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KEYNOTE SPEAKING

Mental health is a subject close to Donna's  heart.  Below are details of some  of the challenges she's faced due to being assaulted and the subsequent head injury sustained from that.  She didn't just survive her attack – meeting the hurdles and adversity face on with an inner strength and positive attitude  has allowed her to strive. As a result she claims she's emerged the other side a better version of herself.  Five times published award winning author (with more books on the way) Donna is proof that through forward thinking, perseverance and determination its possible to turn your life around.   Donna is available to speak at your event, to  motivate your guests on remaining positive whatever their life situation and to encourage them to strive.


MEMORY LOSS

Donna lost the ability to remember her past, what she had done a few moments ago and what she had gone upstairs for. Suddenly immersed into a frustrating life she attempted to live, no longer knowing that the utensils she ate with were called a knife and fork or that she signed her name with a pen. Knowing her own name was a bonus, she didn't know many more.  No longer able to read or write, a combination of her failed eyesight and memory loss Donna embarked on a long journey of recovery. In time she built a memory palace which took a considerable period to implement but its a tool that is mostly effective. Working with numbers still presents issues but she always finds a solution – calculators and spreadsheets or other humans are for that!  Writing has helped Donna regain much of her past along with an uncomfortable story she shares that saw a bulk of her memory return. 


SENSORY OVERLOAD

Our brains filter incoming information automatically – known as sensory gating – quite literally dismissing unnecessary stimuli, which prevents sensory overload. Donna is very much in touch with her senses at a very deep level and yet her brain cannot filter when placed in busy situations. Nothing gets blocked and she becomes overwhelmed to the point that the damaged nerves inside her brain begin to buzz like some kind of electrical storm which can be felt.  Eventually she will go deaf (sometimes blind) and in order that her voice  ‘works’ she has to hold the side of her face and press her left ear canal or place head-phones inside both ears to re-balance them. Her ability to filter incoming information is limited and, therefore that ability is just as difficult for outgoing  information. Often she speaks before she's thought what she's saying (we are all guilty of that at times). Donna's pre-frontal cortex took six hits and although she is much improved it will take a little longer for a full recovery – it’s the part of the brain associated with control among many other functions including personality (which has changed beyond recognition).



COMPLEX POST-TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER

Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is crippling. Donna has experienced more than one trauma, the assault triggered her symptoms, flashbacks of which were occurring during the day and in her sleep. Each time they happened she was magically transported back into the room where the assault happened. There was no escape from this and no end to the torment. Her situation was made worse because of the anger she was carrying, not towards the person who attacked but because of the situation she'd been left in. There was no blame in her mind or heart towards her attacker and still isn't  - psychosis can't carry blame. Many people around her can't get their heads around that! It is what it is. There was this vicious cycle: the more flashbacks that occurred, the more fearful she became. The more fear felt, the more the anger built. The more angry she was, the more flashbacks there were. Life became hell. Functioning even at a remedial level was difficult at best, for Donna was also struggling to rebuild her lost memory. Thankfully she has taken control of her CPTSD. It no longer owns her - she  owns it - and is no longer defined by it's rules, dragged down to its level and crippled by it. Having learnt to cope, to recognise the signs and to win through with an inner strength she had no idea existed by using coping tools received during  therapy - and it took two rounds of intense therapy for her to regain control - she can now crack on with life. Yes some days are hard and symptoms do still surface. Writing has given her the gift of freeing her mind to enable her continued recovery. Through it she's gained confidence and emerged from the shadows once more. 


SEIZURES

Donna's seizures were first though to be psychological. Over time it appears that her head injury has indeed resulted in epilepsy. Donna strives to reduce the pain in her head by looking after herself through a healthy lifestyle which also helps to reduce stress. Ensuring she eats well, stays physically fit, eats a healthy diet and gets plenty of sleep (despite her biggest risk being nocturnal tonic clonic seizures) has been key in keeping pain and stress low. In turn Donna finds this helps reduce the chances of having a seizure. As with anyone, some days are filled with more pain than is ideal. Twenty-twenty has become the year that Donna has started to speak more openly about her seizures, a subject that she has found many people shy away from. She has found that there is vast misunderstanding, fear and discrimination surrounding epilepsy and so feels that her voice might help spread a positive message to help others understand a little of what it is like to live with this complex hidden illness. Considering her seizures as an annoying  friend that she just can't dismiss, Donna does not fear them but embraces what they have taught her about herself.


FATIGUE and MULTI-TASKING

Fatigue is a daily battle but one that Donna attempts to place to the back of her mind. Its a feeling of extreme tiredness that goes beyond needing a sleep and one that isn't resolved by having sleep. Over time Donna has realised that battling it is her way forward because allowing it to beat her leaves her in a dark place. Her naturally "bubbly" personality is often suppressed by the end of the day but that generally coincides with having to deal with time in the kitchen. Multi-tasking remains a huge problematic area for Donna. Cooking is one example of how this impacts on her life: what might take someone with an undamaged brain twenty minutes to cook can take her up to three hours to manage. Having previously been a competent cook its one of the many frustrating consequences that hold her back in life.