Mark Kennedy sustained a brain injury in 2012 while on holiday in Fuerteventura with his wife, Jules. The pair were enjoying a meal at a Spanish tapas bar when Mark went to use the bathroom. He blacked out in the toilet and hit his head in the fall, fracturing his skull and sustaining two brain bleeds.
Fortunately, Mark made a good recovery however he has been left with some ongoing effects such as anxiety, depression, fatigue and memory loss.
Here, Mark tells us how he has used creative works to help live with the effects of brain injury, and explains the life skills training programmes he runs in partnership with Jules.
I’ve always enjoyed being creative, right from my GSCE art days, and then enjoyed putting together marketing campaigns when I worked full time. However, since my brain injury in 2012, I really embraced anything that challenges the mind.
One of the businesses I run with my wife, Jules, involves delivering motivational life skills training programmes in schools and colleges all over the country. When travelling became a little too much to manage with fatigue, we made a slow transition to moving our work online to complement our face to face delivery.
Aside from business activities, I’ve also written two books since brain injury (and about to publish another). The first is called Don’t Get You Neck Tattooed. A story of a character called Milo who goes on the journey of the Z to A of life skills that you don’t get from sitting exams. It was really good fun to create the story whilst combining it with a range of life skills. Each chapter is a valuable life skill. The second book, What The Hell Just Happened? Is our story of brain injury.
I also love the more traditional route of art and have found my love of sketch work again. When we went into lockdown, Jules and I began attending online art nights with a charity that she’s a trustee of. I loved the painting side of things but then decided to try my hand with the pencil again. I’ve since created some lovely art which depicts local history of Northampton, my home town. A friend suggested to sell copies so I thought, why not?
There are too many side-effects to brain injury so I feel it important to keep my brain active. I suffer from fatigue, concentration and memory issues pretty much every day, balancing rest and creativity really helps me to stay positive.
Starting with a blank canvas (whether it’s a piece of paper or switching on a video camera) and turning it into a finished article is a satisfying process. I love admiring the result but enjoy the journey as much. It’s relaxing and allows me to switch my mind off when I’m enjoying being creative and learning new tools and tricks.
As mentioned, it’s relaxing and a great learning process. Writing our books has helped me to improve my grammar plus gave me the opportunity to research really useful skills. When writing Tattooed, we wrote a chapter on listening skills. Active listening is a really useful tool to cut out background noise which is key to dealing with a brain injury.
It’s also a bonus to be able to produce work that we can use in our business. Everyone spends so much time at work, it, makes more sense to enjoy what you do.
It’s also a good self-confidence boost. When someone passes positive comments on my art work, leaves a review on our books or shares one of our videos, it’s a great feeling of satisfaction knowing that it’s had an impact on their life.
We’ve also won two business awards for our work. The judges loved the creative side of our business and named us Best Enterprising Business of the Year in 2018 and 2019 (and we’re finalists for 2020; the finals have been rearranged to March 2021).
Brain injury affects us in so many different ways but if you can create positivity in your life then it helps with your recovery and also managing the long term effects. I’ve accepted that most of the issues I face on a daily basis are here to stay now but that doesn’t stop me being fit, active and enjoying new creative challenges.
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