A 53-year-old child abuse survivor from Grantham, who went over 40 years with undiagnosed brain injuries inflicted by his mother, has joined the board at a Lincolnshire charity to help other sufferers get the support they need.
Chris Simpson, 53, from Grantham, joined the board at Headway Lincolnshire after years of support from the charity in dealing with his own trauma – which had long gone unanswered.
He has suffered from PTSD and an acquired brain injury, as a result of years of abuse at the hands of his mother, who he was eventually permanently removed from thanks to social services, though these injuries went undiagnosed for most of his life.
Chris said: “I didn’t have the most idyllic family life growing up, and during the first year of my life I was beaten regularly by my mother.
“At the age of nine months I was eventually taken away from my parents when it was discovered in hospital that I had a massive skull fracture. It extended from my right orbit to the occiput, and I also suffered nine rib fractures.”
Chris’ mother was given three years’ probation for these injuries, but after a few months he was back in her care and the violence continued. He was in hospital and children’s homes multiple times during his upbringing, suffering cut lips and black eyes from beatings.
He grew up in the care system and struggled to learn and retain information at school, prompting kids to call him names and mock his intelligence – unaware of his situation at home.
After leaving school with no formal qualifications, he began working life, but it quickly became apparent to Chris that something wasn’t right as he became fatigued and often had to miss a day’s work just through the necessity of sleeping all day.
“My sleep pattern problems completely affected my work life, and I had many periods of unemployment as a result,” he explained.
“I always knew that there was something not quite right with my health, but I didn’t know exactly what it was.
“Everybody else could learn faster and retain information better than me. I managed to return to college and gain four GCSEs which was extremely hard, but by this time I was in my 40s and stuck in repeating patterns of unemployment.”
It was during a routine eye appointment that Chris finally started to get the answers he’d been looking for. His optician referred him to hospital after spotting damage in his left eye, where it was discovered that it was consistent with major trauma.
After watching a documentary on traumatic brain injuries, Chris began researching symptoms and discovered brain injury charity Headway, who advised him to approach his doctor with a referral.
At Queen’s Medical Centre in Nottingham, Chris was diagnosed with PTSD and told he’d been living with a serious head injury that dated back to his childhood.
Chris said of the diagnosis: “The doctor said the ABI would not get better; life would continue to be a challenge for me, and I should be helped with disability and sickness benefits as there was no way to reverse such an injury.
“He also said I should be extremely proud of my achievements as it was rare to see these considering I had such a bad level of brain damage. I was really touched by that.
“I left the hospital crying, reflecting on all the times that I had been told that I was stupid or daft or not going to amount to much. All this time I had a head injury and I only found out by strange twists of fate!”
Since this diagnosis, Chris has continued to live independently and receives regular support from Headway Lincolnshire, which he described as “a lifeline” as he joined the board of trustees at Grantham’s support group for the charity.
Discussing the charity, Chris said: “Headway Lincolnshire has been a lifeline; since my diagnosis I have regularly attended Grantham Headway’s support group, and in September 2021 I joined the board of trustees which has been amazing.
“As someone living with a brain injury, it’s fantastic to get involved in the official work that Headway Lincolnshire conducts and give a voice to those who are suffering from an ABI.
“Through Headway Lincolnshire, I have met so many people along my journey who I can relate to because they have shared similar experiences, and I’m lucky enough to call them friends.
“Seeing all the people who have helped me, from other service users to volunteers and trustees, always leaves me with a warm sense of hope in humanity.”