REAL LIFE: Freak accident makes me careful how I use my energy

Freya Perry in her home studio - she suffered a traumatic brain injury in a freak accident and art brought her back to her old self  Picture: Habibur Rahman (171663-059)
Freya Perry in her home studio - she suffered a traumatic brain injury in a freak accident and art brought her back to her old self Picture: Habibur Rahman (171663-059)
Picture: Duncan Shepherd

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When it comes to art, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

But for Freya Perry, art is more than just pretty paintings or sculptures.

‘I was in utter shock. I thought that my life was over. I didn’t really want to believe it.

It got her back on her feet following a traumatic brain injury.

The 71-year-old, of Lidiard Gardens, Eastney, has always been a creative person and says she chose needlework over cookery at school.

But it was only after she suffered a freak accident at home that she discovered her love of painting.

Now, she paints as a way to relax and to let her creative juices flow.

‘I worked in the travel industry for 25 years but when I was made redundant it was a blessing.’

When she left the industry, Freya began working as a healing artist making creative crafts. She began to run workshops.

‘I did that for a long time and thoroughly enjoyed it,’ she says.

‘I had lots of work and exhibitions.’

But in 2012, Freya’s brother was killed in an horrific coach accident, and she struggled with her grief. As a result, she started working with clay as a form of therapy.

‘I started doing lots of creative work, which I loved.’

Then life threw another nasty curveball at her, in November 2014.

Freya was cleaning a shelf at home when an ornament fell off and hit her on the head.

She was knocked out cold for two hours and awoke on the floor, confused as to what had happened.

But, having not realised how much time has passed, she didn’t think she was seriously injured and carried on with her day.

‘I remember thinking “that hurt”. But it’s like as a child when you rub your knee and say it’s getting better. I didn’t know what had happened. So I just tried to get on with things.’

Freya later put a message on Facebook to ask her friends to send her some healing words and some of her friends grew concerned.

One of them turned up on her doorstep to check on her and eventually she went to A&E. By that point it had been about 10 days since the accident.

‘They were very thorough and did every test possible and said that I was lucky to be alive. They said that I wasn’t treating it seriously.’

She’d sustained a serious head injury and was told to rest the brain for two weeks and that it would take between six months and two years to fully recover.

There were a lot of things she could no longer do.

‘I was in utter shock. I thought that my life was over. I didn’t really want to believe it.

‘I became very isolated. I couldn’t go out and about and live a normal life.

‘That day changed my life.

‘It took me about a year to get back to normality. I couldn’t walk for more than five minutes. I was unstable.

‘I couldn’t read for long periods of time. I couldn’t watch television or listen to music because of the noise. To this day I can’t handle being in cafes or bars.’

That’s because Freya has since developed a condition called hyperacusis which makes her hypersensitive to noise.

It’s related to the nerves in her brain that were damaged when she had her accident.

And a year later, she faced another setback when she fell on a bus while on holiday in Italy.

‘It’s very difficult to explain to another human being who hasn’t had a brain accident or trauma what it’s like when you get brain fog,’ she says.

But in the past few weeks, the brain fog has finally begun to lift. Freya has taken on lots of spiritual healing and homeopathy, which she believes has helped.

‘It’s the belief that the brain can find new neural pathways,’ she adds.

‘I get to a certain stage where I’m having a conversation and think “I can’t do this anymore, there’s not enough brain power”.

‘I am very careful about how I use my energy.’

But in the past year or two, Freya has got back into art. This time, she has developed a love of painting.

‘I have always been artistic but I was doing textile arts and ceramics before the accident and I loved it but I had to give that up. I couldn’t go to the studio with everybody else because it was too noisy.

‘I needed to put my hands into something and I needed to do something again. I could tell that I was healing because I needed to do something.

‘I got some paints out and a canvas and somebody asked if they could buy it, which was amazing.

‘I started painting and that was therapy for me. I started playing around and it was to appease my soul and to bring me some joy. Then I realised that I loved it.

‘It was my healing journey. I found it was a joy. Before, I never thought I could paint. But friends started asking me if they could buy things. So I set up a studio. I was enjoying being there.’

Recently she gave up the studio because it became too noisy. Now, she paints from home.

She has also filled a corridor inside the offices at Lakeside 1000, Cosham, with her art. ‘I don’t know where my future is going,’ she says.

‘I wish a benefactor would come along and give me a little studio and allow people to come in. I can’t paint every day because sometimes the brain is just too tired. Then I just sleep.

‘But I am very positive.

‘Everybody used to love my workshops but the problem is I never know how I am going to be.

There are still days where I do too much and I need to rest.

‘Life has changed dramatically. But one door closes and another one opens.’