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  • Writer's pictureJack Martindale

BABICM Annual Conference speech: chat about what you know

“entertaining, funny and thought provoking” #blushing

Having plenty to say about almost anything is something that I’ve always been guilty of.

Wednesday the 25th of June 2019 witnessed me give my latest after dinner – before dinner should actually allow me to properly enjoy the meal, but that is not the name of the game is it! – Speech to the BABICM (British Association Brain Injury Case Managers) annual conference in Birmingham.

Talking the hind legs off of a donkey can well be for better or for worse, but at least in earning from giving speeches, it certainly feels for the richer rather than poorer.

Getting paid to speak is something that I find to be the biggest bonus. As much as I can try to lend my hand to try and spout something as interesting as possible about almost anything, going towards an area that I can identify has to be the biggest bonus.

And the area where I have the greatest surplus is brain injury. In itself, I no longer see this as any real positive or negative attribute. It is what it is, in the clichés and tropes that I’m a sucker for… In places of colossal uncertainty, you can’t beat the reliable communication of a phrase! Whilst initially, I would have viewed any exclusivity that my severe trauma created as something to shy away from and almost cringe-worthy in itself, learning to securely carry your experiences is one of the most vital lessons that I have been imbued through by some of my rocky life-experience.

Appreciating that some of the people who are best and have the greatest potential to inspire in talking about something are those that have been in it and cone out of on the other side. Campaigning is something that I’ve got a passion and penchant for and there’s nothing closer to my heart than trying to resolve injustices in speaking for the afflicted.

Whilst initially I was most uncomfortable with the idea of being any receiver of help. This blinkered approach is something that I have long well-matured. The best providers of help have to be the ones that have experienced existence from the other end of the spectrum. You don’t need to be a professional counsellor to appreciate why certain organisations require their therapists to have had experience of the client’s issues i.e. substance abuse sufferers working with addicts, receivers of domestic or sexual violence working with the afflicted etc., etc.

Going with my love for the expressions, it really is not what happens but how you deal with it. Yes, I certainly was a victim in the split second on the 1st of January 2010 when a car mounted the pavement and left me with a brain injury. Though this unfortunate fate is something that circumstance with language, can turn around into being a survivor.

This negative experience in itself is something with which I can take and almost use to help other people that have been effected as almost a form of vengeance against any unfounded ill-will in the world!

We’ve all got our own struggles. Embracing what these historic or present battles are, is something that we surely have to do in our own way. I’d be the last person to ever want to suggest that there’s a right or wrong way for an individual to face their demons; burying them in Pandora’s Box, or chatting about is something that I believe comes down to the onus of the Individual. I feel that in articulating yourself in exerting your own take on an experience, you are able to reclaim it from anybody who may try to insist that they hold the power.

Apparently my speech would have made quite a few faces around the room feel rather uncomfortable at times – nothing like ruffling feathers is there – was not my motive. I was merely trying to provide a frank and honest account of a patient’s experience.

Overwhelmingly this was positive, though a criticism superiority complex that professionals can carry and any of their being bound by attempting to exert a worthily inflexible approach were not things that I neglected to mention. By undermining anybody, I feel that you’re surely always leaving yourself open to future attack.

One part of the speech to cause the greatest stir amongst the audience was after my relating an experience that I’ve learned from my parents. During my 3 month coma, a doctor crassly related to a bunch of junior medics that I ‘would never lead an independent life’. In absolute terms. This arrogance and audacity is most usurped in that it could not have been proven to be more incorrect. Yet due to their status and I dare say, downright insensitivity of certain practitioners abusing their position of power, unnecessary anguish was created. This needs to be quashed and I take it as a given that elements of this display of force transcend all professions. Ultimately it is a lack of justice and it is something that I feel needs to be broken aplenty.

The speech that I gave actually almost overran during the Q&A as I was so animated and being asked to talk about my experiences of having a brain injury is always rather like being asked how long’s a piece of string? So yes, I could go on forever talking about my experiences and it is uplifting to know that it can be mutually empowering in rewarding me by getting things off of my chest along with being of real interest to the listeners.

A golden nugget of the experience to me happened during the close of the time sat around our table. This occurred before our group migrated to the hotel’s rooftop bar and then time forced us into the casino to continue our merriment, when the neurologist sat next to me revered the ‘rhythmical tone of my voice’ in allowing what I said to particularly resonate in making what I say come alive. Judging by the sound of my singing voice, it must be principally through meat of what I am saying rather than any lyrical quality that I have. Although the accuracy of this flattering observation is questionable, almost never have I been paid a greater compliment!

Anyway, going back to the beginning of this piece, I love talking and with the idea of what I am saying being welcomed in improving the quality of anything, I look forward to hopefully being asked to deliver some more conference speeches.

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