Last weekend I was lucky enough to go to Henley Royal Regatta – dress code applies. So there I was, dressed to the nines, fascinator and all, old, cheery men roaring with laughter and garishly stripy blazers in every direction. But is it different going to Henley Royal Regatta when you have had a brain injury?
It became apparent from early on just what Henley is all about.
“As you can see, most people are stood with their backs facing the river, paying absolutely no attention to the rowing; the Regatta is more about getting bloody well drunk and mingling than watching the rowing!”
So what does this ‘mingling’ entail?
You’re sat around a table, surrounded by those of the older generation, and then comes the question “what do you do?” the question I always dread.
Every family get together throughout my childhood went the same. The adult answered the door and to each child in turn, “Ruthie, haven’t you grown”, “Samuel, haven’t you grown”, “Sarah, haven’t you grown”, “Elizabeth…lovely to see you”. I never did seem to grow. Except in hospital, where I somehow managed to grow an entire inch after lying on a hospital bed for 6 months. Now I don’t seem to grow in a different way.
So what do I do?
What normally happens at this point is one of my family members or friends will pipe up with “she did a degree in Psychology, at Exeter!” or “she is volunteering at the local Primary School, they LOVE having her” or when they are really clutching at straws “she is a great help around the house, she even does the cooking”.
Luckily, my steroid ‘moon face’ often leads people to believe that I am not a day older than 18, which, in turn means I am not expected to have achieved quite as much as someone that has already reached the quarter of a Century mark.
It always feels like I have to overcompensate for the fact that I don’t have a job. It’s not like I can tell someone that I have just met my whole life story. Having a brain injury doesn’t define me, but it is part of me. Determining how much to disclose on first meeting is still something I am getting used to.
Whilst coming to terms with the fact that I am not where I would like to be, I have to think, if it had not been for my Encephalitis I would not have been at Henley this weekend, I would not have been able to spend the weekend sipping on Pimms and watching the boats race past, I would not be lucky enough to mingle with the those from all walks of life and listen to their stories. There is always a positive.
So next time someone asks me “what do you do?” I think I will answer them truthfully. I will tell them that I am taking each day as it comes and learning about life through experiences. I will tell them that I am living life to the full.