Lottie Butler shares her story as part of Headway's Brain Drain: Wake up to fatigue campaign for ABI Week 2019.
Fatigue is one of the most common effects of a brain injury and it can affect every part of a person's life.
For 18-year old student Lottie Butler, brain injury-related fatigue had the biggest impact on her education.
Lottie is just one of the many young brain injury survivors struggling with the stresses of education whilst battling the cognitive and physical effects of her injury.
"For the first few months following my brain injury I couldn't go to sixth form at all because the process of travelling there, socialising with friends and learning was just too exhausting," said Lottie.
"Now, I find myself sleeping through days on end after being at sixth form for just a few hours."
It was in 2018 when Lottie sustained a traumatic brain injury on a social night out with her boyfriend.
Still to this day, she can't remember the sequence of events that led to the brain injury which turned her life upside down.
"I remember banging my head on the door as I left the toilet cubicle, then the next thing I know, I was surrounded by the student union's emergency medical staff," recalled Lottie.
"I've struggled to piece together the snippets of information that other people have told me.
"From what I can gather, I made my way back to the dance floor before feeling violently sick and dizzy and rushing into the toilet. I must have collapsed and hit my head on the way down.
"It was really frustrating because everyone just assumed I'd had too much to drink that night and that's why I fell and hit my head, when in reality I was sober."
After various trips to the hospital, Lottie was diagnosed with a fractured skull and post-concussion syndrome.
"I couldn't stop crying or make sense of why I felt so drowsy," she said.
Like many other brain injury survivors, she now struggles with the hidden and fluctuating effects of her injury, including memory loss, difficulties concentrating and above all, fatigue. All of which have had an adverse affect on her education.
She said: "My education has suffered so much as a result of my fatigue. My attendance at sixth form is 40% which means I miss a lot of the content.
"My teachers don't understand my brain injury or fatigue at all. They try to challenge why I'm able to have a part-time job but unable to make it into sixth form. It's really frustrating. Just because I look well physically, it doesn't mean I'm not struggling."
Since her injury, Lottie has also experienced a number of blackout episodes where she cannot recall where she has been for hours on end, who she has been with, or what she did in that time.
Lottie, who is currently in her second year at sixth form, hopes to go on to study Psychology and Sociology at university, but worries that her ongoing battle with fatigue will get in the way of her education.
She said: "Fatigue makes studying for my exams near-impossible. Because I'm fatigued, I find it difficult to concentrate, which means I have to focus ten times harder just to read a sentence, which in turn strains my eyesight, which then makes me even more fatigued. It's a vicious cycle that I just can't seem to escape.
"I'm worried that my fatigue will stop me from enjoying the typical university experience and everything that comes with it, from the long lectures to late nights partying. I don't want to undo the progress I've already made, but I want to be able to do the same things other people my age do.
"My health has already taken a back seat at sixth form following my brain injury and I wouldn't want that to be the case again at university."
Like many others living with brain injury related-fatigue, Lottie has found it difficult to identify and accept the physical limitations she now faces.
She said: "As soon as I have energy I try and get everything done at once, which is especially true when it comes to revising and completing homework.
"I know that I probably make my fatigue worse with that type of approach, but I worry that I'll never get anything done if I take things too slowly."
With the support of Headway and its website and factsheets however, Lottie is now determined to discover strategies that will help her to manage her fatigue.
Lottie said: "Despite it being difficult to come to terms with my brain injury and its effects initially, I'm now eager to get my fatigue under control and start learning how to live with a brain injury. For the first time since my injury, I'm feeling positive about my future.
I know that with the right support and fatigue management, university will be an option for me.
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