Paul Pratt was just 23 when he suffered three consecutive strokes which left him unable to speak, walk or feed himself. After years as a prisoner in his unresponsive body, he is finally taking back control. Here the 33-year-old from Pinehurst shares his harrowing journey back to the life he once knew.

AFTER the strokes, for a long time I thought there was nothing left for me.

I was a normal lad. I worked at Sainsbury's and I was looking to move up.

But everything changed when I came home from work one Monday in 2006. There was no warning. I had been complaining of a headache but it wasn't unusual for me to get little headaches. The next morning I woke up and had my first stroke.

All I remember is shouting out for help and my sister running into my room. I had attempted to phone my mum to get help but I couldn't speak. I ended up throwing and stamping on the phone in frustration. The rest is a blur. I was taken to the hospital but they sent me home. They didn't know what was wrong. The next day it happened again. I went to A&E but was sent home again. I had another stroke then. I spent hours on the living room floor; I couldn't move and no-one could move me. I was in a coma for ten days. My mother was preparing herself to bury me.

In the end I was diagnosed with cerebral venous thrombosis [a blood clot in the venous sinuses, which drains blood from the brain, can cause strokes and is life-threatening]. When I came round, I didn't even recognise my mother but I recognised my step-father. And I was convinced my dad, who had died long ago, was still alive.

I spent five weeks in hospital. I couldn't talk; the words just wouldn't come out. It's hard to explain a brain injury to anyone who hasn't experienced it. But I felt like a prisoner in my own mind. I describe my mind as a computer: the hardware is intact but the software is at fault.

By the time I went home, I was able to express myself a little. But I felt so angry. My mum and I had always had a close relationship and I took my anger out on her. I thought I was on my own and that this was what my life would be - not really living.

I had to relearn everything: swallowing, walking, talking.

It was so difficult to express myself, I found it easier to not to. I thought I was better off keeping quiet rather than saying the wrong thing. I had anxiety attacks and I was constantly scared I would have another stroke. I still worry about it now. I became depressed. I sometimes thought I would have been better off if I hadn't made it. I felt like a burden on my mum. We would snap at each other; it wasn't fair.

Eventually I found out about brain injury charity Headway & District through word of mouth in 2007.

It has been a life-saver and it has helped me to re-establish a life. I needed motivation and the staff gave it to me by the bucketload.

When I first arrived I was frustrated, angry and I barely talked. I was still very anxious after the first few weeks but I learnt to relax. I worked on my speech, maths and basic tasks like cooking.

But it took me a long time to accept what happened and cope with the whirlwind and emotional baggage that come with a brain injury.

The injury caused a slight change to my personality. I go through extremes sometimes. It's all or nothing. You either go full speed, with friendships for example, or you don't see the point.

After the stroke I started drinking quite heavily just to cope. When I was drunk, I felt like I was coming out of myself. The alcohol switched off my inhibitions and I felt I could finally express myself. I would sometimes come to Headway with a hangover; but I have been sober for two years. Headway has helped me to work through some of my issues.

They recommended physical exercise and it really helped with my self-esteem. I had become sedentary, gained weight. Three years ago I met a personal trainer called Ricardo. He also introduced me to meditation and he's helped me to let go of the frustration. Without Headway none if it would have been possible.

The charity has helped me explore new aspects of my personality I didn't know existed and bring out the confidence I had lost after my brain injury. There are still some challenges. Pre-stroke, I could read a book cover to cover. Now I can only do it chapter by chapter. I get tired and lose my concentration.

Once thing I have learnt is to make my goals more manageable. I have to do everything in stages and not set myself up for disappointment. But I'm trying to keep myself busy - if I stop for too long I end up wallowing and I can't do that. You can become quite self-absorbed after a brain injury.

I am about 75-80 per cent back to the person I was before. But that 20 per cent means that I probably never will get it all back. It's taken a while for it to register but I've learnt to accept it.

It's been a long hard road but I feel more in touch with myself.

I didn't think I would again, but now I feel like I have a life.