I had an accident – I don’t remember how it happened. It’s blurry. I can see the lights. Someone was saying to me “stay down”. Then I don’t remember. I woke up in the hospital. It was very, very scary. I had never been in that kind of situation in my life. Everything changed after that.
I still have the scars on my body, but mentally it affected me so much. Before that I was a full-time worker. I became homeless after that. For a few weeks I was with a friend, then I couldn’t afford the payments. With a brain injury you start to lose patience, and I just wanted to be left alone. It was very horrible. There was a time I thought “what’s the point of living?”. I try so hard to live the best life without getting any support. “I came to the UK in 2005, I was just a teenager. I was working to support myself and my family. Then everything you worked so hard for is gone. My confidence is gone too.
When I was discharged no-one referred me to anything. After moving to a hostel, I was given a support worker and this lady helped me to register with a GP. My anger was really high by this time. I had a really big argument with the doctor; he wasn’t understanding and just giving me painkillers. They even called security! The doctor eventually referred me to the neurologist, who then referred me to Headway.
I join the support group every month. It was there I started to realise what accident I had – before then I didn’t even realise I had a brain injury. Even speaking with the neurologist, I was still confused. It was like opening my eyes, understanding what I’m going through – someone explaining it makes you realise you’re not alone. Life became a little easier then. You can find the solution and move on. If you don’t know nothing you just get lost.
The group are really supportive and helpful too; it’s really nice to see them because everyone cares and asks “how are you?”. They give me a text to see how I am. We started to communicate a lot more before the pandemic. I’ve been going about a year and a half but before that I wasn’t too friendly with most of them – that’s how long it takes me to trust people.
I can’t stay with my old friends for long, and they don’t understand what I’m going through. Especially from my background, in East Africa. If I was complaining about my pain and they would say “you always complain”. I don’t communicate with my old group that much.
I do feel dizzy sometimes, and once I was in so much pain in my leg I lost consciousness on the street. People were saying I was drunk or on drugs and I couldn’t respond. I was afraid to go out again after that. I hated my condition and people commenting about it in that way. I would say before you judge, ask and help. And if you can’t – don’t say anything.
I’m always trying and doing my best. But there are things that restrict me from doing what I love. I used to plan. Simple things. But then I ended up not doing them and I started to get frustrated, so because of that I don’t plan that much now.
It’s been horrible during lockdown because you cannot go out, and it’s scary because if you need help you cannot just walk to Headway. It’s so much change, and it’s kind of scary. You can’t always speak to the person you want to; with emails I don’t deal well so I feel like I’ve been lost. I’m going through lots with my neighbour at the moment. Going through this on the top of your health and on top of this coronavirus, it’s uncomfortable. Every pressure was on me and you are stuck in the situation. I was crying every time. Of course, Headway was helping but I wish I could do it myself.
The one thing that kept me going was my gardening and art. Since my brain injury I’ve become obsessed! Even if I don’t have the patience I can take a break. No one has to tell me what to do.
I have about 14 or 15 plants. I’ve even been talking to my plants – I say good morning to them. It’s nice to wake up and see something good.
I studied beauty therapy too before, so I’ve started to do my nail art and make up. Everyone is telling me I’m good at it. I’m learning it all on YouTube. It’s my new thing: doing things by myself at home.