I was born with a deformed right fore-arm and total deafness in my right ear. This was as a consequence of my mother having been prescribed Thalidomide during pregnancy. Again, it was a case of, “It could have been better, it could have been a whole lot worse.” A bummer that it happened at all but my injuries were pretty slight compared to even the average disability caused through Thalidomide (this being no upper limbs). The disabilities just didn’t seem to figure much in my early years and my childhood was fairly normal. Things changed as a teenager though. Puberty arrived, girls became more interesting and then there was this sudden realisation I was different to the rest of the kids at school. From being quite an extrovert, I withdrew into a lonely world which didn’t involve the usual social activities as a teenager. Too shy to chat up any girls, too self-conscious to party at the disco, I eventually left school with very few friends and almost no social life. The angst of adolescence piled on and I became the ubiquitous troubled teenager. The parents had a hard time and I drowned my sorrows with alcohol. I was on a downward spiral. The YOPS scheme jobs I had gotten at a couple of small, two-bit companies were nothing but blatant exploitation of subsidised labour and life just didn’t seemed to hold any real purpose or meaning. I think the lowest point was reached when I’d go for a drink straight after work, have far too many, then whilst driving back home, think about ending it all by driving at full speed into a lamp post. I knew one Thalidomider who never quite came to terms with his disabilities and did just that. I never plucked up enough courage (and, boy, am I glad I didn’t!).
Well, the only way was up and life did start to take a turn for the better when I joined a band through a friend I had made after a one year stint at Art College. The band’s “leader” was a student at Birmingham University and so was the vocalist. The bass guitarist we were about to gain was too so I got somewhat propelled into the University social scene. The band became very popular at the University and we reached a stage where we were regularly headlining gigs and even playing the clubs around Birmingham. I revelled in this new found and exciting social life. However, this is a different story to be told in another blog.
So, although the physical impact of being Thalidomide has been almost non-existent for me, the psychological impact was quite significant during a vulnerable time in my life. On top of the usual adolescent troubles and teen angst, I had to cope mentally with having a disability and that was hard. I could probably say it almost destroyed me. I guess luck can play a part in this too and I count myself lucky to have got involved with the right crowd before it was “too late” and finally experience how good life could actually be. My life had turned around and how? A love of music, a mad decision to buy a drum kit, a bit of luck meeting the right people, destiny?
I still think about that other Thalidomider who drove himself into a wall. Maybe if he’d just hung on in there a while longer, life could have turned around for him. Sometimes we need to know things will get better. There’s no doubt about it, life has its ups and downs and I was to experience a few more serious downers along the way. Those stories are for another time.