Life After A Brain Injury 8— Getting Back To Work

Getting Back To Work

Raising awareness of Brain Injury for Headway.

This blog may read as if it’s a long, sorry story of me getting things wrong but that’s only because it’s true. The whole point is that I could have avoided getting all of this wrong if I had received the correct brain injury care when I was discharged from hospital. If you’ve joined the blog part-way through then you can read the full story starting with the preface.

In the last part I was out of hospital following the operation to correct the maxillofacial bones and straighten my nose. It was time to get back to work and cary on as normal now that I had renewed confidence because I didn’t look odd anymore. I didn’t look exactly like the old me though, but ironically I think my nose looks slightly better now that it used to before the accident.

I found a new work contract relatively easily in March 2014 when an old colleague asked if I would spend a few months as a project manager at a major UK broadcasting organisation. I had one interview and although the role was quite junior compared to what I’d been doing over previous years it was described as ‘an exciting challenge in a dynamic environment’ and I was ready for a challenge, so started straight away.

It’s at this point that I’d like to point out the specific areas of cognitive behaviour that I’ve been assesed as having difficulty with. It’s these areas that since early 2015 I’ve been focusing on improving or creating coping strategies so that they are no longer impacting me negatively. In some ways I’ve even developed more psychologically compared to how I used to be before the injury and in the next update to the blog I’ll explain how Headway helped me to gain awareness and insight into how my injury has changed my life.

I’ve already written about how the frontal lobes took the majority of the impact and this had a major change to my personality but in addition to that it affected what is known as my executive function. This is a term describing a collection of cognitive skills that control areas such as working memory (that’s very short-term memory such as taking down a phone number), selective attention and inhibition (tuning out irrelevant information), multitasking (specifically task switching for me) and flexible or abstract thinking.

So back to this new job which was descibed to me as ‘an exciting challenge in a dynamic environment’ but which turned out to be ‘a chaotic challenge in an unstructured and undisciplined environment’. I’m not going to go into too much detil about the many issues the organisation had, but I learned that two or three people before me (who didn’t have a brain injury) had tried and failed the manage the project too.

Because I wasn’t aware of my brain injury until early 2015 I spent most of 2014 trying to manage this project but quite badly. I would normally be the person setting the direction of the whole programme that my project was part of but the programme was undisciplined and chaotic. My project seemed to change direction each week and I had difficulty controlling it because of the culture and environment it was in and I didn’t have the executive function abilities that I used to have in order to rescue the situation. All this time I couldn’t work out what was wrong because I’d never even heard of brain injury until this job had ended. It ended one month sooner than planned too because the person acting as my line manager became rather petty when told that I didn’t want to renew my contract after Christmas 2014. I didn’t want to renew because I was so unhappy there that I think I was having some sort of breakdown towards the end of the year. With hindsight it is now obvious that I was suffering from the combination of not being aware of a brain injury coupled with the stress of a divorce process and an ongoing legal case.

I was haemorrhaging money that year. Yes I was earning well it but I was also supporting several expensive barristers and a divorce lawyer who (in my opinion) didn’t fight my corner hard enough. Overall I ended the year with very little money and no source of income.

What did go well that year was that on Friday 13th June 2014 I learned that the CPS had withdrawn their case against me. There was due to be a final court hearing the following Monday but during a pre-hearing on Thursday 12th the judge had been extremely direct with the CPS about how they were going to lose on Monday because the case was now fifteen months old and yet they were still unable to provide any evidence of me doing anything wrong. The whole case against me seemed to be based on heavy-handed threats and trying to wear me down both financially and mentally. Their strategy was to push me right up until the last day that they could before losing the case and having to pay me all of my costs. By withrawing on the day before the trial they avoided paying me the thousands of pounds it cost to defend myself.

The divorce was finalised in early December too with me making a generous cash settlement to my ex-wife so that she had no future claim on my house or earnings. It was a sad moment but I was grateful that it was finally all over.

It was about this time that I realised so must pressure had been lifted from me but still something didn’t seem quite right, I was still unhappy. I was surfing the net during the days before Christmas when I found out about Headway and gave them a call.

Next update: How Headway Gave Me My Life Back