Stranded in civilisation
Posted by Nick Verron
Once again, music has prompted another blog post. It plays a major part in my life, as I’m sure it does in many others’.
I was in a great mood yesterday. I had just done a workout and got the old endorphins flowing strong. I heard a song come on the radio, and without warning, I just started bawling. What just happened? Normally, when a song reminds you of a person, it holds quite specific memories. There is a clear association and you are able to mentally prepare yourself for the inevitable “tidal wave” of emotion.
Except in this case, I couldn’t relate the song to anyone. I didn’t even recognise the song. But it struck a chord in me, conjuring up such strong emotion that I couldn’t breathe, sadness enveloping me. It was so painful, it was like all my breakups rolled into one!
Last night I began thinking long and hard about who this song could be about. Then, this morning when I was in the Jacuzzi, I played it on my phone and I got a flashback of when I’d first heard this. I cried so much that I think the Jacuzzi was close to overflowing. I realised who the song was about:
Me, when I could feel myself slipping away.
The song can portray my feelings so much more effectively then any words possibly could, so here it is:
It was the tail end of 2011. After having my brain injury, I had managed to move into my own home. I had realised that the physical problems that I was left with were likely to be permanent. I was ashamed of myself and felt everybody had given up on me. I was on the verge of doing the same. I had zero self-esteem, feeling a fraction of my old self. I didn’t want the world to see me like this, so didn’t make any attempt to go out and make new friends. I was alone 95% of the time. It makes me so bloody angry when you see adverts to help people in Africa; what about the people down the road from you that society has “forgotten” about? Shouldn’t that be more of a priority? They’re simply existing, not living.
Where hundreds of people had gone out of their way to show support when I was in hospital, I can count the people who are now still here in my life, sadly on one hand. This may be because my friends are offended that I haven’t contacted them, thinking that I don’t value their friendship. This isn’t the case at all. I just don’t want to subject them to the awkwardness associated in dealing with my physical problems, and don’t feel I have anything to add to a friendship other than burdens.
The poor self-esteem results partly from a vicious cycle. Initially, I thought people were just being shallow, that’s why they were treating me as a lesser being. There is an element of being treated this way, but it is done passively. I believe it results from your own self-image. People reflect back to you what you portray to them. When you feel absolutely worthless, that is what you portray, so that is what you will often encounter in social situations, even when people have the best intentions. To get out of this vicious cycle, my advice to anybody with a disability would be to follow the following quote:
What’s most important about this, is that the “social reflection” of the injury disappears.
My advice to any friends of someone who’s recently acquired a disability would be:
The more distant they get, the more they need you. They do value your friendship, but don’t feel worthy of it. This reduction in self-esteem will get progressively worse if left unchecked. Please don’t let it get to the point where your friend values their self so little that they give up on themselves.
Part of the reduction of self-esteem after any brain injury is justifiable. I have recently been watching an absolutely fascinating series on BBC called The Brain with David Eagleman.
He talks about how YOU are a product of your brain. Therefore, if you have a brain injury, it is understandable why you would feel that YOU are lesser. Understandable, but not correct.
Until watching this series, I thought things such as memory were handled by a specific part of the brain. Not so. He asks you to imagine of the brain as a “city”. He then explains how things like memory can be compared to the economy in a city; a product of all elements of the “city” working together.
To take this one step further, you may have a smaller “city” to work with after a brain injury. But not only can a smaller city be a nicer place to live, it can be more meaningful. A fully operational city can be compared to London; very functional and efficient, but not a very meaningful place to live at all! Wouldn’t you rather live somewhere smaller and more relaxed like Todmorden, who are exercising a radical new way of life and having such a positive impact on the world?