A few small steps to the shops but a giant leap for me

A few small steps to the shops but a giant leap for me

13th November, 2018

The readers of this blog are likely to recognise the borrowed and slightly adapted title. Words made famous by Neil Armstrong on making his first steps on the moon. I too have recently been on a trip that was personally momentous and potentially hazardous- not to the moon and back like Mr. Armstrong but to…my local supermarket.  This is approximately a one mile round trip at the most, which, including the time spent shopping, took me about an hour and a half.  Only 102 hours and 45 minutes shy of the Apollo 11 Crew’s 75 hours and 56 minutes to get to the moon.  

I have been in training for this first solo trip to the supermarket for a long time. By this I mean accompanying my mother to the supermarket and ‘helping’ her where possible. It is a safe and productive environment to practice a simple task made vastly more complex because of my brain injury. I use the word ‘helping’ with caution as I don’t think my being there helps mum get her shopping done swiftly. It is certainly a testament to her patience, as it takes her much longer when I am there- highlighting just one of countless instances of her continued help in relation to all aspects of my rehabilitation.

As I stated at the start of this blog, my trip to the supermarket is a voyage that most people would not find comparable to the moon landing in its magnitude nor in its benefit to all mankind:)  For that matter neither would I, however, there are several very tenuous similarities that I would like to mention.  The nearest large supermarket to my house is a relatively simple ten-minute walk away.   So, when I overheard that two items “essential” to any modern-day family, had not made it home following mum’s big shop, I volunteered my services to walk and get these forgotten items (anchovies and razor blades).       

The best way for me to explain this might be to breakdown my trip into the parts I struggled through, by using some of the techniques and strategies learnt through trial and error during previous accompanied shopping trips and the helpful knowledge gathered through attendance at Headway Cambridgeshire. In this way I hoped to make it safely back to “mission control” (my house) along with a shopping receipt and a corresponding amount of change.

I duly wrote these two items on a blank piece of paper and re-read them to ensure my visual defect and memory didn’t let me down.  I visualised me forgetting these items and kept imagining me walking up to the house with my shopping bag in hand and the wrong items inside.

Without knocking any elderly people or children over I managed to navigate around the supermarket and for reassurance ask the assistant for help with locating my two listed items.  Once that was done I got to the checkout, got a receipt and left to walk back home.  It was then through double checking the list, I discovered it had been written for me on the back of a used envelope. I slowly turned the envelope over and my heart sank. I quickly turned it over again intending to lie to myself that I hadn’t seen the writing on the other side. Instead, I rang the doorbell and waited for it to be answered, no longer excited by the prospect of returning from my first solo supermarket shopping trip with my head held high. I handed the items to my mum expecting her to look puzzled worried that I had only half the shopping, but to my relief she simply congratulated me on returning with all the shopping. 

Once everything had been unpacked, I took a second look at the reverse side of my shopping list envelope. I could not help but smile to myself at how much of a chump I had been.  Yes, there was writing on the other side of the envelope, but not more shopping items but a very neatly handwritten letter addressed ironically to me :)  Not that it would’ve mattered either way but as far as I can remember, I have never mentioned any of this to my mum, but she’ll know now as she edits my blogs.

One of the toughest parts of brain injury, is not having the trust or confidence in some, admittedly not all, of my capabilities. Strategies and information learnt through Headway Cambridgeshire have increased likelihood of my success going forward. Thanks to Headway and my shopping experiences with my mum, I feel more confident in my ability to successfully begin to shop alone - a giant leap for me.





The Hospital Brain Injury Co-ordinator became someone who absolutely understood how I felt, I didn’t need to explain. I could talk about my fears and worries. She was such a great support through the difficult days, but could also celebrate the small step successes, which was important to me.