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My pain monster

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My pain monster

My pain monster

“It shows my hidden disability in a way that has made a positive difference to my life.”

In April 2009 Samuel was working as a community sports coach when he had a head on collision with another participant. The impact was just above his left ear, instantly causing significant pain on the right side of Samuel’s face and head.

Feeling dizzy and confused, Samuel went straight to A&E. He spent a few hours there, during which time his head was glued and then he was told he could leave – no less dizzy and even more confused. Samuel’s family took him back to his local hospital where he had numerous scans, including CT and MRIs, leading to an initial diagnosis of Post-concussion syndrome. Since that time Samuel has continued to seek help from various healthcare providers but is still living with a constant and crippling pain.

My life changed completely

Finding a new way in life has been a challenge. That day, Samuel lost his career, a lot of independence and for a long while, any hope.

“My life completely changed because of the injury. Some mornings the pain is so severe that I struggle to move, as a former sports coach with lots of energy this has been challenging. I have horrible depression and anxiety. It has been tough to stay positive, I am frustrated and have almost lost hope.”

Unable to continue his career as a coach, Samuel found himself unemployed and needed to carve a new path in life. Through the support of his partner, he has undertaken a Master of Fine Art Photography course, and this is forming the basis for a budding new career.

In addition to his studies, Samuel has found a love of, and natural talent for gardening.

Spending time in nature helps

Finding that gardening and time in nature help his pain and mental health, Samuel enjoys volunteering and honing his skills at local community gardens.

“I get to meet lovely people who are good to me, plus I get to learn about gardening at wonderful places too. I seem to experience a kind of peace from the inner mental turmoil at times, plus it reduces my pain too. I think nature has a way to put things into perspective.”

Living with chronic pain

Samuel lives with a constant and debilitating pain in his head. He finds the pain hard to describe, and has come to think of it as his ‘pain monster’. Samuel says:

This agony is a relentless ‘monster’ that lurks within me and remains hidden. Its unseen attacks are constant. It never leaves me. It is a part of my life.

In a bid to communicate this experience with others Samuel has developed a photograph book entitled ‘The Pain Monster’. Samuel told us:

“In the form of a photograph, by using emotional camera movements, and prolonged time exposures, I have found a way to confront this pain and give it a face. I finally have clarity and have been able to deal with the reality that I face daily. The Monster has been exposed.”

Samuel went on to say that he wants the project to offer hope, solace and inspiration to all who struggle with physical and mental pain.

When I was asked to describe the pain from the brain injury, I found this very difficult to make sense of. The emotional camera movements have enabled me to show them.

You can find examples of Samuel’s photography and follow his journey here.

Samuel also uses his photography to aid the memory problems he has faced since his brain injury and to document memories such as his child growing up.

“I forget things very quickly and photo diaries help with my memory.”

Don’t give up

We asked Samuel, ‘if you could give one piece of advice to other brain injury survivors, what would it be?’

Don’t give up, even when you are feeling at your worst there’s always hope and support - Headway is a good example of this (especially the guidebooks which I found very helpful).

Samuel has been supported by Headway – the brain injury association in the form of publications (available free in our information library), on the Headway helpline, and with a Brain Injury ID Card. He has also spent time with local groups, Headway Rotherham, York and Harrogate.

“The people at the meetings are very nice and they do good things like day trips and cinema showings too, they have been really kind to me.”

Nature’s benefit after brain injury webinar

This Headway webinar Nature’s benefit after brain injury offers the opportunity to learn more about the physical, psychological and cognitive benefits of spending time in nature, with reference to the research and theories around this. It goes on to offer practical ideas and suggestions for weaving more opportunities for nature connection into our daily life.


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