Introducing Chrissy’s Headway Essex story
In 2007 I went for a hearing test because I was noticing that I could only respond to sounds from the back but not the front. My friends, who I would go to karaoke with, also found it difficult to communicate with me at times because I simply couldn’t hear them.
Loss of hearing as a sign
When I went to the doctors, they suggested I have a hearing test, which I did. It was at this hearing test (where a more in depth examination took place) that it was found I had two ‘blisters’ within my brain. An MRI followed, and I was told I have brain aneurysms and that they could cause bleeding at any time. The news came completely out of the blue; I was shocked. Not only this, but I had to go home and tell my son and daughter.
I was referred to Queen’s hospital in London where I visited many times for various scans to monitor the stability of both aneurysms. All the while, I also had a complex issue with my gall bladder, which had to be removed. It was an incredibly tough time that brought with it an awful lot of anxiety and stress.
Dealing with anxiety and uncertainty
I felt like I was walking around with a ticking time bomb in my head. “Would it be the last time I would see my grandchildren?” “Is this the final time I’ll get to see my friends?” The anxiety and thoughts were relentless.
I lived like this, with annual visits to Queen’s for six years. It was in 2013 that they decided my aneurysms were stable enough to stop ongoing monitoring. This was a really difficult time; I suddenly felt alone. I was still living in constant fear of ‘what if’.
All I knew was that I would have to get to hospital as soon as possible if I had a severe headache and nausea. But, trying to work out what somebody means by ‘severe’ when you’re under so much stress is not easy; especially since I am prone to headaches and have sinus issues. I was a nervous wreck.
Impact on mental health
My mental health took a turn for the worse as the anxiety never went away. I started to hear voices and had delusions, which to me, felt so real and incredibly scary. My family were terribly frightened for me and in 2017 I voluntarily agreed to go into the King’s Wood Centre in Colchester for adults with acute mental health problems.
I couldn’t understand why I was there, but I knew I wasn’t well. It was a very raw and tough time for me. But, it was here that I met a psychiatric nurse, who when having reviewed my history, pushed for further brain scans.
I had a series of scans in July 2017, where it was revealed that one of my aneurysms had grown to 9cm in size, which explained why I was having such intrusive thoughts. And on 29 August, I had extensive brain surgery to remove the aneurysm that had grown.
Realities of recovery
Recovering from the operation was very hard. Mentally it was tough and isolating, even though I had my children and grandchildren supporting me.
Where all the nerve pathways started to reconnect, the pain was intense. I would wake up in agony. This was an ongoing symptom for many months.
I had a really scary episode in April this year, when my eyes started to spasm uncontrollably. My neighbour had to call an ambulance for me and I was taken to hospital where I had a CT scan and a lumbar puncture to check for any bleeding. Thankfully, my remaining aneurysm, which is inoperable, was not the cause. The eye spasms were being caused by a blepharospasm; something I’ve been left with as a result of my life-saving operation back in August last year.
Discovering Headway Essex
I found out about Headway Essex a while ago through a counsellor I was seeing for my anxiety. I was given booklets on the services available and told how fantastic the support is. But at the time, I was in a really fragile state of mind. I wasn’t ready to reach out.
It was only after my operation and recent scare that I felt ready. Making contact with Headway Essex is the best thing I’ve done. They’ve provided me with some light in what has been a very dark place. I wish I had made contact sooner.
I am now, mentally, feeling stronger; even though my future with my remaining aneurysm remains uncertain. I am tackling my anxiety with the help of Headway Essex. I am receiving counselling through the charity’s counsellor specialising in brain injury, Steve Shears MSc, and I also attended my first Headway Essex Support group in September.
At the support group, I didn’t feel alone. I was surrounded by wonderful people, who are all braving brain injury together.
Mandy, one of Headway Essex’s Community Support workers, is simply amazing. She has an ability to listen and truly understand what having a brain injury means on an individual level. She’s helped me apply for a Headway Card, which I can present to people when I am out to alert them to the fact that I have a brain injury.
At the moment, I am feeling good. Sharing my story is a big step forward for me. I hope that if somebody with a brain injury reads this that they’ll take Headway Essex up on their offer of support.
Help us be there for more people like Chrissy!
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