Headway is an ‘umbrella’ charity: the title just gives a general idea, and each Headway is a separate organisation dedicated to brain-injury ‘survivors’ (if that’s what we’re called…). Which means there’s a lot of variety. There were two Headways I could have gone to, Ipswich and Colchester.
Ipswich was part of my wife’s (desperate) plan to fill up my time. I was still in The Lakes (Colchester) when the head honcho of Headway Ipswich came to see me ‘inside’. That was a good thing for her to do, but she immediately made a bad impression. I told her I had been a writer – and would have gone on about NOT writing post-stroke being the main reason behind my nervous breakdown(s). But she – not listening – immediately started going on about the Headway Ipswich play and how I could write that. That I would WANT to (even if I could) write the Headway play a year after writing a film for Tim Roth, Jack O’Connell and Peter Mullan wasn’t an irony she bothered considering. Altogether, she didn’t appear to have any sense of irony AT ALL. This – as far as I’m concerned – is a crucial lack for anyone working in the field of brain injury. But what do I know? I just HAVE a brain injury. Much better to leave it to ‘the professionals’, wouldn’t you say?
Anyway, I was desperate to get out of The Lakes and – of course – said yes. Eventually I got out, stayed a bit at my parents, and came home to live. (All this time I was TERRIFIED of being taken back ‘inside’. Obviously, in retrospect, this wasn’t going to happen. The Lakes was massively oversubscribed and, having just got rid of me, they weren’t going to readmit me unless I went berserk. But that’s the thing about insanity/brain damage/depression (take your pick…). You can’t tell.)
So I went to Ipswich Headway, paying £50 fees a time, because we couldn’t go to Colchester Headway that way (and they had a waiting list). Or something.
It was AWFUL. The staff wore uniform and treated us as mentally defective children – except for the woman in the kitchen, who was nice, so I worked there (despite my attempting to crack eggs one-handed…). I remember one conversation I had with a 70something stroke victim, who was in a wheelchair. He had just been on holiday to a place in Norfolk which was disabled-friendly. He said it was really good! Instead of giving him the benefit of the doubt, I just thought: Argh! The thought of going there with my boys – then 13, 11 and 7… Well, I basically wanted to kill myself.
Every ‘member’ there – in my ‘old’ way of thinking – I basically thought was ‘better’ (hence jealousy, and resentfully wondering what he’s doing there) or ‘worse’ (hence pity) than ME… I don’t think a day has EVER gone as slowly. It seemed more or less like The Lakes, except a) you had to help, and b) you (or at least I) had to pay for the privilege.
There was also a physiotherapist there (as if I hadn’t had a lifetime’s worth of physiotherapy…). I saw her for a week or two. And then I noticed the scars on her wrists… All roads led me there. It was only a matter of time…
To be continued…