After a brain haemorrhage in 2012, Imogen Cauthery began experiencing severe memory problems. As well as affecting her relationships and sense of identity, these memory problems had the biggest impact on her work and she eventually lost her job as a result.
Imogen, 33, said: “Memory loss affects me more than anything else. It is extremely debilitating because it affects everything in my life. Always getting lost, unable to recognise people and friends, forgetting daily plans and things I’ve done - it can be very embarrassing.”
Her journey with brain injury began sixteen years ago in 1996 when at the age of just nine, she was hit by a car. Imogen was in a coma for two weeks and was left with memory impairment, learning difficulties and epilepsy.
She said: “Life went downhill, and I suffered a lot psychologically. Family life changed drastically; my sister and I were suddenly worst enemies and my parents were extremely overprotective and controlling.”
Fast forward 16 years to 2012, and Imogen underwent a brain operation to treat and control her epilepsy. Unfortunately, something went wrong during the procedure and she experienced a haemorrhage in her frontal lobe.
Both these injuries have had a huge impact on all aspects of Imogen’s life, but most notably, on her career.
She said: “A few years ago I worked for a postage company sorting and delivering post. I was slow at sorting the post because the departments had different codes and I couldn’t remember them - my colleagues would know these off by heart.
Delivering was even harder and I couldn’t recognise the staff. Without knowing, I would often deliver things to the wrong people.
“One day I was called in by the manager. She told me one of our clients had reported a lot of lost post and they knew it was because of my difficulties.
“She told me I was great to work with, reliable and kind but that this job wasn’t for me. She offered me another job filing envelopes, but I didn’t take it. I was extremely embarrassed and angry with my brain. Constantly thinking that I had no future and would never get another job.”
Since then, Imogen has not been able to return to work but instead has taken up volunteering opportunities, including with her local Headway groups and branches.
“Volunteering with my local Headways massively helped with my confidence and depression,” she said. “It was good to get out and meet people who had gone through the same experiences.”
Imogen has also been supported by Headway’s helpline.
She said: “I’ve used the Headway helpline on a few occasions when I’ve been angry and upset about my situation. I also spoke to one of the nurses about career ideas and this was very helpful.
I strongly recommend to all other brain injury survivors to use the helpline and try to meet others in the same shoes. It helps knowing that you’re not the only one going through this and speaking to someone who understands you truly does wonders.
Over time, Imogen has found ways to manage her memory problems and says that setting alarms and writing everything down has been a big help. She hopes to continue volunteering with different organisations for years to come.
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