Life. It can throw you some pretty interesting paths to follow along the way.
Everyone that has to live with a brain injury will look at the experience they have been through in a different way. I try to always look at the positives.
After 14 weeks in an induced coma and 6 months in Hospital of course my life had significantly changed. I had changed physically, mentally and emotionally.
In a physical sense I was different. I had lost a huge amount of weight, my hair was limp, I had a puffy steroid face and horrendous steroid acne (I had even managed to grow an inch from lying down for half a year!).
Mentally, coming to terms with what had happened was difficult. The hallucinations and delusions I had been having all seemed so real and it was hard to determine what was real and what was not.
Emotionally I only really had two choices. I could think about how terrible life was, what I had missed out on and how unlucky I was OR I could think about how amazing life is, what I had to look forward to and how lucky I was to be alive.
I chose the latter.
So what could I do to make sure I stayed positive about this experience?
The answer is: Give Back.
Since I have been out of hospital I have been able to use the experience in a positive way in many respects.
Raising money for the Encephalitis Society. So far I have managed to raise over £2000 for the Encephalitis Society by partaking in both the Great South Run in 2012 and the Great North Run in 2013.Running 10 miles for the Great South Run only 10 months after I had been discharged from hospital where I had been in bed for nearly 6 months was probably one of the greatest achievements of my life.
I also helped my sister to organise a bake sale in our village where over £800 was raised for the Society. By fundraising for the Society I have been able to achieve goals that I thought would never be possible.
Recently I have become a regional representative in the Devon area for the Encephalitis Society which means that I can use my own personal experiences to help others that are going through something similar. Raising awareness about the illness and helping others has become my new ambition in life.
Liz Oldershaw – Devon/Cornwall
“Two years on from contracting anti NMDA-r Encephalitis and spending 6 months in hospital I am very much looking forward to joining the great team of Regional Representatives at the Society. I look forward to working as a volunteer to share experiences and help others that have been through something similar and therefore being able to help others that need support in such a difficult time.”
This has become a key theme in my life more recently.
As well as repping for the Encephalitis Society I am also involved in many other voluntary schemes:
- Training to become a mentor for young carers in my Village with Bright Futures through Young Devon.
- Guiding people with depression via email contact through the BLURT Foundation.
- Help with the development of young people from different faiths in London through the My Voice Project (where I was fortunate enough to meet Boris Johnson!).
- Run a team of young people with Team v organising campaigns in an attempt to raise awareness about important topics such as sustainability, homelessness and mental health.
- Volunteering as a teaching assistant in the local Primary School with the Year 1 class.
- Work with others in the community to make the world a better place to live in.
I find that by using my time to help others I am able to feel like I am giving back…
Having Encephalitis has, of course, hugely impacted my life, but, through the help and support I have been given by my family and friends I have been able to come to terms with what has happened and think more positively about the future.
Even having a relapse in the Summer has made me more determined to achieve my goals.
I can wake up happy every morning knowing that each day I try to make a difference in the world by supporting others.
For me, it is integral to spend my time and efforts helping people to realise that there is always a positive to come out of any situation that life throws at you.
Bad things happen, it is what you make from them that makes you who you are.