Who Are You Now?

Garry Methven

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In the dream someone said, "You either live in a wheelchair or you have to try to stand up now. If you do it when you're awake there's no chance, you won't be able to move. You're going to have to try to stand up"

1 My maths was tops

Before the accident I was a manager at Fortnum & Mason, and then in Selfridges. And I was a drinker. I think a lot of fishmongers drink. I learned to be a fishmonger when I was about fourteen. I was an apprentice. And I was taught properly. They were horrible jobs at the beginning - like cutting up a live eel. You stroke it and it doesn't move, it lays there. Slowly but surely, the manager would say, “Come try this or that." It really impressed me that I could become a manager in those two stores. It's not just luck of the draw. You have to be good at your job. My maths was tops. Back in those days you didn't have a till that told you how much things cost. I had to talk to customers and whatever fish they'd got I used to add it up in my head and then go and serve another customer. If I had to serve five customers and they each had four different fish, I'd add them all up in my head. I was doing this for twenty years.

On the day I had the accident I was quite busy. I was a hard worker. You have to be or you'd get the sack. I was drinking in the afternoon. And I probably brought some alcohol with me in the morning. I think I went to the pub in the afternoon. I don't really remember. I think I had about three or four pints then I went back to work. We finished work at nine in the evening then we went round to the pub again. I had a couple more pints in there. I really don't know whether I was drunk. I'd rung my ex-wife and told her I was going to stay at her house but she said I couldn't because we had this neighbour who suffers from schizophrenia and he hadn't taken his tablets and was acting crazy. I could have got a bus to her flat easily if I was going there. Instead I had to get three tubes to get back to Tottenham. And I thought, 'I'm going to miss the last tube.' I'd left the pub around eleven-thirty.

I'm not sure. This is what I think. I don't know if it's a fact. Maybe somebody hit me or pushed me and the CCTV didn't cover him. But I think I was running down the escalator and I caught my leg. The escalator is steep and it's long and I hit the ground. The only thing I remember - maybe this was a dream, I don't know - was a guy coming up to me and saying, "You've got to claim. You've got to claim."

2 You can relax now

I was in a coma for a week and then I started to come through. I had an operation because I had a blood clot in my head. They cut from my forehead across my skull and took my brain out and tossed it away. “You don't need that mate." And they put a pea there. “That's going to help you more than your brain." Actually, though, they put a plate in. I've got to keep it otherwise my head will sink in. I used to get really, really bad headaches. It wasn't a headache, it was like throbbing but really painful. But it's all done now. I don't have any pain like that anymore.

When I was in the hospital and in a coma, the dreams I was having - they were all about God. Not just me thinking, 'Oh, I believe in God.' I believed in God before. The dreams I was having, they were so vivid. I was in a room. It's crazy to say this: I was in a room and I was surrounded by people who had boxes on their heads. And right at the end of the room there was a woman who was completely and utterly beautiful. I looked at her and thought, 'Oh my days, you are beautiful.' But she didn't have a face. She had long hair, but her face was like an egg. It didn't have anything on it. There was a guy sitting there and he had a massive book. And he was covered in soot. He'd been there for ages. He was writing things down and he was looking at me and he said, “What do you think you need? Do you need to be okay with your life, or that's it, that's the end of it? ΄Cause if you're not going to survive you'll be stuck in this room for a long time, and eventually you'll be sent somewhere really nice. Or not. But it'll be a long time that you'll be in here." That's all he ended up saying to me. And I thought, 'Oh mate. I don't want to be here forever. I want to go back to the way I used to be.'

I've been told you can remember things, but I don't think so. I was in a coma but I was probably also hungover as well, you know. In the dream they put me in a big box made of glass - top, side and bottom. I was on the floor and I couldn't move. I couldn't stand up. I couldn't do anything. I don't know whether someone around me was talking about how I might not be able to walk but in the dream someone said, “You either live in a wheelchair or you have to try to stand up now. If you do it when you're awake there's no chance, you won't be able to move. You're going to have to try to stand up." I was standing up but I was leaning on the glass. And they said, “You can't lean on the glass. You have to stand up in the middle." So I stood up in the middle and I was falling. And they said, “You've got to be able to stand there. You can't be just falling all over everywhere." It was like being a child. And the feeling that I had, standing up - it was amazing. I was like 'oh God, I'm so fortunate that I can stand up'. And it really boosted me.

When I was out of there I got put onto a train. It was really, really wide. And somebody said to me, “You're going to be in here for a while." It was slow this train. When I first got on there I thought it wasn't that bad. It wasn't an overground and it wasn't an underground. It just had big walls outside so you couldn't see anything. It was crazy. We were on there for ages and ages. And I thought, 'I've got to try to get off of this,' and I was told that I had to stay on until I got to the point where I could get off. I felt like I was on that train for about three weeks. That dream was forever. I remember when I got off of the train they said, “You can relax now. You're fine. You can stay in here however long you want to then you can leave whenever you want to."

It's not just me thinking maybe it was a little bit about God. I knew who was talking to me. The dreams were so powerful. It wasn't like any other dream I've ever had. I thought, 'It's not just a dream.' It was amazing.

3 I couldn't say the words

They weren't bullies at rehab but they were strict. You had to do what you were told. You couldn't be in there looking at the ceiling. They were like a firm teacher: “Right. What you've got to do is this and that. You've got to be there bang on time." It was like being in prison. I know that it did help but at the time I felt it didn't. I thought it was useless. I think I was in there too early. It was about six months after my accident and I lived there for three months.

I could walk, which is fortunate because a lot of people with a brain injury can't walk, they're in a wheelchair, or they have to walk with a stick. Though when I first had the injury the hospital said to my mum and dad, “it's fifty-fifty that he'll survive." They said, “He'll be in a wheelchair. He won't be able to talk. He'll forget about his past." My parents told the doctor I was an alcoholic, and the doctor said, “That won't bother him, because when he comes round and starts feeling a bit better he won't think about his past. It'll be like a brand new life." But that wasn't true.

Just as I was leaving rehab, one of the top doctors said to me, “You've got to try to do something. If you're just stuck indoors you'll spiral." I thought, 'God, I can't just be sitting indoors, I'll become a cabbage. I don't want that.' I asked myself, 'What can I do?' I thought, 'I've got to do something. I can't be depressed and become one of those people who never goes out and is just scared and has to stay indoors.' I was trying to improve myself.

That's probably why I went to my brother's fish shop. I don't see him that often but I'm quite close with him. He's my stepbrother but I call him my brother. I said to him, “I'm stuck indoors all the time. I need to try to do something work-wise." I tried it for 3 weeks. In the beginning I was only supposed to go there for half a day, but that's fishmongers for you. If it's busy they'll be pushing you. He said, “You can stay the whole day, you can have a lunch break." That was the trouble. He was thinking to himself that before I had the accident I was a good worker. He didn't realize that a brain injury is completely different to other injuries, like a back injury or leg injury. It makes you feel different. You think differently. It makes you behave differently. I was working all day and it was really, really exhausting. It was too much.

It was so annoying. I'd been a fishmonger for twenty-odd years, but when a customer came in and asked what something was, I wouldn't be able to say it. Whatever it was - a carp, a mackerel, this that or the other - the word wouldn't come out. If the customer asked me to weigh it, I couldn't say how much it weighed. If a customer would ask me how much he owed, even though it was showing on the till, I couldn't say how much it was. I knew how much it would be if I was taking money out of my pocket to pay somebody, but I couldn't say the words. Plus I was having fits day after day. I don't know why. Maybe it was stress. Maybe because I didn't sleep.

Fits are terrible. The fits I have are violent. I'm on the floor. I can't move my body. I can't stand up. I can't talk. I can't do anything, but I can hear. It's horrible. Some people go on the floor and start shaking, then they get up. Or they'll be sitting on the chair. With me, I properly hit the ground. Maybe that's just me thinking that mine is worse than everyone else's. I've never had a fit when I'm out. God bless that I haven't. There's a lot of people who would laugh. That would really upset me.

I'm always trying to figure out what did I do to have those fits. Is there a reason? Have I done something wrong? I have tablets I have to take. They must be taken on the dot. When I have a fit, it'll make me hit the bottom for three or four weeks. I feel so, so low. Depressed. It isn't about me feeling depressed. It's about my mind. It feels terrible. I'm scared. Really, really frightened to talk to anybody. I couldn't be having this conversation. Also I have ... I can't remember what it's called. I'll just sit there. Somebody will talk to me and I won't understand what they're saying.

Neuropsychology Dept.
Chalfont Centre for Epilepsy

Background Information

Garry Methven was working as a manager in the fish department of a London department store when he sustained a head injury in June 2007 following a fall down an escalator at a tube station. He required neurosurgical intervention and he remained in hospital for three months. He was left with dysphasic [1] difficulties, a visual field defect and reduced visual acuity. He also developed seizures that when seen were occurring several times a month.

4 Aphasia

It's annoying suffering from aphasia. Having a conversation face-to-face is okay but if I'm on the phone talking to somebody and I can't remember a word, it's annoying. Sometimes I can finally remember it. Other times it disappears. When somebody rings me that I don't know, that's stressful. If it's someone ringing with something to do with benefits, that's stressful. That's the way it is with me right now. Everybody in my family says I've got to tell people Ihave aphasia.

Yesterday I was at Specsavers and we were having a conversation and the optician asked me, “What's aphasia? I've got this written down on your chart." And I thought, '… aphasia. I know what that is.' I thought it must be something to do with the opticians. I said, “Is it that oblong part of my eye that's supposed to be round?" But that's astigmatism. So I'm thinking, 'Aphasia, aphasia. What is aphasia?' I just couldn't remember. And I thought, 'Let me get my wallet out.' Because I've got a card in there that the hospital gave me because my aphasia back then was terrible. The card says 'blah, blah, blah, blah, blah … aphasia.' And I thought, 'Aphasia! That's the problem I've got.' I was on the brain injury chat room a while ago. That chat room is great, you can talk quickly or slowly it's fine. I was talking to a guy about aphasia and he said he had it for years and then he didn't have a problem with it anymore.

When you're around people you're used to it makes your aphasia better. Some days people don't know I suffer with it but some days I'm terrible with it. For example, like a shoe, or my boots. If you ask me, what's this? I wouldn't be able to say 'boot,' I'd be able to say 'sock'. That's the way it goes. Some nights when I'm getting the train home, I won't say 'train', I'll say 'bus'. The word doesn't come out. I know I've made a mistake and I'll think to myself, 'what is it? Is it a car? Is it walk, or…?' I just can't say 'train' and it really will spin in my mind. The thoughts are there, I know exactly what I'm going to do, I know that I'm not going to be able to get on a bus home, I know that it's a ______ and I just can't say it.

When I'm trying to come here, say if I go to, erm… see this is an example… I go from Seven Sisters… and I've just thought 'Archway' but I know it's not Archway! But it sounds similar to what I'm trying to say… gosh, what trains… see this is annoying! It is and it's erm… Islington! It's Islington but it's Highbury and Islington. If, for example, if I'm going on the underground and I ask somebody who works there: “I want to get to such-and-such a place," like to my mum's for example, and my mum lives in… East Finchley, and if the guy on the underground is asking me what stations do you go to get there, I know them, I know that I've got to go to… because I'll ask him, for example, can I get on to… the… this I can't say. And I know exactly what it is! I go on the Victoria Line and then I have to get on to the… this doesn't sink in… I know exactly what it is… If I try to get to…

See, I know what it is. I'm thinking 'South, East, West…' but it's not, it's North… North, North… Northern Line! I get on the Northern Line and I go… I'm trying to say where I've got to go to and I know the station that I go to and I know my daughter lives there… in erm… oh gosh, I know where it is… I know it's a place where you can go to erm… where you can go to Manchester from. The trains that go to Manchester and Scotland…

I know where it is… and I know it's an American place as well. It's East… no it's not East… It's where my daughter lives… East… no. See this is an annoying thing. When you're having a conversation and you know what to say but you can't say it. Sometimes, some days I'm terrible with it. I'm thinking of going back to erm… I was going to say 'counselling' but it's not counselling, it's Connect [2]. See these certain words, they sound the same…

When I was in the hospital and my sisters came to see me I couldn't say a word. All I could do was swear. I don't know why that is. I don't swear now. I hate swearing. I know that's what nurses say: people that can't speak, the only thing they can do is swear. When I'm around important people like nurses I never swear. I'd never swear around my mother but I was in there and I was swearing. At certain times I could say something like 'fag'. I'd smoked for years and years.

When I got home from hospital I could speak, but not the way I can speak now. Where I used to work, they rung my house. They didn't know how serious the accident was and they were asking whether I could go back to work. I said “I – I – I…" I said “a week! A week!" I couldn't say what the problem was. I think with aphasia, when you're nervous and especially when you're on the phone, it really doesn't come out. When I've had a fit I can't speak properly for a week or a week and a half. And just before I'm going to have a fit – it really starts to get mixed up. Euston!

Neuropsychology Dept.

Chalfont Centre for Epilepsy



He spoke using complete, generally syntactically correct sentences although he struggled to retrieve words. On a naming test involving common objects he had significant difficulties. He could follow one and two stage commands but his understanding broke down with longer and more complex requests. He was slow to register information but with repetition his comprehension improved.

He can read simple words to a mental age equivalent of seven years although his performance was patchy and he failed on some high frequency words.

5 Like the Brady Bunch

I'm always thinking, 'Why? Why did I start drinking?' And I think there's a couple of reasons. I think it's probably because when I was a child my mum left. I remember it vividly. My mum was talking to my brother and me. She said, “I'm going to the laundry with Debbie. I'll be out for a long time." She never came back. She took my sister who was three or four with her. I was only five. It really threw me. My brother was about seven. There was another brother but he died when he was eighteen months old.

My dad was living with us, but he was never there. He was always in the pub. What my mum and my dad did was they swapped neighbours. My mum went off with the dad, and my dad went off with mum next door. We were like the Brady bunch. There was nine of us. My mum left me and my brother with my stepmum, but my stepmum had six kids. She couldn't look after all of us. So me and my brother moved back next door and my auntie looked after us. She moved out, then another auntie moved in with us. I mean, it wasn't good for a child's mind. Things like that, they're upsetting.

I didn't see my mum for a year. It felt like an aeon. When you're a child a year goes so slowly. Her boyfriend rung up and said she wanted to see me and my brother. They took me one weekend then my brother the next weekend. I was only six, but it was like, 'I love it. I love it around here.' I got used to going around there.

My older brother died when he was nineteen. He fell out the window of a high-rise building. That really hit me. I was seventeen back then. I hadn't started drinking. I met up with some friends of mine when I was about eighteen or nineteen. I was like in a bubble. I never got used to being out with other friends. I'd moved from Tottenham to Hampstead. They weren't actually real friends. But one of them said, “What do you do – just stay indoors all the time?" I said, “I do. I'm trying to save up to get a car." He said, “Come out with us. We're going out to a nightclub. We've got some drugs. You can try some." I thought I'd give that a go.

I was sixteen
This is when I was sixteen

Once I tried it I was addicted. It was speed. I was flying around. When we couldn't get any more speed we went into taking ecstasy. I was completely out of it. Out of my mind. Then I stopped and thought, 'I can't be dealing with that anymore.' So I started drinking. When I first started drinking I thought, 'I'm not an alcoholic.' I was drinking after work, going into the pub to have a couple of beers, and then going home. Slowly but surely it started getting worse. Some days I'd drink seven or eight pints a day. Then I'd go onto vodka, or any other kind of alcohol. I'd keep it in my pocket.

Even when I was an alcoholic I was an okay kind of person. I'm not saying that to boost myself. I wasn't a fighter. I wasn't an angry person. I was a happy drinker. I had a girlfriend. She had a child who was about six months old. I was kind of like a dad. I didn't love the child at the beginning but slowly I fell in love with her. When we split up she said I couldn't see her daughter any more because I wasn't her dad. I think that made me drink too. I don't have a girlfriend now. It's probably because. . . I don't know really. I think it's because I'm really nervous. I really am nervous to meet people that I've never met. If I was to meet up with a girl that wanted to go out on a date I'd be a completely different person. I'd sit there and I wouldn't say a word.

6 Something's going wrong

I met my ex-wife in a nightclub when I was out raving. We were together for seven years. We didn't get on at all. I had other relationships outside the marriage. I stayed with her because of what happened to me when I was a child – because my parents split up and I hated the feeling of that. I thought, 'I have to stay. My daughter needs a mummy and daddy. I have to look after her until she's at least seventeen.' But we were arguing and I didn't want to deal with that. It upsets kids

We split up and I was drinking heavily. I wasn't working at all. Alcohol is horrible. I left my wife my flat. It was a council flat. I didn't want to move them out because my daughter lived there. I felt so upset because we'd split up. Not because of her but because of my daughter. I love my daughter. She's the most important person in my life. She's nearly eighteen now, so she doesn't want to see me that much! But that's normal.

After my wife and I split I moved into my own flat. My sister came up one day. She had keys to let herself in. I was banged out on the floor. She knew I was an alcoholic. She said, “You can't live here. You've got to give up the flat and come back and live with mum." So I did. And I had a girlfriend who said the only way we could stay together is if I didn't drink. I stopped drinking for about eight months. I wasn't drinking because the relationship was quite good. And the way I was feeling! My day was easy. I used to ride my pushbike to work. I'd feel on top of the world and work all day. After work, I'd go home and do whatever I wanted to do. But after a while I started to think, 'Something's going wrong with this relationship.' My mind was working triple time and I thought she wasn't the same person she was when we first got together. So we had a conversation and I said, “Something's wrong – there's no point in us being together." And I went drinking. And as soon as I started drinking she said, “Well, that's it." We are friends now though. She's a lovely person. She came to the hospital when I first had the accident. She came to rehab. We talk to each other on Facebook. I do keep in touch with her.

After I started drinking again I fell out with my mum. I'd met another girl and I took her home to my mum's house and took her into my bedroom and we were playing music and drinking alcohol and my stepdad came and said I was well out of order and so I left the next morning. They didn't ask me to leave but I did. It was really wrong what I'd done.

I went from my real mum's to my stepmum's. I've never gotten on with her, even when I was a child. I went to stay at her house because I'd been kicked out of everywhere else. I paid them rent. My dad was there but he was a drinker. He got sacked from his job ΄cause he was drinking. He was a painter and decorator. On the weekend he'd get up in the morning and start drinking. He'd drink ΄til about one in the afternoon, go to bed, then get up at six in the evening and bang, start drinking again. I was living with them when I had my accident, and after I got out of the hospital I went back there.

When I came home I was sober but my brain was mixed up. A lot of things bothered me. One day after the accident my stepmum and I had an argument and she said, “You're going to have to move out. I don't want you living here any more." So I left and started sleeping on the bus. When you've got a Freedom Pass it's not hard work, because you can ride the bus and the tube for free. During the day I'd be on the tube. I'd sit there nodding off. Everybody nods off on the tube anyway. At about one in the morning you go onto a bus and sleep. It was winter as well, so it was cold. I slept on the bus but I never slept on the street.

My sister got in touch with my stepmum to have a word with me. I had my mobile switched off. I didn't want anybody to ring me. Plus it was going to run out. I couldn't charge it because I wasn't indoors. My sister caught up with me and said I could stay at her house for a couple of days. I slept on the sofa. I found out about a YMCA just by Old Street. I was in there for about three weeks. They charged me £30 a night. It didn't matter how much I spent there – it was such a relief! The room was tiny, but it didn't matter. I just felt so relaxed. I went for nine months without having a fit after that.

7 It's not a mind game

I've been coming to the centre for three and a half years. I started about two years after my accident. I'd gone to speech and language therapy for about six weeks – which is useless when you have a problem like I had. One of the ladies working there said I could go to Headway if I could get in, or I could go to an alcohol and drug addiction centre. I thought, 'Oh my days. I can't be dealing with people like that or I'll be right back drinking.' She sent a letter, and said it wouldn't happen overnight.

I did think Headway was going to be exactly the same as rehab. When I first started there I was nervous. I didn't want to talk with anybody. I didn't really like it there because I was on my own in the corner. But then people would just come over to have a conversation. Members. People who worked there. They'd come over and say, “Do you want to come and play a game of pool? Do you want to go on the computer?" I was amazed. I thought, 'This place is completely different.' When I'd been there for about six months somebody asked me what I thought about it. And I said, “It's like being in the pub but without alcohol! It's so nice in here." I love that place. I really love it. That's the thing that worries me – the way the government is going. I'm thinking I'll be told to leave. That's the government. That's not a mind game. That's the actual truth of the matter.

8 I don't open letters any more

I live in Seven Sisters at the moment, in South Tottenham. I don't like Tottenham. It's a horrible area. A lowlife area. Full of smackheads. Lots of alcoholics sitting outside. You can't really go out in the evening. I've got an alarm indoors in my flat. If I'm going to have a fit I pull the alarm and someone comes around. They've got keys. That's good. There's a lady who works for the council who's the scheme manager. At the beginning she asked me if I wanted them to do everything for me – pay my rent, all that, and I said I wanted to try. If I fail, I'll have to try to do it again properly.

Once, I do remember a lady and a guy coming around, it was something about the brain injury, and they said, “What you've got to do is this, this, this and sign the bottom." I think it was something to do with them cutting my place at the Headway centre. I don't know what happened. They got me to sign something when I shouldn't have. I didn't understand the conversation. I shouldn't have been on my own. But it was in my flat. I'm there normally on my own so that wasn't a big deal. I didn't know when they showed up that they were going to shove something in my face to get me to sign. It was amazing – one of them was saying one thing, one was saying another and that's the thing, it just doesn't sink in. The centre talked to them and sorted it out for me.

I don't open letters any more. If I get a letter, I'll take it up to my keyworker at Headway or my ex-wife. She works for the council. We do talk to each other now. She's getting a little bit older. I'm getting a bit older.

Neuropsychology Dept.

Chalfont Centre for Epilepsy

Mr Methven has post traumatic epilepsy that remains uncontrolled despite treatment with three antiepileptic drugs. The current assessment demonstrates language and memory deficits that will severely impact upon his capacity to process, understand and accurately remember verbal information, spoken or written. His cognitive difficulties will increase in proximity to seizures, when he is stressed and when he is overloaded such as in conversations involving more than one other individual or when information is delivered at normal conversational speed. He displayed good insight into his difficulties. Unfortunately his relatively preserved social skills may mask the extent of his cognitive problems. In any legal proceedings with social services or similar organisations he will need an advocate with an understanding of neurological conditions and cognitive impairment to assist him to present his case, to follow the process and to support him to understand the outcomes. Without this there is a high risk his needs will be underestimated and he will be unfairly treated.

Dental Services

11 Sept 2012

Thank you for replying to our questionnaire. We have assessed all the relevant information, including any that you sent to us, but we are still unable to confirm that you were entitled to help with NHS dental charges at the time of your examination/treatment. You are therefore required to pay the charge. We have determined that you are also liable to pay for a penalty charge in accordance with the National Health Service (Penalty Charges) Regulations 1999 and a Penalty Notice is enclosed. The penalty charge is payable in addition to the charge for the treatment.

I would like to remind you of the importance of complying with the rules about NHS charges in future. You have a duty of care when claiming help with NHS charges and you are expected to read the declaration before you sign it and only sign it if it is true. You are responsible for this declaration. Ignorance of which benefits you receive and what they entitle you to is not considered a defence.

If you pay by 9 October 2012 you will only have to pay £304.00. Otherwise you will have to pay £354.00. If you do not pay we will start debt recovery proceedings through the county court. In the event of a County Court claim being issued against you, additional fees and solicitor's costs may be added to your debt. Your name will be recorded in the Register of County Court Judgements and it may affect your ability to obtain credit.

8 I'm quite fortunate

It's only been six years since my accident. When I was in rehab, a lady who worked there but wasn't a doctor told me, “After two years that's it. You won't achieve anything after two years." But one of the doctors, he said, “That reasoning is from the past. A lot of doctors think you can be improving for seven years, some say you'll get better for the rest of your life."

The brain I've got, gosh, it's not as bad as a lot of people's, it really isn't. So I'm quite fortunate. At the centre some of the people are really bad off, but some of them that come there, I think they work there. I think they're staff. There's a guy at Headway who comes and paints and decorates. I thought, 'there's no problem with him. He doesn't seem like he has a brain injury'. But he had one when he was sixteen. That's the way it goes. People with a brain injury will behave differently to people with a normal brain. But even people with a normal brain, sometimes, you know, they'd do anything. Kill themselves. Be an alcoholic like I was. I don't think people really know what a brain injury is all about. Some days I behave completely different to other days. This is the mind. It starts racing away. I'll be sitting up in the evening, and I'll watch the telly and my mind will go. I'm watching it but I don't know what's on. My mind is in a different place. I'm sitting there with my eyes open dreaming. It makes me feel out of it.

Maybe it's something to do with all the bad things that have happened in my life. I don't know what the reason is. I know that sometimes people who don't have brain injuries are really down. That's what the church has told me. Everybody that sees me thinks I'm quite a happy person – and I think I am. That's the way I used to be so it's good that I am now. I love living on my own but certain things I'll be thinking about really do bring me down.

I'd love to not have benefits. I'd rather work. But going back to work – that terrifies me. I'd like to volunteer. I really would love that. Especially when I get to the point where the tablets I'm taking will stop me having fits. That's ideal. I'd volunteer anywhere really. I don't mind looking after old people. I don't mind looking after children. I don't mind looking after people with a brain injury. Even before I had my accident, I've always felt for people. I wouldn't laugh about them. I'd love to be useful to other people. The only thing that worries me is if I was around people who needed help for a reason, and I had a fit.

I want to live until I'm ninety if I can. I don't want to have aphasia. I'd like to be back to normal. But I feel better off than I was before because I don't drink anymore. I'm grateful for being sober. I never wanted to stop drinking. I went for eight months, but I always thought I was going to drink again. I'd look about ninety-five by now if I'd kept drinking. Now I haven't got a choice in the matter. Sometimes part of me thinks, 'I can't drink' and that really upsets me. And maybe if I didn't have a fit for two years I'd think to myself, 'You can have a drink on the weekend. You can have a couple of beers in the week.' Then that would get worse and worse and I'd go back to being the way I used to be. A lot of people who haven't had a drink for two years, they'll go out proper drinking and they'll have a fit a couple of days after that. I'm tempted to drink. That's me. Because I've been an alcoholic for the past so many years. I do believe that God makes me have fits otherwise I'd start drinking again – an alcoholic can be an alcoholic forever.

I'm feeling a bit strange at the moment. My mind's starting to spin. That just hit me. That way I normally feel when I'm going to have a fit, it scares the life out of me. I just want to never have them any more. But going on about what I've just spoken about, it throws me.

9 You're playing games

What makes me happy? Spending the day out with Colette, that makes me happy. She's a really good friend. She's got a problem living in this country. She went to court. The only trouble with her is she's honest. She's so honest. It's such a shame. Bob from the centre is a good friend. He goes to the pub and watches football. All my old friends are drinkers. For them, being out with their friends means going to the pub. Or out raving. I couldn't be going out raving now. I really don't want to be hanging out with them now. A couple of them have tried to keep in touch with me but that was a while ago. I said, “Yeah, I'll see you," but I've never gone around to see them. One of the guys said I could come around and watch the football. I know they'd all be drinking. I remember in the past they'd be fine when they got there early but as time goes by they'd become moody. When I first get there they'll be like, “How you doing Garry? You okay?" Then later in the evening they'll be like, “There's not a problem with you. You're fucking playing games aren't you? You're playing games." That's what goes into my mind.

About a year ago I was going fishing every couple of weeks. Before I had the accident I was quite good at fishing even if I was drunk. Now I've been going a bit. But the mind. The mind doesn't work. It's confusing. I can't cook a proper meal. I'll fillet fish and grill it. Sometimes I eat microwavable food. I do think that I'm good at cooking… but it's so confusing now.

I do like going to the park. I miss riding my bike in Hampstead Heath. I love Hampstead Heath in the summer. It's beautiful. I used to take my daughter there when she was a child.

My daughter is the most important person in my life

10 I don't cry now

I was a drinker so when my daughter grows up, she might be upset. When I was young my dad was a bad father. He had me when he was eighteen. When I was five or six years old, he was still a youngster. Things change – everything is a lot different now. My mum looks after everybody and my stepmum does. All my sisters' kids and my brothers' kids are looked after, all the family's grandkids. I know that I missed out on it as a kid but my family all look after me now. My mum takes the day off work to go to the hospital with me. I go and stay if I've had a fit.

I don't need anything I've just said put to one side. I don't mind telling everyone about the problems I've had. I don't know what I would have said before the accident, but now that's how I feel. I've been so many times to AA. I don't go now because I don't drink. Having said that, it might be quite good if I could come along and tell the alcoholics that the problems I've got are because I was an alcoholic. That's why I had the accident. That's why I've got a brain injury. If I tell them something about the problems I've got they might think a little further about it.

Sometimes I think if I'd kept on drinking and I hadn't had my accident, nothing would bother me. Nothing that's bothering me would be upsetting. I mean, in the past, I'd sit down and cry my eyes out because I was drunk. I don't cry now. Even if I try to cry it doesn't work. I'll sit down and watch a program, say like The Wizard of Oz, and I'll sit there and be so close to crying but it never comes out. The Wizard of Oz! How can that upset me? Maybe because that's what I watched when I was a child, and my childhood was upsetting. I don't know.

11 Billingsgate

When I was a fishmonger I used to go to Billingsgate Market several times a week. I went back with Headway this year.

billingsgate 1
Seeing what's there
billingsgate 2
The Billingsgate seal - it's still there!
filleting 2
Filleting mackerel. It takes a bit longer these days!
  • [1]. Dysphasia (sometimes called ‘aphasia’): an impairment of either expressive or receptive language functions, caused commonly by damage to the left hemisphere of the brain, usually in the temporal region Return to text
  • [2]. Connect: an aphasia charity offering peer-led groups and services Return to text