Meningitis in your words

Jamie Thomas's story

  • Location: England
  • Categories: Meningococcal
  • Age: Adult 25-59
  • Relationship: Self
  • Outcome: Recovery with after effects
  • After effects: Co-ordination problems
Jamie Thomas

Two years ago I’d been on a night out and had awakened feeling like my brain was trying to wrench itself out of my skull. This turned out to be Meningococcal Meningitis. I’ll never forget how intense the pain was, my dad found me unconscious in his bedroom. He worked a night shift and if I’d stayed in my room, which was covered in sick, he wouldn’t have found me and I wouldn’t be here. I spent a week in intensive care in a coma the doctors weren’t sure I’d come out of.

When I was in hospital I felt and was considered ‘lucky’ – I had my memory, my sight, and my ability to move. So all I felt I had to do was take my time off to recover and then I could get back to living, even more so as the near death experience was quite sobering. Admittedly, it took me quite a while to realise just how ill I’d been - that might have been due to coming off the painkillers slowly. Everything was immensely tiring. 

"It was difficult to re-adjust at first"

My doctor often talked about the psychological effects of brain injury. At the time I thought I was fine, that might have had something to do with all the painkillers pumping through me. It was only later that I noticed my emotions were really unhinged; my moods were really strong and shifted constantly.

It was difficult to re-adjust at first; I don’t think I’m being overdramatic in saying that after nearly dying my perception of my life had significantly shifted. What did I have to show for my life? I quit my job that understood my situation and immediately found an office job in order to start a proper career, to get money to go travelling again.

Three days in I had a panic attack and quit. My head felt as though it had a million thoughts running through it, and I found it really hard to focus. A year’s anniversary of the meningitis and I was still in and out of jobs, mainly retail work, where I either couldn’t physically keep up and mentally I was mess; as I found it hard to focus and think straight.

"I thought I was just incapable, and this caused depression. It never occurred to me that it might be the meningitis."

I told employers I’d had meningococcal meningitis, but they never properly understood the effects, as I barely understood my own myself. I thought I was just incapable, and this caused depression. It never occurred to me that it might be the meningitis until I went back into barista-ing - work I’d done for two years and could do in my sleep - and found I couldn’t remember orders or keep up with the fast paced environment. This eventually lead to a nervous breakdown, as I didn’t feel I had a future if I couldn’t handle the simplest of things.

After a long talk with my family I took time off to re-cooperate and get help. I attended therapy and read self-help books for my depression (a book called “The Chimp paradox” by Prof. Steven Peters, suggested by another MM sufferer, really helped) and am currently undergoing neuro-rehabilitative therapy. I’m managing my fatigue by exercising regularly, I run and rock climb - if I keep it consistent I feel great. I use a free app called neuro-nation that helps with my focus and memory. It’s been two years since I was diagnosed and it’s strange to think that I am still affected by it. Since it’s confirmed that it is the source of my major problems I have accepted it, and am confident and motivated in working to rebuild myself.

Jamie Thomas
June 2016