August 1998; The day it all changed

As if suddenly transported like magic, there I was, ‘the new me’. As I found myself lying in a hospital bed, unable to move, covered near head-to-toe in bandages, all the whilst experiencing the most nightmarish headache one could ever imagine; my first question was simple:

“Mum, how did I get here?”

After waking from a ten-day induced coma, I found my mind rapidly phasing in and out of consciousness, as if trying to decide what reality was indeed the real world. Like many others suffering with a serious Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), my damaged brain had come up with the ingenious idea to wipe my memory; no doubt as to spare me from what had just happened.

Well, what did happen?

For context, let me share with you one of my first memories as the new Tim. As if waking from a deep sleep, I looked up to see my mother close by my side. A mother in her rawest state; exhausted, eyes hollow from the endless flow of tears, on the brink of collapse, looking down upon her now broken child.

“Tim, you were playing in a driveway with a friend on a bike and you were run over by a car.’

Although the injuries certainly matched up, it was strange how I had little recollection of the incident, the days before or even just a single memory from my life before that. It was as if I was born anew in that bed, only with a fractured skull, a severe brain injury, spinal trauma and more broken bones than I cared to count. Despite this catalogue of life-threating physical injuries, not to mention all those strange new concerned faces seemingly obsessed with me, there was always one constant that kept me going. That being, the unwavering strength and sheer willpower of my parents to be by my side at every possible moment they could.

As a boy I could never appreciate what that actually meant but now as an adult, with a busy schedule and a life of my own, I struggle to even comprehend and find the words to truly express my gratitude and never-ending love for what they manage to give me. Whatever word you want to use, be it lucky, blessed or fortunate; I will always be grateful to have had such an amazing support network by my side.

A long journey of recovery and discovery

To encapsulate a lifetime into just a few words, I’d have to say that my life has not been a pleasant journey. There is never a day without pain, never a day without fear and anxiety, and never a day without some challenge to overcome. Now that is not to say that I haven’t had some truly wonderful, joy-filled and unforgettably beautiful experiences, shared alongside some of the most loving, kind and generous people along the way, But… the truth remains, this life of ours as ABI/TBI sufferers is not, and never will be, a carefree and blissful experience.

We must battle our brains daily for control, at times even for just the briefest moment of inner peace, and all the whilst facing an onslaught of sub-conscious, self-sabotaging thoughts and feelings. I always knew I was different, not only because of the physical disability but also in the way I viewed the world. It was like every action and decision I made had this small yet seemingly significant question-mark about it. Was this what I really wanted to do, who I really wanted to be; or was it just my brain injury telling me to avoid anything it didn’t like? It might sound silly to some, but I have spent my whole life questioning and searching for that exact answer.

It was only when I helped others, focusing all my energy on their troubles, was I able to detach enough and begin to see the answers I always needed. Regardless of how I felt on any given day, I was able to find that serenity and certainty when thinking about anyone other than myself. I understand that this isn’t always the healthiest or most effective coping strategy nor would it work for everyone, but for me, it always seemed to help.

Perhaps it was genetic? Just as my parents had during my time in recovery, I had found that by being that person for someone else, I was able to learn more about myself than ever before. Although in my time I’ve had many different jobs, tried many different paths, I always ended up coming back to that same idea. What if I could be the one there for those who aren’t as fortunate as me to have somebody like my parents during such a traumatic time?

The End Twist; Synapse 

Fast forward to now; I have my own business designed to do exactly that, Cudmore Consulting aka. “Ask Tim”. Along with my mentoring and counselling, I also serve as an event speaker and expert lived-experience consultant. After speaking at an event for Synapse in West End, I was in the process of posting and uploading to all my social media platforms, I received a very surprising message from my own mum.

To my astonishment, it turns out that she had been directly involved with Synapse over 20 years ago during my recovery. She had worked as Secretary for the Brain Injury Association of Queensland, now known as Synapse. It’s such an amazing coincidence that up until that point I had no clue just how involved my mum had been?!

This journey of ours can seem so lonely at times. Having the feeling that no one knows what we are going through. However, for me, the older I get, the more I begin to see just how much it affects our friends, families and communities as well. This is why we must all do our part, in any way we can, to increase awareness, research capacity and understanding of brain injury. It’s a burden we all have to learn to live with, but it’s so important to know that you are never alone in this journey.

TBI is a whole family affair.