18th May 2020- By 4am this morning I still hadn’t fallen asleep, the sky outside was already beginning to lighten, the dawn chorus was getting louder but all I wanted was some pain relief and sleep. I crept downstairs trying not to awaken the household only to be met at the bottom stair by Charlie the 8 month old puppy, who instinctively gave a couple of loud barks and then upon realising it was me, became over-excited, mission failed! I retired back to bed with a handful of painkillers to resume my attempt to at least get some sleep despite how futile I knew my efforts would be.
As I laid in bed a feeling of despair washed over me, why now my brain decided it was a good idea do this baffled me but it was happening, so as always I hopped on for the ride. Prior to my accident on 12th April, Id had so many ”plans”, I say plans in the loosest sense of the word because as was the norm more often than not they amounted to nothing more than an idea in my head, and that’s as far as they got. Maybe they were lucky enough to advance to the dizzying heights of making it to a list on a piece of paper but honestly in terms of me progressing, this was the mental version of valhalla. I sat up in bed waiting for the painkillers to work their magic and then my mind began to reel off all the things that I now thought impossible with only one good hand, the pain of regret was building.
I grabbed my latest book I was reading off the floor and opened it up, perhaps I could find some answers here, my mind certainly wasn’t offering anything useful up. “Chicken Soup for the Soul”, I was about half way through the book, some of the stories were really good, some just washed over me but Id not yet come across one that had struck a chord with my own personal situation, and then it happened. In my blog post #15 I talked about my redundancy 10 years ago and the profound affect it had had on me, I was always frustrated with myself for continually referring back to it and part of me just thought I was using it as an excuse for my failings. However here now I was reading a story by Tory Johnson who had had a very similar experience, my jaw was hanging down as I finished the story. In short at 22 years old she was a high flyer enjoying the rewards of a blossoming career which then came crashing down as she was fired by her new boss, within 30 minutes she was out of her office, no goodbyes and no time to pack up her things. She had begged to keep her job but too no avail, she took it badly initially but in time grew from the experience and made the bold choice that she didn’t want to go back to job where she wasn’t in control of her future. The similarities with my own redundancy were spookily close and I too had been desperately seeking a career for a long time without being dependant on a monthly paycheck.
My despair was still lingering but after reading the story for a second time, I felt a little relief knowing that someone else had gone through a similar experience and suffered the same mental trauma. Primarily I still just wanted to get some sleep but my mind was now alive, I had to snap myself out of this mental torture and stop punishing myself with regrets from the past. As I had seen I few a days ago
“We must all suffer from one of two pains, the pain of discipline or the pain of regret, the difference is discipline weighs ounces, while regret weighs tons”- Jim Rohn
On the highway of life I needed to find my exit now and begin my journey to my new destination, but perhaps a few hours sleep first!!
19th May 2020 – Another trip to the hospital, it was starting to feel like a second home, once what was a strange new place now had an air of familiarity about it. I strolled around the corridors knowing exactly where I was going and the staff in the clinic all knew me before I even needed to give my name. Today was a more dignified visit, the wounds were starting to close and it was considerably less painful when the bandages were removed, I could bare the nurse swabbing my hand without the usual cry from me, “get me the gas!!”
As I laid on the bed the nurse smiled at me and asked me if I had looked at it, which too be honest I still hadn’t, of course Id seen my hand wrapped in the bandages but actually in the flesh, no! Then she drops the bombshell on me, next week the bandages are coming off completely, so she strongly advised me to take a proper look. I hadn’t prepared for this, I known the day would come eventually but I felt I needed time to prepare. So gingerly I took a look, took a photo and laid back down, hmmmm, it wasn’t as bad as I thought but still to the people that knew me, family and friends alike my hand would be quite shocking. And this is the bit that worried me, I knew in time I would become familiar with my new look but showing it in public was a big hill to climb for me, the more I thought about it, the worse the anxiety became. To the untrained eye, my hand would be strange and attract the judging glances of strangers, I just wasn’t prepared for this yet. Physically I was healing but mentally I still had a mountain to climb.
The journey home was a couple of hours and I was quiet most of the way, my fiancee kept trying to strike up a conversation but she was drowned out by my inner monologue. She decided she wanted to stop at a local town on the way, as we arrived and pulled up outside of a shop, I had to make a quick decision. Under normal circumstances I would of jumped out of the car, ran in and done what I needed to do but today I was wracked with paranoia. I guess this was my first personal challenge, I got out of the car and took a deep breath and walked towards the store. Minutes later we were back, Id noticed the clerk take a glance down at my hand but that was it. I didn’t feel judged, as always I was overthinking the situation!
We decided to visit the supermarket before we left, this time I decided to stay in the car, Id had my excitement for the day and that’s when it happened. As I glanced around the carpark something caught my eye, it was strange, odd looking, I locked onto it and processed what I was seeing. There right in the middle of the car park was a fairly well built guy, shaved head and glasses, that’s not strange your thinking!, but this fella was wearing a rather fetching summer dress and ladies heels! For a few seconds I couldn’t look away and then my brain caught up and I smiled, what the hell was I doing. Twenty minutes earlier was I not worrying about being judged or stared at and here I was doing the exact same thing, what a hypocrite!!!!!!
I leaned back in the seat and smiled to myself, fair play to that guy I thought, he truly did not give one f*ck, that was his thing, he was comfortable with it and he didn’t care what anyone else thought. This was a good lesson for me, that was how I needed to be, just accept my hand as it was and not worry about anyone else’s opinion.
10th May 2020- I was starting to feel sick from all the tablets I was taking, I felt like my body was getting used to the painkillers and they were losing their effectiveness. So as I awoke this morning before I even reached for my boxes of medication, I paused for a moment and thought
‘Am I in pain?’
I was but it wasn’t crippling, my left hand throbbed but I could live with it, my thigh was burning from being the donor site for the skin grafts but again it wasn’t so excruciating that I couldn’t move around. I took several deep breath‘s and tried to focus my mind, if I could just manage the pain signals as they fired back to my brain perhaps today I could go without any medication.
By 2 pm I was going strong, small waves of pain rippled occasionally through my body, electric pulses shot up and down my left arm and tingled where my fingers have been removed. I was hopeful that my body was starting to accept my new form and was moving towards a state of equilibrium. Mentally I was finding it tough, my positive state of mind was a little like a small child when they first learn to walk or ride a bike, I was having to prop it up and make constant small course changes to keep it in the right direction.
Constantly I kept mentally referring back to the videos of Tony Robbins I’d watched, the self-help books I had read, I was perpetually trying to focus on a positive outcome. I knew this suffering wouldn’t last forever, the pain would eventually subside, my body would heal, sure my hand would never grow back but I’d already researched the prosthetic replacements. As always I was impatient, I wanted everything to be okay now but had to face the reality that this was going to be a long journey.
By 5 pm I was exhausted, the pain was echoing through my body and without the medication it was taking all my energy to stay strong. There were aches, pains and sores that I was starting to notice, I hadn’t noticed them before probably because I’d been so numb. I continued to resist the option of painkillers even though they were only 6 feet away from me. This became my little mental battle today, I would prove to myself I was strong enough mentally to withstand my suffering.
I was laid on the sofa watching documentaries of people who had really suffered in life, and I mean really suffered but their stories ended with success. Their stories stirred up an anger in me, I was angry but confused, that’s why my story was so strange to me. Looking back on my 40 years, I hadn’t had a hard life, other than my parents splitting up at an early age I’d had a pleasant childhood, my step-dad came on the scene very early on and filled the position like a true champion. In my eyes he was my dad and I loved him dearly. I wasn’t abused, beaten or starved, I was loved and cared for. My home was a safe place, I had friends and plenty of good memories, so where had it all gone wrong?
I always refer back to the point in my life when I was made redundant, I don’t know why I always look back at this point. It’s something that happens to tens of thousands of people each year, it’s just that at that time I can specifically remember the mental torture I felt. The abandonment, I had lost my safety net, I had realised when you work for someone you’re in part placing your destiny or future in their hands, they dictate a large part of your life and then when it is suddenly whipped out from under your feet if you’re not prepared for it, it becomes a serious trauma.
There are many things I wanted in life but the thing I wanted most was security and for me security meant money. The accident had made me realise that money couldn’t solve everything but it could put a roof over my head, put clothes on my back, food on my table and I could take care and provide for my family, and so in reflection since the redundancy, for the last 10 years I’d been looking for a way to provide an income aside from the monthly pay cheque. Something that I was in control of, something I was the boss of, the problem was I was far better at spending money than I was earning it! I had drawn up a new life plan in hospital but once I was healed and strong enough I knew I had to find a way to give myself peace and become self-reliant.
7 pm, out came the painkillers! I cracked, my fiancee had to change the dressing on my leg, laying there half naked, bleeding and in pain whilst she attempted to clean and re-dress me, I was learning better what love meant! Now I was engaged I thought about the marriage vow ‘in sickness and in health’, I finally understood the true meaning of it and thought to myself, I’ve definitely found my soulmate!
9th May 2020- What follows is just a mind dump! It was two days after my third and hopefully final surgery for a long time, I was laid on the sofa and hurting all over and truly feeling sorry for myself. I was scanning my previous blogs and trying to be positive and in part I was but the pain was fighting me and taking my energy, I just felt like a shadow of my former self. I fired up YouTube and audio injected an hour of the husky voiced Tony Robbins into my brain, I needed a little pick me up mentally. As the video ended I grabbed my note book and just began to scribble:-
I have the power to change, its already within in, I don’t need to acquire anything new, I just need to release the tiger in me!
I know theres something special in me
Ive tried for 40 years to change, searching for something, this is now the start of my new journey
Im not afraid to be me anymore, this is who I am
My life has new meaning, I’m not afraid to make mistakes anymore, I accept im not perfect, I will never achieve perfection but I will try to be the best I can and influence everyone around me in a positive way!
I may have lost three fingers! but I’ve gain a whole new perspective on life!
Life is going to be harder because Im not running away from my problems anymore but it will be more rewarding, as I conquer each problem I will get stronger with each victory!
4th May 2020- Despite everything I was trying each day, my new daily routine, the meditation, the affirmations, my little chats with the guy upstairs, the waves of energy sapping pain that rippled through my body each day, today I just ran out of steam. It wasn’t a particularly eventful day, I was back at Hospital for another check up and dressing change but for the first time I was able to see my right leg. The surgeons had been using my thigh to take skin grafts and various other things, as I was laid in the cubicle, the nurse peeled away the last of the bandages and left me alone for a couple of minutes. In a child like fashion, I slowly tilted my head up until I could see my leg in all its glory, my stomach dropped, considering it was my hand that I had injured my leg looked like something you’d see from the prop department of a Tarantino movie. I laid back down and my mood just sunk, I felt beat up, ugly, what the hell had I done to myself? The nurse came back in with the surgeon and they began to examine my leg, they were over the moon! They assured me (rather convincingly), it looked a lot worse than it actually was but it was clean and healing, I just needed to give it time.
Today they finally released me from the vacuum pump and patched my hand back up again and sent me through to the physiotherapist before I could escape. Chatting with her was useful, she made realise this was going to be a long journey and I would have to accept my life would be different but with hard work, commitment,determination and some adaption I could still function in life.
As we drove home from the hospital, I was quiet. Mentally today was my toughest day yet, I was fighting with some very powerful demons, I knew I had the support of my fiancee and my family but it was beginning to dawn on me that I would need professional help. If I just sat at home while I recovered and did nothing, physically I would heal but mentally I could see my mood would deteriorate rapidly. Just before Id left the hospital, as I walked the long corridor back to the carpark, my left hand now more visible, I caught people around me looking at my hand. I felt so exposed and vulnerable, obviously in a hospital I didn’t look completely out of place but I did feel judged and perhaps this was just a taste of things to come when I finally resurfaced in the real world.
I felt a little better when I got home, shut behind my four walls was my safe haven, away from prying eyes and I could relax, I still felt very fragile mentally but again I thought to myself that I definitely needed to seek out some professional advice. The pandemic meant there was no chance of a face to face but after a couple of emails Id managed to get a telephone consultation set up and this gave me a little boost. There was help available but it wasn’t going to kick my door down, I needed to go and find it!
14th April 2020- I was scheduled for surgery at the end of the week, despite my unwavering belief for the last 24 hours and the visualization I had painted in my mind, it had all been in vain. The attempt to re-attach my hand and fingers had not been successful. Again I surprised myself that I wasn’t more emotional, I was still completely bandaged unable to see the damage and heavily under the influence of painkillers, my brain still hadn’t fully processed the accident and honestly my body hadn’t experienced any proper pain yet. The accident had been so fast, in the blink of an eye my left hand was gone, there was no pain. The adrenaline had taken over and my body had gone into shock, by the time I began to feel the first wave of something unpleasant, I recall beckoning my fiancee to my side on the kitchen floor and in an almost childlike tone I quietly whispered ‘baby, pain coming’. The paramedics were with me by this point and I can still recall a warm rush spread over my whole body and the pain was gone. This warm relieving feeling would become a familiar friend over the coming days and perhaps it was not only easing the pain, it was also keeping reality firmly under lock and key.
It was now almost 48 hrs since the accident and following the chat with the surgeon I had mentally taken the decision not to let this beat me and define me for the rest of my life. Well as they say , actions speak louder than words, so whilst I did take some comfort that I was trying to be positive, I had to bolster this with some positive actions. I was fairly limited laid in my hospital bed covered in tubes and wires but my mind was fully functional and in my right hand I held my smartphone and access to one of the most powerful creations during my lifetime, the internet.
Ironically weeks before these events, one evening I was sat with my fiancee and turned to her and said that I wanted to get rid of my phone, by own admission I was addicted to it. It was never far from my side and when it wasn’t my mind would go into autopilot and revert to ‘police search’ mode and I would begin patting down my body up and down searching for it. If it wasn’t on my person, perhaps in a similar mode to that which a parent experiences when they realise their child is missing, my heart would begin pumping and the frantic search would begin. More times than I could count I would go through this only to discover the phone actually was already in my hand. So not only I had finally been able to admit I was addicted to something so powerful, it was incredibly sad to admit how little I used the phones capability. I spent hours upon hours reading the news, absorbing the negativity like a sponge, scrolling through page after page, but honestly the second I put the phone down Id barely be able to recall anything Id just read. I wasn’t educating myself or expanding my mind, I was committing the mortal sin of just killing time, one of most valuable commodities to every single person alive. When I wasn’t reading the news I was playing games, or checking my bank balance (it hadn’t changed since the last time I checked it), or checking the weather or checking my email and that was really about it. I had long given up on social media, around the time I began to excommunicate my friends, I similarly began to remove myself from every social media platform. Constantly seeing post after post of friends celebrating and enjoying themselves didn’t fill me with joy it just magnified how inadequate my own social life was and made me feel worse about myself. Funnily I barely used the phone to actually make phone calls, its primary function, it gave me access to the world and yet I found it had the reverse effect and made me anti-social.
So now in my hospital bed, I reassessed this phone sat in my hands and what it was truly capable of and decided it was time for a positive change. Firstly I began scrolling through my contacts and against the grain rather than typing out a text, I began calling my family. It was reassuring for them to hear my voice and know I was safe and well and I found it uplifting and refreshing to speak with them, oh the wonders of the modern telephone! Once I had completed my calls, I still felt something was missing, my family had all been sympathetic but they couldn’t truly know what I was going through, heck I still didn’t appreciate what I was going there. I thought back to the conversation with the surgeon, more specifically the subsequent chat with the nurse afterwards, in her own admirable way to pick me up, she told me of a previous patient who had been admitted to the hospital the year before, after a freak accident his thumb had been ripped off in his workshop. The surgeons also tried to save the digit but the damage was too great and so in an effort to restore his grip, they offered him the option to remove his big toe and implant it on his hand, he agreed and thankfully it was successful giving him back his ability to work. All I had was his name, obviously they weren’t going to give me his contact details, so I turned to the internet and began searching. I thought it would just be simple to look up his business address but the current pandemic meant it was closed down, I tried the business number on the off chance and was met with a rather grumpy lady who politely but firmly assured me that the business was no longer on that number, I took it from her tone that it was not the first time she had taken a call of that nature, so I quickly apologised and ended the call. I continued my search and ventured past page 1 of the google search results, in these strange and unchartered territories I found numerous email addresses which often just bounced back to me. I was beginning to get a little frustrated but a quick glance around my room and the occasional wave of pain reminded that I had little else to do so I preserved. After a couple of days I was still nowhere nearer making contact, I filled the time in between contacting more glamorous celebrities who had suffered life changing injuries (Katie Piper, Michael Caines), whose stories helped inspire my recovery but I was more realistic that I was unlikely to get a personal response but I tried all the same, I had nothing to lose. The rest of the time I sat watching endless Tony Robbins videos on YouTube, he had become my newly unofficial adopted father, I was done with the news and playing games, I was filling the void with words of motivation and self-improvement.
And then on my fourth day in hospital as I was eating lunch my phone began to ring, initially I ignored it. Usually once I had begun to eat lunch I didn’t move around quickly too much for fear of ripping out a wire or tube. The phone rang again, and again and then on the fourth time I reached out and grabbed it, it was the gentleman I had been searching for, I couldn’t believe it. We began chatting and I explained why I was so desperate to talk to him, he listened intently and responded in a sincere sympathetic voice. We exchanged stories and his words resonated powerfully with me, he was familiar with the pain and the loss and reassured me that I could pull through it. This is what I needed to hear, he was equally pleased to hear from me and although he had almost now fully recovered, he felt good in being able to help me when I needed it the most. We agreed to keep in touch and he said I could call him anytime for more advice, he wished me well for my upcoming surgery and said he would prayer for me.
As the days, hours and minutes passed I tried to constantly fill my time, not allowing my mind to wander too far. I researched different prosthetics companies, an area I had never had any need to look at before but I was utterly blown away by the technology that existed. It left me feeling more hopeful for the future that I may be able to replace the missing digits with something that would be pleasing to the eye and functional enough to give me some grip and mobility. I clung onto every moment trying to remain positive but can’t deny that negative thoughts were never too far away. I turned to the internet again looking for stories of hope and found myself on the ‘help for heroes’ website. I read stories about injuries that paled my own into insignificance and the recoveries were even more incredible. Please be assured I was not trying to draw any similarities between these stories and my own, that would be truly disrespectful to the brave soldiers injured defending their country, there was absolutely no comparison whatsoever but I found comfort in reading about their strength and courage and hoped it would help me stay strong mentally whilst I recovered.
During my numerous moments of reflection as I stared out of the window in my hospital room, I looked back on the last ten years of my life constantly pursuing riches whereas in reality I was already rich. I had my fiancee, my loving family, my two dogs, a home to go home to and my employer was fully supporting me during this time in my life. Given the uncertainty in the outside world, regardless of my fingers, I was still in good health and would be lucky enough to eventually be going home. I still had ambitions, I still wanted financial freedom, freedom to make my own choices but everyday I was beginning to become more thankful for what I had, not what I didnt. I was humbled without any doubt, I had spent so much of my life worrying about what might happen, now I was trying to live and enjoy each and everyday.