"Almost exactly two years ago I was in an accident. I was on my bike and the driver crossed in front of me. I suffered contusions and haemorrhaging in my brain and broken vertebrae. After the first period of recovery was over I found that I needed to be around other people who had sustained a brain injury.
I heard about the Gardening Project at Headway Cambridgeshire and came for an interview and was accepted on the course. I find introductions to new people quite difficult. I either fixate on one person and talk too much or shut down completely. I would also sometimes find myself getting defensive. It took a few weeks to remember everyone’s name but I found that the course was an opportunity for me to be myself amongst people and not have to worry about saying the wrong thing.
My gardening skills were limited when I first started the course but now my view of what a garden is has changed completely. I want as much as possible of what I grow in my own garden to be edible. I just see what works in different places. On the course there was no right or wrong way of doing things but a lot of encouragement to find answers for ourselves.
I have now started volunteering at Wimpole as a gardener and I enjoy my work there. I have also been offering my gardening services to elderly and frail people in my local community. I provide the comedy of getting soaked, muddy, rose-thorned and grubby kneed but they tell me what they want done. It’s their garden, after all. I like the idea of making a difference to the area I live in and it’s a way of gauging what I can cope with. Sometimes my frontal lobes don’t work and I don’t recognise that I am getting tired. I can still do parts of my old job as a design engineer, but the whole rounded person I need to be isn’t quite there yet. There is still a lot of learning to do.
If you compare how I am now to how I was before the Headway course the difference is astounding. Before I did it I was finding it hard to contain my emotions and express myself properly. I was liable to blow a fuse if things got too much for me. After doing the Garden Project I now have much more confidence to approach people and talk to them. I am no longer so anxious about making a mistake or blundering in."