful of authority, such as managers at work. I know this is typical for many but I genuinely have some form of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) where I create odd situations or nervousness through the fear brought on by issues with attention to detail from the outset of the injury. Past workplaces gave me this fear without honest disability support offered to me. The truth is that often my fear is met with support to fear, attention to detail rather than intelligence is a major driver of many workplaces. I’ve been demoted or fired one after the other and the PTSD is actually getting worse because part of my learning is to mask my tiny challenges. I sense this is happening but I feel I’m in my trapped inescapable brain, a brain nobody understands with time my main obstacle. If only I was given time to review work and not shouted at. Please stop shouting. Why do people turn frustration into shouting, please stop it, I beg you!
Attention to detail has been my key issue in working life. I am currently studying a master degree and my luck with university life is built on having time to revise my writing to bring it up to a standard that is similar to before the accident. It is here I can also update you to know I have completed 7/11 subjects and my next subject is a special one.
I was lucky enough to be selected as one of 25 students to do a two week study tour in East Timor, as part of the course! That alone is a bit wow! I speak Spanish and currently in the process of improving my Portuguese to speak with locals in the country. Portuguese is the official language of East Timor.
In work life we are all combating time and that is a fight I cannot win. Tight timeframes and attention to detail simply do not work for me these days and the book details numerous encounters in a nightmare world where my incorrect spelling or formatting or email attachments are forgotten in a split second. That split second has on countless occasions cost me my job. Need I remind you that I typically work in communications, a product of my first degree.
I’ve attempted working in different fields but I continue to find employment in communication. Those different fields include a copy shop, hospitality and as a Barista. I have not been a selector of work during recovery and I take work wherever it comes from. In any case, we all need to organise ourselves and attention to detail does not only change your sentence structure (order of words or incorrect words used within the tight time expectations) but it means you must pay careful attention to your organisation skills in any field. I have worked a bit in hospitality and here I have had some successes, albeit only in festivals and not full time or part time work.
The 3 – 3.5 year period of recovery has been the best time, a moment where I can say I took all the past lessons of recovery and truly began to own my deficiencies. I healed to a more apt level of my misunderstandings or inabilities to become accustomed to them. I am organised to a point at work where it is part of my condition for functioning. My new organisation gives me the appearance of a hard worker and for that reason I think I still have my current job today (although we are only just under two months in to it). As a side note I wrote this sentence before I was removed from this employment prior to two months. I was removed because of two things: Their own lack of clarity and organisation with my own attention to detail issues. What a world I live in.
Attention to detail, what do I mean by that?
Attention to detail is being able to interpret everything in the realm of organisation, processes, names, relevant officers, steps, and pieces of the working puzzle placed together correctly in front of you. Raising a question is sometimes something I need to refresh my memory, depending on your colleagues a question can receive an abusive response in place of the correct answer. Literally, a spelling mistake in work or an attachment forgotten in an email to a client or services you use. Categorising data is another area that is hard without good levels of attention to detail.
Everyone will assume you do not require these skills. I should just look for a different job. Great. Not being officially disabled. I have tried to change many times over. With failure.
So who pays my bills? My rent? My university (I completed a double bachelor worth $AUD30,000 that remains unpaid as my accident occurred only 1.5 years after finishing university). I am lucky in Australia that the debt does not collect interest as the government administers it but the debt still exists and remains to be taken from my pay the moment I work. Increases in inflation are applied with zero inflation to my economic circumstances without work.
So I hope my little story of 3.5 years recovery celebrations helps a few of you understand Brain Injury. It is a complex injury as the brain is a complex organ. Attention to detail is my main issue (previously I had memory issues but I feel that isn’t an impeding issue today). Attention to detail at work is atrocious because it also brings many other issues like nervousness, anxiety and fear when you know you forgot or misspelt/electronically misplaced something again wrong and again and again until fired. Only time to review can overcome this and that is unfortunately an ignored part of today’s workplace.
3.5 years is not to say the end but I have exciting things ahead.
East Timor! I am excited to go to East Timor and in my pre-accident life I was very lucky. I travelled to India, Argentina, Mexico and Brazil all funded by my university, although Argentina and Mexico was more funded by my university debt as they were proper student exchanges. I told you I studied a double bachelor, one degree was Communications in social policy and the other was International Studies.
In any case I love travel and this is the first time I have made it part of my master degree. So my friends, see you in East Timor! 🙂
Oh and a little note about Brain Injury… #stopjudgement and #stopstigma 😀
Brain Injury creates challenges but Brain Injury exists inside a living, breathing and loving human being. I wish I could be more honest with my challenges but alas that has not been a quality of this journey to date.
My facebook page is paulmcmahonauthor to see more articles and the eventual book coming to life.
I also made a video to comemorate this blog moment: https://youtu.be/cv4EK9uv4tc