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" I definitely recommend you check out this unique book"
“Inspirational book. Donna not only survived she fought and came back from devastating injury. She still fights and is one brave lady”
Thrill-seeking, adrenaline-surging adventure got my attention. Needing to feel alive and to make the most of every moment was the second most important thing to me. My children came first. Despite it all I strive for that adventurous side of me to emerge and, very occasionally she does. Unfortunately, much of what I used to do is unattainable but set out below is a brief outline of my life.
As a reserved, and somewhat shy child transformation occurred once placed in the saddle. Through riding and trust that I built with my incredibly adorable and very cheeky pony my confidence grew over time. My Godmother is to thank for my pony and my parents for their dedication. Defining my dare devil streak, I have my childhood hero to thank. Eddie Kidd jumped the River Blackwater, in Essex, from one side of a demolished viaduct to the other on his stunt motorbike and I watched in admiration. From that day the adrenaline-seeking junkie within me was born—a fire had started to burn within me. I too would learn to fly (and to fall) and to claim my place in our world. Fall I would, each time my naughty pony put his head down to eat the grass or a straw bale jump (that I would clear without him), I would fly over his ears to the point it became funny. Our equine pals owned phenomenal manners, either to ride or in the stable—rarely both. More often than not they had a spark when ridden and that was a whole lot of fun. At the age of ten there was a new pony and new challenges. I was bolted with most Sundays and it became the normal thing to do. It was thrilling to me but scary for my parents. Just as I became the stunt rider I’d always wanted to be, and together with my pony jumped a mini (I’m sure my parents had put superglue in my jodhpurs by then) they decided enough was enough. As I grew the beasts got larger and so did the jumps. Dressage was boring until my horse ‘Fred’ came along but he really was a bit cheeky and the comments often described him as disobedient. Dad raced and although I looked like a pea on an elephant, I rode his horse too. She was seventeen hands. Fear wasn’t really on my agenda.
Hugely competitive, I’m of the opinion that there’s no point taking part if not to win and this stems from those equine days, from the show jumping and especially the one-day-eventing but it didn’t stop there. I also took part in tetrathlon. For me this was cross country jumping on horse-back, cross country running, swimming and pistol shooting at targets—and I was a cracking shot.
At sixteen my horse and I fell. Getting rolled on wasn’t fun and I don’t remember it. That has nothing to do with the brain injury—I’ve never remembered the accident. Crushing my chest, I’d been rolled on and when Fred stood up his hoof crushed my breast plate, left shoulder and both collar bones. You can still visibly see the damage. Several ribs were fractured too. All of it took a long time to heal but within a few days I was back in the saddle and riding in the paddock (I could steer using just my legs).
Competitiveness runs through my veins as easily as blood and it’s stood me in good stead for a fight when it matters. It’s given me a spirit that’s difficult to squash: an all-important quality when facing adversity. Running has done its part in providing me with stamina and I’ve needed plenty of that too. Hitting eighty miles per week as a minimum kept me reasonably fit through my thirties. Having slowed down in my forties after making the decision not to run any more marathons, swimming had become my new passion. Never one to embrace anything with half-measures I was knocking out hundreds of lengths during each session.
Sailing at sea had been exhilarating as had canoeing in white water rapids but the most accomplished I’d ever felt was in Switzerland after climbing the Schilthorn, and I’ve done that twice. Previously, I’d convinced myself that once I’ve accomplished that climb a third time, I’ll truly know I’m fully recovered from the ordeal I’ve been facing these past years but I’m not sure that, as I approach fifty it will become possible because of my medication.
Never say never.
My adventurous, spontaneous, and fun-loving days ended abruptly when disaster struck during the Easter weekend of twenty-fourteen. Being assaulted resulted in life-changes that saw my health, plus my physical and mental ability, spiral out of control. Dealing with the consequences of my brain trauma has tested my mind, body, and soul to its limits. Without doubt, this ‘incident’ is the most traumatic experience I’ve encountered (and there’s been a few in my life).
Trauma is something that I’ve learnt to deal with, sometimes under harsh circumstances. With the attitude of what hasn’t killed me has made me stronger, I’m pretty certain there’s no woman that can beat the strength of my mind-set: match it yes.
Stressful experiences can result in psychological growth if you allow them to. This doesn’t mean any negative effects of trauma suddenly vanish. In point of fact it’s important we embrace the significance of them in order to learn. It enables us to establish bonds as we begin to understand how deeply those close to us care and we soon begin to learn just who doesn’t give a damn about us: it can be hurtfully surprising when you thought those people were among the ones you should be able to trust.
Trauma enabled me. Yes, it disabled me too but that’s never my focus these days for I refuse to be defined by what has happened to me. Without trauma I wouldn’t have started writing, I’d not be able to stand up and say ‘I am an author’, there wouldn’t be a crime thriller trilogy, The Warwick Cooper Thrillers, my debut novel of which, Broken wouldn’t have won an award, propelling me onto a global stage and I wouldn’t have faced my public speaking fears to address an audience in excess of four-hundred people after flying to America to do so. Instead, my career would have continued along a dangerous path for I was making life-choices that placed me at risk of harm. ‘…that until you’ve almost lost it all, you don’t truly appreciate what you have in life…’ are a few words I jotted down at the beginning of my writing career and they still ring true for me today as strongly now as when they were first written.
Since receiving my head injury there’s something that’s both incredible and daunting that’s been occurring within me. Having always addressed any given situation with the ability to analyse with both sides of my brain (female and male perspectives) there’s now so many more aspects of me that I can add to my experiences. Life for me will never be the same as it was before my injury, of that I’m very aware. Experiencing life has shifted in a way that defines and limits me that can be exhilarating in an all-consuming manner. Fighting against adrenaline-fuelled thrills has become a necessity in order for me to remain healthy, yet situations where adrenaline surges through my body seem to freely find their way into my life. People like me, it seems cannot just walk away. We are drawn to the fix of adrenaline it as if it’s an addiction, and I honestly believe with my whole heart that it is.
I'd not wish what happened to me on anyone. Being assaulted and unable to escape was horrific—the incident happened during what should have been a ‘normal’ day at work. Defining normal, however, within the job I was carrying out is somewhat difficult, for it wasn’t exactly a conventional one. Despite being highly trained to deal with the behaviour that unfolded before me, I was exposed to a situation that placed me in an unnecessarily vulnerable position. This led to me being a broken woman for a long time.
The fight in me isn’t over and I’m not sure it ever will be. Striving to live life to the full, to experience and feel at every level as I reach new aspirations is vitally important to me. Given a choice (because I survived) to either give up and allow my circumstances to rule me and for the world to crumble at my feet, or to pick myself up and crack on however long it took me—I eventually chose the latter.
My journey continues as my recovery path takes me to wherever it might lead. What lays around the corner intrigues me beyond belief and I cannot wait to discover it. Welcome to the depths of my mind as I faced challenges I’d never expected. Lost Soul: Broken Soul to Soul on Fire conveys a part of my life that I found difficult to accept for a considerably long time. Sharing this very personal side of me wasn’t an easy decision initially but at the time of the first edition in twenty-eighteen the time was right to begin speaking out and it was a healing experience. Now, at the time of the second edition I am ready to share much more of my story for many reasons. Time is a great healer, it does not make the trauma any less but it does provide distractions to lessen the impact—I have a much better memory now and a better insight on how the assault has affected myself and also my family. Mindful that while my children were young some of the content of this book would have had greater impact on them, I held back before. Now they are older, and we’ve spoken about the consequences of survival and guilt I am more comfortable making them public. They’ll probably never read Lost Soul, they lived through it so don’t need to and I know how difficult other members of my family found it first time round. This will be harder still. It doesn’t mean others they know won’t read it and ask them questions—I needed to be careful.
Sharing my story, through Lost Soul or via my social media pages gives help to others, so by digging deeper I hope that others facing similar challenges to myself—or their families—will be able to gain more clarity. Finding solace and understanding through reading other people’s stories helped me come to terms with the changes in me, which in turn was one of the major contributing factors in my decision to share my own story. Finding the words to convey how you feel, or what is occurring isn’t always possible at the height of a traumatic experience. If Lost Soul can help overcome that in some small way, then putting my story out there has been worthwhile.
"Raw, down to the bone narration of a seriously brain-injured person. It
must have been extremely difficult and a highly emotional task for Siggers to
re-examine the circumstances of the injury which left her disabled. To revisit
the healing process that she endured and her determination to forge a career in
writing is a feat that I respect and esteem greatly."
Trapped in a room with no escape route and being under attack aren’t ideal circumstances to find yourself in. However, it was something I was trained to deal with. Unfortunately, due to the circumstances of the work being carried out and the rules of data protection there are strict restrictions on what can and cannot be shared with you.
Working within the field of mental health was hugely rewarding but demanding. No two days were the same, nor were they predictable. Never should anyone turn up for work and be placed in a position of harm. Staff attacks were commonplace, but thankfully mostly were small injuries. Within a volatile environment, where talking didn’t always diffuse heightened situations and restraints, often on the floor, were becoming too frequent I was seriously thinking of moving on. There had been several instances to make me feel that safety wasn’t a priority and in hindsight, the human bite I received and their reaction to it should have been my wakeup call but that had occurred just three weeks into my employment.
Brain trauma is a different story.
Initially I only remembered being punched once and it wasn’t until my first therapy sessions that the full extent of the assault became apparent. Sharing the [abridged] event will enable you to understand why my brain became so damaged, why it took so long to recover and indeed why I still live with complications. Its also important that you understand that I was dealing with a patient with psychosis and that I had a duty of care towards that person—under no terms was I permitted to respond unprofessionally, violently or without justification. Even though I was under attack I was most definitely not allowed to fight back.
The first punch caught me above the left eye and although it knocked me backwards and dislodged my glasses, it wasn’t anything I couldn’t have dealt with. Raising the alarm wasn’t as easy as perhaps it should have been. Wearing personal mobile alarms were part of our personal protective equipment (PPE) but I wasn’t wearing one. That wasn’t neglect on my part because none of them were working. I raised the alarm by pressing the fixed wall mounted one inside the room. This was faulty too, and although it sounded it sent panic through the building as my colleagues had no idea who was in trouble.
Leaving me to deal with an emergency alone, I faced a situation with scary consequences and without any choices. Pressing the wall alarm had placed me too close to the wall behind me and the second fist was heading in my direction. Deflecting this and professionally restraining it successfully with my right hand was easy enough but the momentum tipped me off balance and, already disorientated from the first blow to the head, felt myself fall back. The back of my head and the wall behind me met with force as the original fist made its way towards my head. Only a few seconds had passed so far and there was a long way to go yet.
Convinced that I wasn’t leaving the room alive, I gave up momentarily. When you think you might die your mind can do the strangest of things in order to protect you—in that moment I felt a weird sensation and, as I looked down witnessed the rest of the assault happening. I’d disassociated (had an outer body experience) during which I watched five punches being delivered to the left side of my face. How I remained conscious I’ll never know. The attack on the left side of my face was relentless as the unrestrained fist pounded my face. As suddenly as there had been no hope there was fight in my spirit, that day wouldn’t be the one I’d be giving up. The wall behind me had held me upright and now gave me the leverage required to take control of the situation. Feeling unstable on my feet, trapped and vulnerable I gathered what little strength was left and pushed myself towards my attacker.
Still restraining his left wrist and now without sight myself, I managed to take hold of his right and walk him backwards which knocked him off balance. Now having to concentrate on his own momentum his mind was focused on staying upright and moving forwards when I had every intention of him going back and towards what he would be sitting on. This confused him enough to give up long enough.
When, finally my colleagues showed up both of us were sitting side-by-side. The patient’s wrists were still restrained, and he was still in a heightened state. Blood was tricking down my face and shock was beginning to take hold of me. My glasses were somewhere on the floor, but I know there would have been a fixed look in his eyes from my experience, saliva was escaping from his mouth and had been throughout the attack. Adrenaline had pumped so viciously through his veins they were protruding in his neck and arms. His robotic apologies were so loud they could be heard over the sound of the panic alarm echoing around the building.
As my recovery story unfolds and I share my journey—the good and the ugly parts—you’ll discover the challenges this incident has left me facing, how I discovered the severity of the attack, and how a heart wrenching moment unlocked part of my memory that had been blocked by it. Reflecting always makes me realise how lucky I’ve been to have survived, even though it took a considerable time to realise just how lucky I am to still be here for life was happening around me and leaving a massive void where I used to fit.
I wasn’t me anymore.
Just a lost soul.
my first poem was written during therapy as a way of expressing how I felt
about the attack. Although I don’t consider myself a natural poet, I was
encouraged by my second therapist to try and express my emotions through verse.
Initially it was the most frustrating process imaginable but over time and with
the help of a friend I’ve found that this form of self-expression does indeed
help. Furthermore, it helps me retrieve and recall memory in ways I didn’t
think would be possible which has proven invaluable, too. Institutionalised,
the second poem, is my perception on how my attacker might have been feeling at
the time of the assault. This poem has been written more recently as a way of
helping others—especially family—understand why this event happened and my
reaction to it. Accepting my changes have been difficult enough for those close
to me but the fact that I defend my attacker when my life has been so
drastically affected because of his actions is often too much for them to deal
Bright lights beckoned me, coaxed me, enticed me
As I swirled and swayed towards the valley of death.
Each fist that landed on me, a punch rendering distance
From a life that required one last breath.
His screams suddenly keep me focused on life,
Not death. Then a strange sensation as I look above.
And see my soul looking down upon me
Feel my body looking up at my soul, confusion. Then love.
As spirit and body re-join, a wonderous moment,
A strength, a knowing, a power. I will not die today.
Fear vanishing before me as I take control. Pain surges.
I focused, I reclaimed, but I need to go.
This damned man, with the devil within, couldn’t beat me
Not this day. But he’s taken his toll - the devil has spoken.
He’ll never win, I’ll not allow that. I’ll give him his due
He gave it his best –
but I won’t be broken.
I’d dissociated (had an outer body experience). In my case this occurred in order to protect me from the fear of death. It disconnected me from my surroundings in order to stop the effect of trauma and to lower the fear and anxiety of the situation. There was a high level of anxiety at the onset of the attack because of the risk I’d been placed in – I cannot give the details. There was no way of escape and the knowledge that help wouldn’t come in time, I truly was convinced that I would die in that room. It took me a long time to come to terms with how that left me feeling emotionally as well as physically. My mind had decided – albeit for a short while – that I wouldn’t survive the ordeal. Situations like this can have a detrimental effect on a person’s mental well-being: it certainly had one on mine.
More often those that attack us are no strangers and, unfortunately, this person has a history of attacking women, yet I had a good rapport with him. Before I continue with how the events of this day affected me, I believe it’s important to share that they’d have had a detrimental effect on that person too. I’m often asked if my attacker is behind bars and the simple answer is no. They are in a position where they will never be allowed in public alone, and that is good enough for me. Often society is to blame for much and when you know the history of a person you want what’s best for them. My second poem, hopefully conveys a little understanding of their perspective.
Looking at her for help, and finding the devil staring back
With snakes protruding from her eyes, ready to attack.
The voices in my head rising all at once, a mighty force
My only choice, defence. Dignity to enforce.
Throwing punches, just like my hero
Mohamed Ali, knocking the devil into tomorrow.
Rendering her useless, a victory for me
She wouldn’t fall down, that much I could see.
Alarms ringing because of my stress
Snapping me out of my transgressions.
Nobody comes to help her, but I know I’ve done wrong
Its why I’m in this place, its where I belong.
I mustn’t hit women, but I wasn’t being me
Something takes over, inside you see.
Again I’m restrained, nothing more she can do
My institutional life. The cycle. Déjà
Without a fully functioning memory I didn’t recall disassociating until my first re-living experience during therapy. This was one of my many break-through moments. I’d been referred due to severe flashbacks that were occurring several times per day and also during my sleep.
Having always carried on with life regardless of pain there was no justification in my mind why I couldn’t have done that this time. I’d got back on a horse after having one roll over me and stand up on my chest cavity within a couple of days and I had done that at the tender age of sixteen. I’d broken many ribs, my breast plate, both collar bones and damaged my shoulder. Comparing a slight bump on the head to that was nothing, right?
I’d never been so wrong.