Three years ago I was making life changing decisions that resulted in my mental health improving. Twenty-eighteen had consciously been the year for me to make new, positive memories after learning how to retain them. It also become the year that, ultimately (and under bizarre circumstances) the bulk of my knowledge returned. I’d lost my memory as a result of brain trauma in twenty-fourteen due to being assaulted—those who follow my social media or who’ve read LOST SOUL will be fully aware of my journey of recovery and my entry into writing. Its that journey, and where it led me that will be my focus for this week’s blog post for October’s campaign for mental health awareness month.
I’d written chapter one of Broken long ago, just one friend knew it existed. Two years post my own head trauma, that friend—Tracey—was then fighting for her own life due to a brain tumour. She didn’t make it, her loss was devastating to many, including myself. During one of my many hospital visits with Tracey, she reminded me of this first chapter and where I’d find it. I’d forgotten it existed even. My struggle to write begun, my eldest daughters struggle to decipher what I’d put onto paper was enormous and she took me on as her student. Our lives had been a role reversal in every way, and relearning to read and write was a large part of that process too. Eventually Broken was finished, and ready to publish. That was, quite possibly one of the most difficult decisions of my recovery but I took the plunge. I’m grateful for that process as I’ve not looked back since!
It wasn’t long until Kary Oberbrunner popped onto my screen, and I took part in a free online course he was running. From there I entered a book competition and, ultimately forgot I’d done so. It was a friend who alerted me that my work had been selected—while I slept Broken had become a finalist and I had a sudden decision to make. The wonderful people of Twitter, Facebook and Instagram all got behind me for the final round of voting. I trended on Twitter as I took the biggest risk of my life—what I tweeted would eventually become a tweaked version of a book title: ‘Broken soul to soul on fire’ but before that it was shown on the screen at the conference!
Flying to the USA alone, negotiating connecting flights and walking into a three-day conference of 400 people to deliver a speech was the most daunting task of my life, a life in which I couldn’t remember what I was there to say about a book I couldn’t remember physically writing at the time! Because of this, I was given permission to read from a card. Situations—disability—should never hold you back and I was most certainly not allowing it to any longer. At this time I was still having seven seizures per week and unfortunately, my head was still in severe pain. Although there was still one more therapy session, I was now free of PTSD. Most other competitors started their speech by thanking God… but this Essex girl begun “Carl Ashbeck is a psychopath”. I was dreading this opening given the company I was obvious in, and the fact I went one from last, but it obviously paid off!
I left America holding an award for writing and publishing excellence but more importantly, through the amazing friendships made during this trip. Moreover, I left having verified who I’d become and that the changes incurred because of the adversity forced upon me was actually okay. Being among this wonderful crowd—in the presence of such a family atmosphere and of faith too—despite having never met any of these people before was humbling. Leaving richer because of the human quality en-mass and the knowledge I’d gained far outweighed the award for me, yes holding that trophy in my hand was perfectly sweet, of course it was, but in terms of my well-being and for my healing process that trip pushed my boundaries and goals to a new level.
My risk reignited my faith not only in humanity but in the kindness of strangers. It showed me how to trust once more and that my own intuition was still intact. While there, having shared my story, I was convinced it should be a book. I’d already written a journal that I’d shared with a couple of trusted writing friends and knew something needed to happen with it. LOST SOUL: Broken Soul to Soul on Fire was born and it took just one month to pour out my heart. The second edition is much more revealing. I must say its sequel, SOUL SEARCHING: To Hell and Back Twice is too, which will be published on my eighth anniversary of the attack.
Upon reflection, the four and a half years leading up to this trip were filled with turmoil. There were small victories, showing signs that recovery was possible but more often than not there was always one hurdle or another that slowed that process. My youngest always said it would take seven years for me to recover—one year for each blow on the head. She was about right, for I can live a fulfilled life now. There will always be activities that won’t be possible, I’ve still got limitations—but I’m here.
Push through your boundaries to live your best life.