Fresh Start is a poem by members of the Headway Glasgow Writing Group. It explores the theme of isolation after brain injury, bringing together contributions from five members of the group to examine what isolation means to different people - whether from the Covid-19 pandemic or due to the effects of brain injury.
Out of sorts
After my ABI my memory problems and emotional outbursts
Made it really difficult to keep friends or make new ones.
Looking back and today,
I am grateful of the support of my family who love me
Because I was not an easy person to know.
Living with an ABI is the quietest.
Always be true to yourself and keep in touch with friends and family
And go out for the birds and the animals
That roam around your garden in search of food.
Lots of noise
Too many challenges
After three and half months of recovery from my ABI
I struggled to come to terms with what had happened to me.
It was like a grieving process,
The old me was gone, and in its place was a disabled person
With a walking stick and a diagnosis of epilepsy.
I got by with the support of my wife and two daughters.
Since the onset of COVID,
I really miss not seeing my friends and other family members
And taking part in things that interest me.
I miss very much going to Headway
And the garden project based at Bellahouston Park.
Ignorance in public
Off the wall
It has been difficult to keep in touch with people during lockdown,
I am glad I learned to use zoom,
But too many groups a week make me feel tired
Because it can take up quite a lot of concentration.
Isolation has never called at my door,
The support of my family help me on my climb,
There is a new me
But my family and friends still see me
Although sometimes I don’t.
The Headway Glasgow Writing Group has been meeting every Tuesday for a number of years, previously in Headway Glasgow's centre but over Zoom during the pandemic.
We spoke to the group's facilitator, Mitchell, along with members David, Nell, Claire and Steven about what the Writing Group has meant to them, and how it has helped them to cope with isolation after brain injury.
Mitchell explained: "To prepare for each session, I email the group to get people thinking about a theme. That might involve a question or a set of photos, for instance it might be one photo of nature, something quite abstract and another in black and white.
"When we meet we spend time talking it over and dissecting the theme before we start writing."
Speaking about the benefits of being part of the group, Nell said: "It has definitely improved my mental health. It is always a pleasure to connect with the group every Tuesday."
This is a point Claire agreed with, saying: "I really benefit from the social side. It offers a way to develop that and get out to meet other people, especially during Covid-19."
David explained that the discussions and writing have "brought out a side of me I didn't know was there before. 20 years ago I wouldn't have thought twice about the world around me, but now I feel closer to the environment and nature because of the work we do in the group. I can't thank Mitchell enough."
During the weekly sessions, Steven contributes to the joint writing, but also creates a lot of powerful pieces about life and brain injury that he shares only with people in the Writing Group.
Discussing the theme of isolation and the changes since the Covid-19 pandemic hit, Steven said: "I really do miss the face-to-face Headway meetings. I feel sad that I can't visit the centre at the moment, but it forced me to go out and buy myself a laptop.
This allowed me to carry on attending the Writing Group, but has also helped me to stay in touch with family and friends which is a real positive."
It is clear that the Headway Glasgow Writing Group is a hugely positive experience for those who are part of it, offering a chance to not only express their feelings and experiences of brain injury, but also to socialise and meet friends while developing their creative writing skills.
"Running the group has been a real learning curve for me," explained Mitchell. "It has given me a chance to learn about brain injury and also what works over Zoom!
"Thinking about the theme of isolation, the group gives a strong sense of community. People come in and out of it from week-to-week but no matter who's here, everyone is hugely supportive of each other.
"When people read out their poems each week it always sparks a discussion and helps members understand and relate to each other.
The plan for the future is to keep that sense of community going, keep the fire burning so that people can stay engaged.
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