To celebrate World Book Day, Gemma Bromley, author of “Half a Head”, shares her experience of life after a traumatic brain injury, why she found writing her memoir cathartic and what inspired her to train to become a Rehabilitation Officer for Visual Impairment.
Gemma will be joining the team at Visibility Scotland as our newest member of staff on 14 March. We can’t wait to welcome her then! Read on to find out more about Gemma.
Half a Head: How to survive, thrive and heal after brain injury.
I cannot believe my book “Half a Head” is still making its way to the hands of people worldwide who follow me on Instagram; I am extremely grateful and honoured to be helping people who live with an invisible disability. Half a Head is about finding the courage to live the life you know you deserve; it is about empowering everyone to challenge the views of disability in today’s society; it is about looking beyond external identity and reaching within to find true beauty and contentment. Many people have said that they have laughed and cried throughout my book, so I do hope it will give you a few giggles along the way!
In 2002 at the age of seventeen, I was in a car accident where I was airlifted to hospital. I was left with brain injury, and half of my skull had to be removed. I was in a coma for quite some time, and recovery was a long journey of ups and downs. Brain injury is a type of ‘”invisible disability” as it can often leave no outward sign after the wounds have healed. I completely lost my identity, sight, hearing, speech, motor skills and of course part of my brain. I used to try so hard to appear to be “normal” but what is normal anyway? There are 7.8 billion versions of normal in this world! I feel passionate about changing people’s stereotyping, I want to help people understand that you cannot judge a book by its cover, and in this case you cannot judge a person by how they look. I talk about loss of identity in my book, and how I became friends with the “new me”, the different me, the better me, the happier me!
After a long recovery period I went to Birmingham City University to study Rehabilitation for Visual Impairment, I knew this career choice was going to be something special, and I was absolutely right! I had to navigate life managing diplopia (double vision) for over six months, and having permanent hearing loss in one ear. I wanted to help other people who have lost part of their identity to feel they can be as independent and confident as possible. And who better than someone who can really understand how it feels to lose parts of themselves.
Writing my book has been a very cathartic experience for me. Not only did I learn about myself, but it has helped me to breakdown the denial that was still attached to me! Half a Head has helped me to find closure. And that itself it the best feeling in the world.
People say to me “how can you be so ok after everything that’s happened to you” and I say to them – everything happens for a reason whether that is good or bad, we learn from them both, and in the bad one day you realise “Ahhh I get it now, it all had to happen the way it did to become the person I am now”.
I have had some incredible support and reviews but this one is my favourite:
“I finished the book last night and would love to tell you what I got from it. Firstly, you’re a great writer. You write with such clarity, (I’d say this brain injury or not) which provokes strong emotion. I’ve read a thousand crime thrillers which detailed some horrible stuff, but none made my stomach turn like your account of the accident did. The kind of turning you get when you see an old person take a fall. (I’m not calling you old!) This is a gift. This clarity also comes across in your account of the desperation to communicate when you woke up. I felt it.
I could also empathise with the denial aspect and the want to ignore your illness and press on, ignoring what cannot really be ignored if you want to really heal. You really illustrate how much time this takes and how it’s not a straight climb, rather, an up and down, roundabout kind of journey.
It will help a lot of people, I am sure. Not just the patients but the families. I could go on, but I also have a reputation as a bit of a spoiler, so I’ll let everyone read it for themselves!
I think the real magic of the book will be when your son reads it. As children, I think we have an innate ability to understand our parents up to a point. But you have given him the keys not just to unlock you and your identity but to open the door to how you got there. To me, there isn’t a more valuable gift a parent could give their child”.
“Life is tough, but so are you”
Don’t give up, don’t ever give up…
Happy world book day guys!
Gemma’s book “Half a Head” is available to buy on Amazon: Half a Head
You can read more about Gemma on her website: gemmabromley.co.uk
Posted on the: March 3, 2022