The afternoon I became a warrior

25 Aug 2016

The human brain can only be worked so hard. When it's had enough, it goes haywire.

The only job I ever wanted was to be a journalist. I did dream of being a wildly-overpaid lawyer, but that was never going to happen. And I fulfilled that childhood wish to work in journalism. I had 24 years on various local newspapers in the West Midlands, with most of them spent on the sports desk of a major regional morning newspaper. We worked ridiculous evening shifts, from 3pm until whenever we finished (usually between midnight and 1am). Of course, this meant I didn't get home until 1.30am or so and rarely went to bed before 2am. With my wife waking at 6am to go to work, it meant I wasn't getting a lot of 'proper' sleep. I was also eating 'on the run' and eating a bad diet. In hindsight, it was a recipe for disaster and in 2006-7, I started to suffer epilepsy. Gigantic 'Fall out of bed, lose control of your bodily functions' seizures. It took the doctors 18 months to work out what was happening until I finally saw a neurologist who said: "You don't know how close you've come to killing yourself. Your eating and sleeping patterns are wrecked; your body clock's shot to bits."

Sensing disaster ahead, the company quickly took me off those shifts and things calmed down. They put me on a veritable feast of medication and as I write, I haven't had a fit since February 2010.

But at the end of 2009, my department was the victim of cost-cutting and my job was made redundant. I moved into the world of freelance journalism and got a decent annual contract editing a quarterly magazine. I enjoyed it for the first three-and-a-half years until my bosses changed and office politics came to the fore. In the autumn of 2013, I decided not to apply for another annual contract. But before I could leave, the organisation decided not to renew my contract - and told me in a two-minute phone call one Sunday night, a month before Christmas.

That decision took away 90 per cent of my income and over the next two weeks, I panicked about replacing it. I stressed too much, I worked too hard, I networked too much - in hindsight, I took my brain and body to their limits and beyond. Then, while I was crossing a road near my home on the afternoon of Monday December 16 2013, I collapsed without warning. I lay in the road helpless - paralysed down my left side, carrying a £2,000 computer in my right hand and with a 47-seater bus coming towards me.

I'd had a stroke. At the age of 49, after two and a half decades in the high-pressure world of journalism, my body and brain had cried 'Enough!'
It should have killed me. But the bus miraculously missed me and I survived the stroke. It took two years for me to re-learn how to walk (which I still do with a limp) and I have been left with long-term memory loss and balance issues.

But at least I'm alive. I've been retired from full-time work but I blog about stroke education at and I do talks about stroke education - specifically the need for self-employed people to take care of their brains and bodies and prepare financially for the life-changing event "which will never happen to me."

I'm living, breathing proof that it can happen to you if you work your brain and body too hard. If I can help one person to avoid going through what I've been through, I see that as creating a massive positive out of a massive negative.