I’ve been quiet, I know. My writing was always going to be sporadic, providing sparks of illumination on a life less ordinary but lately I’ve been doing a lot more contemplation than writing.
It’s probably tied up with my acceptance and commitment therapy. When seeing a psychologist the hard work is done between appointments. The actual hour in which we catch up on anything and everything takes place every few weeks and simply provides momentum into the next phase of thinking through reflection and asking me the right questions. That’s why it’s important to work with a qualified psychologist and I mean work with in every sense of the word; they’re part of my recovery team but if I’m to improve then the onus is on me to do everything possible to help myself. It’s not easy. Holding your own personality in front of a mirror reveals truths that you’d prefer not to confront. The reflection is immediate and unflinching.
Do you remember as a kid recording yourself on a cassette and then playing it back? You’d squirm and think, “Do I really sound like that?”
Yes, you do sound like that. It’s OK though, it’s how everyone has heard you for most of your life. The only person it’s a shock to is you.
I recently listened to myself on the radio. I was a guest on mid-morning BBC Radio Shropshire, helping Macmillan promote their Living With and Beyond Cancer programme. I was very pleased to be asked and glad to help. My perspective was as a patient who has experienced the programme and received some of the benefits. At the time it was just like having a chat on the phone with the presenter but I was brave enough to listen back a few days later. Listening back to myself I realised that I say ‘erm’ rather more often than I’d like, but my message came across clearly. I didn’t enjoy the sound of my voice as it still isn’t how I imagine I sound. I’m reliably informed approximately 90,000 people heard me and I sounded exactly the same to each and every listener.
“All of us, each and every one, lives a life that is, in its own right, an epic.”Richard Hammond, On The Edge
The over-enthusiastic ex-presenter of Top Gear isn’t, perhaps, an obvious source for inspirational quotes, but this quote contains hidden depth gleaned from his many years of working in local radio. I’ve listened to various local BBC radio stations since my very brief appearance and his quote rings true. I have a new found respect for everyone working at a community level. Being seriously ill is a humbling experience in itself, and hearing other people’s stories, often invisible to the wider world, gives a real sense of perspective which can sometimes be absent in my bubble.
Meeting with the psychologist is a bit like recording your personality onto cassette and then playing it back. It’s not quite as immediate as a mirror; my brain simply can’t work quickly enough for real-time processing.
Loved ones, and close friends, reassure me that I haven’t changed as a person but they know there are some subtle differences. After all, I’m living with a brain injury. There are parts of me that haven’t changed throughout the last two years, my infamous stubbornness being one of them. Other parts have changed. I don’t always process information as logically as I used to, I can read too much into situations or even the intonation of a voice.
I suspect I’ll never truly accept my diagnosis. I’m still the same person I was, but it’s hard work to be normal. Hard work that requires a bit of quiet.