I was in a hang gliding accident when I was 20 years old. I crashed into a tree and, as I was trying to climb out, I fell. I was in a coma for three weeks. My parents and friends were fantastic and helped me through it all – they were my inspiration to get better.
I did speech therapy, physical therapy and occupational therapy over the next year and a half, which got me back to my old job and my part-time university degree. I kept that up for a while, but then I found that I really needed to study full-time – it just wasn’t possible part-time because of the delays from the accident and full-time work and part-time study became just too hard. I finished it, though, and joined the workforce.
Unfortunately, employment has been a long and tortuous trek for me. I’ve got the same issues as all the regular people in the workforce have, as well as the extra ones a person with ABI has. It’s been a struggle, but you’ve just got to do the best you can.
All through my life I’ve seen myself as ‘normal’, because I see that being normal is a big range. But, because of how people with brain injury often see themselves and how the community perceives them as different, it’s definitely harder finding and keeping work.
As everyone knows, it’s tough in the workplace. There’s so many people lining up for each job. I do my best to keep the effects of my brain injury and the fact that I’ve had an ABI secret – that’s why I’m sharing my story anonymously. Unfortunately, that’s the way it is. I gave up telling employers about my ABI – I felt that I was a marked man.
Unfortunately, my career direction doesn’t allow me to keep a low profile – I’m in a role where I have to ask tough questions of management, and that can ruffle feathers. And I’ll acknowledge that I’ve had struggles in the workplace. My memory has funny lapses and my speech isn’t 100%, which I feel particularly stands out. I’m still very competent in my profession, but dealing with people is often not easy.
My greatest problem is not getting up people’s noses. I remember, after my injury, giving a colleague a hard time about the car he drove, to the extent it completely damaged my relationship with him and I didn’t survive in that job. It’s those kind of fixations, tendencies to mistake situations, and inability to keep my thoughts to myself, that have caused me problems.
I got in touch with Synapse a while ago because my wife is having difficulties with some of my behaviours – misreading situations and being more awkward than I need to be. My wife has been very patient, but she wants to get on top of this.
I met my wife, Abbie, at university. She now has a senior role and has had her own work challenges in recent years, alongside us trying to do some major modifications at home. To be honest, it’s just been too much for me; I’m struggling. We’ve been seeing a psychologist, but I feel that’s been a waste of time because she doesn’t understand the effects of my injury.
It’s hard for Abbie, I appreciate that. But we do our best. I’ve tried to be the best husband and parent I could be for the kids. They’re going great guns – it’s just a normal family life, which is very important to me. It breaks my heart to see families falling apart. That’s why Abbie and I got involved with 4WDriving as a hobby we can share; it’s done wonderful things to keep our marriage happy, helping with our communication and forging closer links with each other and a group of great people. Our church family has been great too. I like to mix with people who accept me as I am.
I see so many people with ABI who struggle through marriage. I’m committed to not letting that happen to us.