Welcome to My World - Clare

During Action for Brain Injury Week this year we launched a member-led campaign to raise awareness. Members from across our catchment area share their stories; inviting you into their world and how they experience it after brain injury. Today, we're talking to Support Work member Clare!

Claresocial2

I was born in Colchester maternity hospital 6 1/2 weeks premature and whisked straight into ICU, a place which unbeknownst to me would serve as a 2nd home for me several times in my life! Growing up was fun thanks to the ongoing love and support of my lifetime best friend Carley.

At school, I excelled and achieved good grades. I was brought up to be sensitive and caring towards others and respect my elders. My faith was and still is important to me. This I believe has given me the strength to carry on.

I enjoyed a successful career in insurance thanks to the charity MIND who helped me through my teenage difficulties dealing with depression and anxiety. Those years were particularly difficult as my mother was diagnosed with Bi-polar disorder and my father suffered a nervous breakdown. Subsequently, I developed Anorexia Nervosa which saw me admitted to the Dukes Priory, Chelmsford with only 3 days left to live.

"People would class me as friendly, outgoing and perhaps a perfectionist at times too!"

In October 2013, I suffered an epileptic seizure which resulted in me falling backwards and hitting the back of my head on a low garden wall. A bleed on my brain meant I had to have a craniotomy and I was put into a medically induced coma.

When I came out of that I couldn't walk or talk. Once on my feet, I found I was easily bored and whilst toddling around the ward I found a leaflet about Headway East London which I read and was interested in getting to know more. One day a man was visiting the ward and I overheard him say that he was from Headway so I went to speak to him to see if I could be referred. He took my details and as they say, this was the beginning of my great adventure with Headway East London.

From day one Headway have picked me up from a lost empty shell into a determined and focussed individual. Something that will never be forgotten.

Upon my discharge from the hospital, I received great support from Havering adult social care services who provided me with physical rehabilitation and adaptions to my flat. Fiona was my guiding light helping me to arrange and attend my appointments, sorting my benefits and making phone calls on my behalf.

"It felt odd being so reliant on someone after having been so independent beforehand. It was hard and frustrating to accept my injury but, because I had such good help I felt more comfortable in myself; I had no need to feel embarrassed or alone."

I later suffered a stroke and so with this and my brain injury I have been left with a left-hand side weakness and short-term memory problems which can be frustrating at times but then upon reflection I know that I am lucky to be alive.

Over the years Headway East London have helped me immensely. My confidence and inner drive have grown. The centre itself is amazing. The facilities and staff are a perfect escape for people affected by brain injury and it feels like one big family setting.

During this period of Covid 19, I still feel that Headway East London have been there for me. My support worker Manon is so good to me, She is a confidant, someone I can turn to for advice and support when or if I am unsure what to do.

Manon calls me because travelling at this moment is difficult but this hasn't lessened the amount of support that I receive. I could not have wished for more. I haven't felt alone or abandoned at all.

"My aspirations for the future are to carry on building up my physical strength, maintain a strong and positive mental state of mind and to also be mindful of other's predicaments, struggles and feelings and hopefully inspire others to never ever give up, especially when an organisation like Headway East London are there to catch you when or if you fall."

Clare kindly told her story as part of Headway's member-led campaign "Welcome To My World"- part of Headway's DIFFERENTLY VARIOUS season of events, stories and fundraisers.