The problem with life is that it is often no fairytale

From a young age, we love stories. And when life seems especially incomprehensible and unfair, we often look for the classic storylines to help us to make sense of it. Injury and illness is a classic example.

Friends and family want to hear that you have been the hero who has taken on the injury or disease, won over it and come back stronger and wiser from your trials.

Or that the medical professionals have the magic potion or magic hands that heal you, against the toughest odds.

And as the person who is injured or ill, we also want those comforting storylines to be true as well.

But the reality is so much tougher

The reality of recovery and rehabilitation is that lacks the instantaneous nature of stories, and brutishly ignores the linear nature of a classical storyline, with better days & worse days, progress & slip-backs and hope & despair. Part of the agony as the person with the injury or illness, is that time expands – filling 24 hours when you cannot sleep and cannot do anything or concentrate on anything can feel like forever. And when others want to hear the fairy-tale storyline as much as you, the loneliness of the reality of your situation can be overwhelming.

We all need a friend who is prepared to listen to the reality

In today’s fast-moving world, we all want injury and illness to be something that we bounce through within a week or two. But serious injury and illness is not like this. And as the person going through it, you do need to find someone who can let you talk about and let out some of the pain and frustration, as otherwise it eats you up from inside.

It’s not easy. It takes a lot of searching. And many people have told me that it was a surprise to them as to who stepped into the gap and supported them in this way. A truly vital friend, at a time of need.

But if you cannot find this person, then you need to find another outlet for your anger, grief and sense of loss. Some keep a journal and pour out their heart into the pages, or an audio diary. Some charities and support groups have people who will step into this role.

And hang in there

Whilst it may seem unbelievably tough right now, who knows what lies ahead? Just look after yourself through this hour and this day. The future will unfold. And who knows? Maybe in the end, you will be able to overlay one of the fairytale narratives onto your experiences – but for sure you will be glossing over the depth and darkness of some of the hardest times. Only you (and maybe that vital friend) will really know the reality.

Alex’s courage in talking about the loneliness of her head injury

If you have met Alex Danson MBE (gold medallist with the GB Hockey squad and since then the Captain of the England and GB Hockey teams), you will know her massive heart, her infectious smile and her complete passion for sport and team sport – and hockey especially.

It is so hard to see someone like Alex literally knocked out by the impact of concussion. But her courage in being searingly honest about how hard it is will be a lifeline to others who are injured. I also really hope that it will also be a lifeline to her with the massive outpouring of support for her on social media yesterday, and hopefully going forward in the coming weeks and months.

The most telling parts for me in her interview with The Times yesterday were these lines:

“One of the hardest parts in all of this, aside from the physical trauma, has been losing my identity,” she wrote. “Going from leading my country, aspiring to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics to just trying to get through a day.

“Head injuries are serious, debilitating and lonely. When I have days when I feel well enough I will document some of my recovery. I’ve not been well enough to up to now and I’ve not been sure whether it’s something I wanted to do.”

They capture so brilliantly the complete stop that comes with an accident and injury, and the new mental framework that you have to build. And Alex’s commitment to make meaning out of this brutal, difficult and unfair injury by documenting her learnings and recovery to help others is totally inspirational.

Alex’s post on her Twitter feed @AlexDanson15 under the comment “It’s been a long 6 months….I’m thankful to say that I am on the road to recovery #mildtraumaticbraininjury”

Concussion is a very serious injury and many sports have now linked together to share the best knowledge. I am not an expert, but I would say that the Birmingham Sports Clinic is open to professional and amateur athletes over 16 years old, from all geographic areas. Instructions and how to get referred can be found here:

Very best of luck for your recovery Alex. We are all rooting for you.