‘I thought that I was going to drink myself to death’

Tina Young
Tina Young
Dr John Steadman, archivist of Portsmouth History Centre based at Portsmouth Central Library     Picture:  Malcolm Wells

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Tina Young was a career woman who worked hard training people at care homes.

But one day, stressed and worn out, she slipped and fell down the stairs at home and suffered a serious brain injury.

I would go to bed and pray that I wouldn’t wake up

She pulled through, but had to give up her job and found herself on a downward spiral where she was drinking heavily every night and hoping it would kill her.

But now, having found help, she hasn’t had a drink in four years.

She focuses on her family and helping others who have had a brain injury to get through it.

Tina, who lives in Leigh Park, recalls: ‘I was working two different jobs. That was my life. I loved it but I was worn out.

‘One day (in 2009) I just fell down the stairs at home and had a massive brain injury.’

Following surgery at Southampton General Hospital, Tina was transferred to the Queen Alexandra Hospital at Cosham at the request of her daughter, Emma, who was told to prepare to say goodbye.

Somehow the 56-year-old pulled through and spent the next nine months recovering in hospital.

When she finally left, she discovered her life was going to be very different.

‘I couldn’t walk, I couldn’t talk, I couldn’t see properly,’ she says.

‘I had no memory. I went back to being a baby. I couldn’t cook or anything like that. My memory is still all over the place now.’

She adds: ‘When I got out of hospital I felt I had accepted what had happened. But that was because in my head I was going back to work. That was what I looked forward to.

‘I tried my hardest to get work at different care homes, but wasn’t getting very far. I went to see a friend and said I would do it as a volunteer if he could re-train me.

‘I had tried to fill in an application form and after four attempts it still didn’t make any sense. It was then that I was told that I couldn’t go back.

‘I was devastated that I couldn’t go back to work. I had worked all my life. I didn’t want to live any more.’

After that, Tina fell into a big slump. Each day she would get up, clean the house, do her hair and make-up and then spend hours drinking bottles of wine.

‘Every day I would clean my house and put on my make-up before I started drinking,’ she adds.

‘Whoever found me dead, I wanted them to find me in a clean house, looking nice.

‘In my head I thought that I wanted to die and it was about how I was going to kill myself. The only thing that came into my head was to drink myself to death.

‘I used to start drinking at about 5pm. It lasted until about 7 or 8pm because I was shattered and I would go to bed and pray that I wouldn’t wake up. I prayed every night.

‘I just couldn’t cope with not going back to work. I didn’t accept it at all.

‘To me, if I went back to work, I was back to where I was before.’

Tina carried on drinking every day for around 10 months. She had a friend who would go to the shops and buy wine for her.

But eventually, people around her began to notice that something wasn’t quite right.

‘My daughter kept on and on at me. She would phone me at night time. To keep her quiet I told her that I would stop drinking, but I couldn’t.’

She tried detox sessions, acupuncture and herbal remedies. But she still carried on drinking.

Finally, her efforts paid off and she had her last drink in 2012.

She says: ‘I can’t believe I put my daughter through that. But at the time I just didn’t want to be here.

‘I met my partner when I was still on the drink. That was a lot to do with it as well. He helps me and looks after me and I didn’t want to lose him.’

As well as Michael Coates, she also has best friend Sandra Pitcher, daughter Emma and son Matthew that look out for her.

Tina says: ‘People do value me and I know that now. They are my back-up. They are always there.’

Now Tina is a peer mentor at Headway, a brain injury charity based at the Mountbatten Centre in Portsmouth.

She explains: ‘When I first got out of hospital, they sent me to Headway. I thought “that’s not me”. It was, but I couldn’t see that. I sat there and I wouldn’t speak.’

Tina spends time talking to sufferers and helping them on their road to recovery.

‘I talk to them and I speak about what I have done. I don’t want to hide that, I will be honest. I want to help other people that have gone through this.

‘I have met other people who have had brain injuries that have gone on to drink. I would like to help anyone like that. If I can help someone, then it makes it worthwhile.’

Her life has changed dramatically and her injury still affects her.

She says: ‘I repeat myself, but I only know that when people tell me. Sometimes I can’t remember people’s names.

‘I’m on anti-depressants and I still wake up in tears sometimes. I still hate not working, but that’s never going to go away. I just focus on what I have got in life.’

HEADWAY

What are the causes of a brain injury?

It’s varied but they can include a stroke, a traumatic assault, a fall, a road accident, a brain tumour, a work accident or a brain haemorrhage.

How can it affect your brain?

A brain injury affects everything about the way you control your body including slowed responses, lack of initiative, inappropriate behaviour, poor communication, loss of physical senses, poor memory and personality changes.

How can Headway help?

The charity Headway runs courses to build confidence, skills and employability. Staff offer support and advice, run weekly groups with activities in various areas and help to improve health and wellbeing.

The charity also lobbies for improved services locally for people with a brain injury.

Headway runs different courses for people, including a confidence course and cognitive therapy.

This year, the charity marked its 30th anniversary and has held celebrations throughout the year.

To find out more about the charity and to make a donation, please visit headwayportsmouth.co.uk.