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16 October 2014
Getting your message across  - Talk Scotland

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Ask Lynsey Calderwood
Lynsey Calderwood fell when she was 14, resulting in a bump to her head which wiped her entire memory. Everything she had ever learned was gone - from basics like brushing her teeth to reading, writing and recognising herself and her family. Despite a 10-year emotional rollercoaster ride she is now building a career as a successful Scottish writer.
Lynsey Calderwood

Lynsey joined us right after her story was told in BBC ONE Scotland’s Lives Less Ordinary on Monday the 17th of March 2003.

Our first question was from nic: Is there any hope at all that your memories of your childhood experiences will return even now?

Lynsey: I don't think so. It's like if you have a PC and you wipe your hard drive. All your work is lost and you can't get that back.

Question from kirsty: I watched your programme tonight and it was the best I have seen. I am studying occupational therapy just now and our lecture today was on brain injuries so I found it very helpful and also inspirational. did you receive any occupational therapy? if so what kind of activities did they use to help you?

Lynsey: When I was at Rehab Scotland I did receive some therapy, when I was 18. There was nothing for brain-injured children.

Question from linzi2: Any changes Margaret would like to see to procedures for dealing with and diagnosing problems like Lynsey's?

Margaret: I think they should have a lot more info, pamphlets, handed out to community centres, that if anyone has a head injury they should contact the hospital. If someone has had a head injury and they are having behavioural problems after being discharged, or personality changes, people should believe the families, after someone has had a bump or whatever.

Question from paula: When you returned to school after your accident did you find your teachers or friends at all supportive? Have you kept in touch with any of your old friends?

Lynsey: No. I think the guidance teacher had been given notes about brain injury and she said that she didn't have time to read it. The info didn't get passed on to staff members so they didn't know how to deal with me. The kids didn't know either. They would make jokes. Two senior teachers made jokes too, so the kids would follow suit.

Question from brightredsmudge: Lynsey, I saw you performing in the Vagina Monologues last week (my friend was in it with you). I am stunned at how you were able to remember your lines. Do you know how that is?

Lynsey: I did get confused with other people's lines and kept stealing them!

Question from fiona: How does your brain injury affect your writing?

Lynsey: I use a laptop most of the time. Because my visual memory is so poor, if I'm writing about a pub atmosphere I need to actually be there IN the pub.

Question from lynndrop: Hi Lynsey, I am a 40 year-old woman, who would love to embark on a creative writing course, but suffer from real low self confidence. Do you have any tips you could help me with?

Lynsey: I think she has taken the first step by wanting to write for herself. There are lots of writing groups out there - find one you are comfortable with. You may have to go a few times till you find one that is suitable for you.

Question from kat binn: How would it feel to you if your writing became as famous as Jk Rowling, Roald Dahl or JRR Tolkein?

Lynsey: Um... Well, I didn't write the book for publication, just for therapeutic reasons. I'd like people to read it and become more aware of brain injuries. Then they can read my fiction and judge it and then tell me if I'm a good writer!

Question from Sandy: Do you feel people are less understanding because there are no physical signs of your disability?

Lynsey: It is an invisible disability. I used to fall asleep in the class all the time. There were lots of jokes about that but it's just because they didn't understand. It can be very frustrating.

Question from dricksie: Despite problems with your visual memory, do you still have dreams, or rather do you have dreams you remember?

Lynsey: I do have dreams but they tend to be in conversation form. I don't dream in pictures but I could tell you that I went to the shop and bought a loaf of bread.

Question from fiona: If you get lost how do you get home?

Lynsey: I've got a mobile phone and I rely a lot on my dad picking me up because after 6pm there's not a bus route to my house and I can't remember how to get home. If I can get on the underground I know it will take me back to the same place again.

Question from jules: Does Margaret worry about Lynsey when she's not with her?

Margaret: Aye, I DO worry about her. My worst fear is her getting lost. It was alarming to let her out on her own. Every time the door went or the phone went I thought there was something up with her.

Question from David: Hi Lynsey. My son had a very bad injury 12 years ago. I watched the programme with goose bumps and tears in my eyes. Your fear of not being left behind and in a time warp hit me hard because I think that is what has happened to my son. Have you any thoughts as to how someone could kickstart themselves from being stuck in a "timewarp"?

Lynsey: I think the hardest part is finding direction. You can't go back to being the person you used to be. Accepting that is the first step. When I moved to a new school, I didn't tell my friends. They just accepted that I got lost. Now I'm upfront. If we go out I say you have to meet me at the bus stop. I acknowledge there are things I just can't do as well.

Question from Xingu: When you are writing does your memory problem make it difficult to keep track of what you have already written?

Lynsey: Yes, it does sometimes. It's difficult if I'm writing something and I get distracted, it can take me hours to get back into that same piece of writing.

Question from Caroline: Are you planning on doing anything more to make people aware of brain injuries?

Lynsey: I would like to write a book for brain-injured children and I'd like to see it going into schools.

Question from Amanda: Hello. I just wanted to say how brave you are for sharing what has happened to you. Do you know when your novel will be completed? P.S. lemon and purple do go together!

Lynsey: Thanks, Amanda. I knew I was right! I finished the first draft and it took me a year. I'm not very good at structure so I had to have a serious redraft. It may take months or even years!

Question from daimenaj: Are simple house bound chores easy for you to do? cooking, cleaning etc or are you dependent on Margaret always?

Lynsey: It is quite difficult to do everyday things because I quite often leave the gas on... when I'm allowed to use the cooker!

Question from james: I would like to know if the book "cracked" would be available in libraries or if any book stores in Glasgow would have it in stock?

Lynsey: It sold out and they've never got it back in! It's selling well on the Internet though. People can order it in bookshops or direct from the publishers as well.

Question from dj scotia: Your programme was very inspiring. Who are you inspired by?

Lynsey: Janice Galloway. I loved "The Trick Is To Keep Breathing." I also admire Joanna McVicar. She wants to help others.

Question from alisont: Hi Lynsey, first I just wanted to say how touched I was by your story, and very well done. My Dad died from cancer about six years ago and my Mum has always said she wanted to write a book about his life and illness. Have you any tips on how to get started and how to tackle the topic?

Lynsey: It's difficult to publish an autobiography. If you tackle the strongest memory first and then work backwards it should all fall into place.

Comment from oliver: Lynsey I think you’re a top bird, I bet you’re well on the way to being a millionaire with your novel? Lynsey: (laughing) Ta!

Question from Marjorie: I have been studying Humour and Laughter Therapy. I know you were on the comedy circuit for a while. Have you ever used Humour & Laughter Therapy or know of it's use with individuals with acquired brain injury?

Lynsey: I think if you can't laugh at yourself you're already half dead! All those situations me getting lost, going on the wrong train. I did stand-up comedy and told jokes about my memory. I tell my students the same thing.

Question from carly: What would you most like to be able to experience from your childhood? Is there one thing you regret most 'missing out on'?

Lynsey: Um... probably being a big sister, because my sister took that role over. She had to be the big sister.

Question from Lindsay: Hello Lynsey. I used to work with you and I didn't know you'd been through any of this. Do you think it's better to tell people about what’s happened to you so that they understand or do you think that it's none of their business?

Lynsey: I NOW think it is better to tell people. Most of the people I've told nowadays are willing to help whereas before people used to think I was stupid. Few people are unsympathetic.

Final question from jonlevi: I am a recovering alcoholic & have been engaged twice to girls with anorexia/bulimia, so I'm absolutely intrigued with your on-going recovery and new lease of life. I also (deep down) want to write & have recently started short stories as did you. I was wondering how you got started seriously with writing.

Lynsey: Well, I was just writing for me to begin with. I started writing poetry then short stories, then someone suggested I send stuff away to short press magazines. Networking is important as well - events in bookshops are good.

Back to the Talk Scotland chat archive.


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