Annette Edwards went to sleep one night in 1999, and woke up to an entirely different reality.
Suffering from a severe stroke in her sleep, Edwards has been living with a brain injury ever since, and has struggled with the simple tasks we all take for granted.
Not only did she lose all her memory, she also lost many of her social and emotional skills, and had to relearn how to behave.
“When you have a stroke, your personality takes a 180 degree turn. If you were nice before, you’re usually crabby after,” she said. “It’s taken a lot to take charge of my emotions, and be respectful to somebody.”
Edwards, much like a young child, had to learn what is and is not appropriate to say in social situations. After her stroke she found herself offending people and hurting their feelings, because she would say whatever was in her mind.
“Even now, in physical years I am 61. But in my mind, and emotions, I am 13. I had to learn how to control my temper, I had to learn how to function,” she said.
Coping with a brain injury is very difficult, both on the injured, and on their families. It is important to get the help you need, and Edwards realized that when she came in contact with the East Kootenay Brain Injury Association (EKBIA).
“Without the support that we get from Debbie (Gudjonson, outreach worker with the EKBIA), most of us would be pretty lost,” she said. “I struggled for a long time. I got involved with Debbie in 2005.”
Not only does she get the support she needs from Gudjonson, she is also part of a network of people who are going through similar problems that she is. They can lean on each other, because they know what it is like to be judged by people who don’t understand their injuries.
“It’s very important. Without the awareness people just look at you like you’re crazy or you’re drunk. There’s a million things they label us with, but they never look at it like it’s an injury,” said Edwards.
She had no idea what people dealt with before she had her injury, and she warns people not to make the same mistake.
“Don’t assume, because tomorrow it could be you. It hits just like that. I was sleeping when it hit me. So never assume.”