During my rehabilitation period in Haywood Hospital between 25th September 2015 and my discharge on 4th November 2015 I accepted that the probability of my returning to anything like I used to be was most unlikely. I had the mindset that I was grateful I still had my daughter Olivia and my life partner Ruth with me - everything else was secondary to that. I never thought I could attain professional employment again, drive a car, go on holiday or take part in any of the multitude of normal undertakings in life. As I look back now, I find it astonishing that I could so comfortably accept that many of the positive elements in my life which I had worked hard in striving to achieve would never be attainable again.
I have since learned that setting achieveable goals is a positive approach to recovery, but in all honesty I didn't set any. I very deliberately didn't consider my recovery as being returning to how I used to be, but was merely satisfied with the inch-by-inch progress beyond my initial severely limited physical and mental state. I was content that life would never be the same, and at no point did I feel upset or become depressed about this. Perhaps it was my very limited expectations which helped me never get miserable, nevermind depressed.
Ruth has always lived by a maxim she calls PMA - Positive Mental Attitude, it's a fantastic approach to life and goes way beyond trauma. PMA applies to almost anything: not moaning about the rain or being stuck in a traffic jam. Is getting a little wet so bad, or being delayed by thirty minutes such a tragedy!
A neuro-psychologist advised me that about 40% of victims survive the severity of my RTC. The strangest aspect of my outcome, however, is the outrageous level of recovery I’ve made. I was advised that out of the survivor group, fewer than 1% make anything like the level of positive recovery I have. In a nutshell, this makes me feel very... lucky! It was expected I would die, the doctors asked my 85 year old mother if she’d be willing to donate my organs (she was). It was a week after my four week comatose period ended before I could speak as I had locked-in syndrome symptoms and I still couldn't breathe without assistance. A week further on I asked Ruth if she had come from Los Angeles and I had come from the moon (neither were true).
If there's one seemingly common behavour of trauma survivors that I have observed, it is that people want to hear of others who have similarly undergone trauma. Trauma survivors often compare themselves to others (I do it myself) and think along the lines of "it could have been worse, I could have suffered with X or Y or Z". I believe the psychology isn't related to triumphalism, it's that we all have fears of what could be the worst outcome and are grateful that we have not had to face them. The comparisons aren't always logical though as the thought of having massively reduced mental capacity would always have been a dread of mine, but then it happened to me, and I felt there could have been worse outcomes.
Thoughts on my RTC and Recovery
I doubt I ever will make a full recovery. Beyond my deficiencies (see link) already mentioned, my short-term memory has been measured as below the 2nd percentile. I was proud to have achieved a first class honours degree at university (see link) and completed a challenging six hour computer security (CISSP) exam (see link) at a breeze in less than three hours. To be assessed as having "learning disabilities" was hard to read, but entirely accurate.
So, has the RTC affected my life? Yes, there are things I can no longer do. However, I now have hugely increased patience, vastly deeper understanding of dealing with challenges, and superior organisational skills developed as coping strategies. I'll accept the trade of old skills and abilities (see link) for the new opportunities and genuine appreciation of life which I feel every single day. In short, I feel the plusses outweigh the minuses.