Plot twist: why I’m not going to CMA Live 18

Anne JohnstonBehind the lensLeave a Comment

Anne Johnston accepting an award from Chris Marr of the Content Marketing Academy

Sometimes in life you’re forced to make a tough decision for the greater good and as I write this with just over a week till it starts, it’s with a heavy heart that I’m having to pull out of CMA Live 18. Cry cry cry! Brain injury 1-0 AJ.

CMA Live is the UK’s leading content marketing, social media and business growth conference and I’ve been looking forward to it since I attended CMA Live for the first time in 2017. It’s so far apart from your average business conference. Chris Marr and his team do things very differently, bringing in content marketers at the top of their game from all over the world to the beautiful city of Edinburgh. We’re talking Brian Fanzo, Ann Handley, Salma Jafri and many more! There’s big hugs all round from the awesome Content Marketing Academy squad who are all like-minded inspirational people who want everyone to succeed. It’s not one of those shitty networking events where everyone is handing out business cards trying to sell themselves. Eurghhh.

CMA Live is the kind of event that can and does make a huge difference to your business. After last year I took Chris Ducker‘s advice and launched my 2018 Scotland calendars live on Facebook and more than doubled my sales and I came away after the two days with the confidence to start my own YouTube channel. Say what?

Yet, it was 3 talks that had the biggest impact on me 9 months later after an accident flipped my life upside down leaving me with a brain injury.


The sledging accident that left me with a brain injury


It was back in March 2018, I’d been teaching photography in the morning and then had a fun afternoon with my family, sledging and making the most of the Beast from the East. One minute I’m standing on a snow sled trying to do a surfing impression, the next thing I know I’m at my Mum and Dad’s, surrounded by my family and not having a clue what’s going on, how I got there, what day it is and why they keep telling me things that make no sense.

I was rushed to hospital and 2 days and a brain scan later, I was sent home with whiplash, a torn eardrum and concussion. Then it was 5 days after the accident that the full force of my concussion hit and I woke up barely able to move and completely incoherent. Words were coming out but I couldn’t make sense of them and I didn’t understand anything JP was saying to me either.

Very quickly I was seen by a GP and diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury, Post Concussion Syndrome. I was signed off for 2 weeks so in my mind I thought I’d be hunky-dory in a couple of weeks but I couldn’t have been more wrong.

My bid for the next Winter Olympics was well and truly over.



Should I stay or should I go now?


It’s now almost 3 months since my tumble and while I’ve made huge improvements I know I’ve still a way to go with my recovery. PCS comes with a variety of symptoms that affect many aspects of my life. I’ve been weighing up the pros and cons of going to CMA Live 18 and it’s been a tough realisation that I’m just not ready for it. It’s been a big motivational factor for me in my recovery, knowing how amazing it felt to be in that room last year and I truly thought I’d be back to normal now, whatever that is haha!

But I know for the sake of my health I have to play the long game. Statistically most people with Post Concussion Syndrome will recover in 3-6 months and for the unlucky ones it’s a year or two or maybe never. I’ve already had to put my life and business on hold for far too long so it’s important that I do everything I can to heal my brain.

My biggest challenge right now is with walking. My balance and coordination isn’t great so I have to be really careful not to fall again. I’m really sensitive to noise too so I can’t handle being around a lot of people. The more people I’m around the harder it is to make conversation as I can’t think to get the words out. Oh, and the fatigue too. It surprises me how doing so little can completely wipe me out and my ability to process a lot of information isn’t great either. These are just a few of my symptoms but I’m sharing them to remind myself as it gets closer to the event to keep my sensible head on. My heart totally wants me to go. Think of the long game, AJ!

The way I see it, I could be gutted that I’ll be missing my business fam (and I am gutted) but I choose to see the positive. By saying no right now it means my health is my number one priority and I’ll be able to say yes to so much more in the future. I can now look forward to going to CMA Live 19 where I WILL be recovered and it will be an incredible feeling of achievement. Yes, I could go this year and put all my coping strategies in place but I wouldn’t be able to fully immerse myself in the experience and you all know I’m an all or nothing kinda gal. And nobody puts AJ in the corner 😉

So when the 6th and 7th June come round I’m either going to be stalking you all as you dominate Twitter with #cmalive18 or I’ll be switching my phone off for 2 days as major FOMO kicks in and I pretend it’s not actually happening!

But one thing I do know is if you’re going you are seriously going to have the best time. You will come away absolutely buzzing, with heaps of new friends to support you with your goals and the confidence to push yourself to the next level, whether it’s with blogging, video or podcasting. And I can’t wait to watch on and join you all next year as I stand in that room knowing that I’ve kicked this brain injury’s ass! Oh, and I’ll definitely be giving it laldy on the dancefloor at the legendary social!


Finding My Sparkle: my mission to spread awareness and help other warriors


For all the cognitive stuff I do struggle with I’m so glad that I still have my ability to write about how I’m feeling. I started off journaling as therapy and because my memory was shambolic and I needed a way to document my progress. Then I realised I could put my content marketing skills to good use. CMA didn’t award me Most Promising Content Marketer 2017 for nothing!


Anne Johnston accepting an award from Chris Marr of the Content Marketing Academy


So now with Finding My Sparkle I’m on a mission to raise awareness of Post Concussion Syndrome and educate the masses and help other PCS warriors feel less alone as we fight our daily battles. Big thanks to Marcus Sheridan, Erika Napoletano and Doug Kessler who I saw at CMA Live 17 and whose talks inspired me to share my recovery journey and embrace the (more sweary, sorry Mum and Dad!) messy human being that I am right now.

If you’d like to find out more about Post Concussion Syndrome and follow my recovery journey, here’s how:


Over to you


Right, I’m signing off now before I convince myself that I can go. Must be sensible!

Jump into the comments and let me know if you’re going to CMA Live 18 and what you’re looking forward to.