Hey warriors!

It’s been a minute (ahem, 6 months) since I last blogged but I’ve been hearing a bit of a theme in my social media comments and DMs and I wanted to address something.

Don’t worry, I’m not getting on my soap box for long and I have a wee challenge for you when you read to the end.

Why I started Finding My Sparkle

As you might know, I started this Finding My Sparkle blog after my freak sledging accident in March 2018. I sustained a traumatic brain injury post-concussion syndrome (PCS), now known as persistent post-concussive symptoms. The reason I started my blog and talking about what I was going through on social media was because I felt absolutely lost.

I felt like I had an alien invading my body and my mind. I lost all sense of who I was as a person, my vocabulary, speech and understanding went back to primary school age and I spent 10 months of hard physio trying to re-learn how to walk properly.

Whatever that sparkle was that made me me was gone and I didn’t know if I’d ever get it back. My eyes looked dull. I didn’t know who I was as a person anymore and it scared the shit out of me.

Finding My Sparkle felt like a phrase that totally summed up my feelings when my life completely changed overnight.

How my life changed overnight when I sustained a brain injury

Lately I’ve been getting more comments from people feeling sad for me because over 5 years on I’m still not able to do a lot of the things that I used to.

You say you can’t imagine how hard it must be to have lost so much. And you don’t know how you’d cope if it was you.

Sidenote, I’m not quoting any person here. This is just the general theme that’s been landing in my direct messages and comments on social media.

The truth is before it happened to me I don’t think I’d have a clue how I would cope with it either. And what I’ve gone through very nearly destroyed me.

I had to close my photography business that I loved and I bought a new lighter camera which only really comes out for holidays. I can’t walk 50 metres, never mind hike a 3000 ft mountain. And there are lots of things I want to do but just can’t in the way that I want to any more.

Anne Johnston sat on a rocky ledge on Quinag, Assynt

Anne Johnston and JP on the summit of Slioch, Torridon

Yes, it totally broke my heart closing my business and it still kills me that I can’t spend much time with my family nor do lots of other things because of my health. And I’ve had a long time to get to a place where I strike a balance between accepting where my health is for now and pushing for progress.

All of the amazing experiences I had and things I achieved before my brain injury will always be a part of me (even if I don’t remember them all the time). And I’m glad that I was able to experience them.

Not having the same abilities doesn’t diminish what happened in my life before my brain injury. I can look back with such a full and grateful heart.

Anne Johnston and JP on Beinn a’Chrulaiste, Glen Coe

Anne Johnston and JP on the summit of Slioch, Torridon

Finding My Sparkle after a brain injury

So, in the nicest way possible, I will forever be so grateful for the outpouring of love and support but, I don’t need you to feel sorry for me. Cos I found my freaking sparkle!

And now I have something gorgeous that I have with me every day that symbolises how I feel. It’s absolutely lush! Read on to find out more…

As AJ v2.0 I’ve had the chance to start a new chapter of my life. A chapter where I only spend time with people that bring good energy into my life. Where I have to say no to a lot but the flipside to that is when I say yes and I’m then able to turn up for you, then be assured that I absolutely want to spend that time with you.

Because I’ve learned the more I say no, whether through choice or health or even both, the more I open myself up to say yes to the things and people I really want to say yes to. And there is so much power in that. I don’t care for any drama, gossip or energy suckers. I just don’t have the energy to waste.

It’s a chapter in my life where I’ve had the courage to face my biggest fear of drowning so that I can now kayak to the foot of mountains that I’ve conquered before. To see and appreciate them in a whole new way. A way that old me would never ever have done.

Anne Johnston and John-Paul Bell on a red Gumotex Solar inflatable kayak on Loch Maree with Slioch in the background

Two shoes on a kayak pointing towards a reflection of islands on Loch Maree

Anne Johnston standing at Loch Maree on the beach at Slattadale, wearing a Fujifilm camera with Slioch in the background


The last 5 and a half years of brain injury recovery hasn’t been a walk in the park (pardon the pun) but as tough as it still is, whenever I get knocked down, I always get back up and strive for more progress.

What Finding My Sparkle means to me now

I used to think that my sparkle was lost because I’d lost so many abilities. While I still can’t do many of the things I used to, I now know and feel differently.

My sparkle is the energy I feel when I’m laughing so hard with a friend that she almost falls off the bed. You know who you are haha!

It’s the strength I feel when my Personal Trainer at Results Gym and amazing friend Alanna Donaldson is pushing me hard in the gym and I smash my goals.

Anne Johnston on the leg press machine at Results Gym, Forfar wearing Sprint Print Nimbus Mallea Yoga Leggings from Bamboo Clothing

My sparkle is the feeling of love when I hug my family and friends even when my arm pings up and my hand goes into a fist because my brain thinks I’m in danger bahahahaha! It’s having really deep conversations and then 2 minutes later being in fits of giggles when JP plays what we now call “the fart app”. When you know you know!

My sparkle is making silly Instagram reels having a laugh about all the funny faces I pull.

My sparkle is me lying on the grass, closing my eyes and listening to the birds. It’s brushing my hand through a lavender bush every time I pass it so I can appreciate the beautiful smell of nature. Like, really, truly appreciate it.

It’s sitting on a bench and being completely mesmerised by a butterfly landing just a foot away. And so much more.

It’s all of the little things that feed my soul.

My sparkle isn’t a physical thing. It can’t be bought and it can’t be taken away from me. I am my sparkle. My sparkle is me.

A beautiful reminder of my sparkle wherever I go

And now, thanks to Piercing by Juliet at the Beauty Retreat in Kirriemuir, I have a gorgeous 5 crystal crescent decorating my helix symbolising how I feel wherever I go.

It’s a stunning reminder that even on the tough days where I feel I’ve lost my sparkle, just like not being able to see the sun on a cloudy day, I will always have a sparkle within me even if I can’t see or feel it.

I’d seen photos of this jewellery on Instagram but seeing it in real life it sparkles even more. Thank you Juliet for being so reassuring and making the process easy and painless.

A side view of Anne Johnston with a 5 crystal crescent helix piercing by Piercing by Juliet and a Joma friendship knot earring in the lobe

A front to rside view of Anne Johnston with a 5 crystal crescent helix piercing by Piercing by Juliet and a rose gold Loop Experience Plus earplug

How you can find your own sparkle too

Whether you’re just starting out on your brain injury rehabilitation path or you feel lost in your life right now, please know that you will sparkle again one day. And it might not be in the way you imagined. That’s ok.

Whether or not you have a brain injury or chronic health condition, use this as a prompt to check in with yourself. Ask yourself a few questions.

Do you feel like your sparkle is missing or dwindling?

Are people around you sucking your energy?

What can you do every day to give yourself 10 minutes of happiness just for you?

Think about the changes that you can make in your life that will make you truly happy. Keep an open heart and mind and do more of what makes you happy.

You can let go of people in your life that drain your energy. You can say no to doing things you know won’t give you good vibes. You can say yes to trying new things, spreading kindness and most importantly, before you do anything else, making your own self care a priority.

And know that you don’t need permission from anyone to do it.


Over to you, warriors!

Do you know what truly makes you sparkle? What are you going to do to bring more sparkle into your life? Pop into the comments and let me know. I’d love to hear from you!

And don’t forget to sign up to my newsletter below to stay up-to-date with my blogs and vlogs and tips for living with a brain injury.

✨ Keep sparkling one day at a time! ✨

Much love and healing vibes,

AJ x