A Totally Different Me

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    • 00:30


    • 00:37

      LORRAINE ASHDOWN: This is Chris Birch.He's one of a kind.After a freak accident, his life changed forever.

    • 00:46

      CHRIS BIRCH: I used to be a 19 stone, beer-swilling, rugby fanfrom the valleys.And then, it all changed.I was doing a forward roll down a grass bank one day,and cut off the blood supply to my brain, whichcaused a stroke to happen.And it was from there, while I was recovering,that I realized I'd changed.

    • 01:08

      CHRIS BIRCH [continued]: The Chris I knew had gone, and a new Chriswould have come along.I came to the realization that the stroke had turned me gay.

    • 01:16

      LORRAINE ASHDOWN: But, Chris has a problem.No one believes his story.

    • 01:21

      CHRIS BIRCH: Is it possible for a stroke to turn someone gay?

    • 01:24

      JAK POWELL: No.

    • 01:25

      LORRAINE ASHDOWN: Not even the love of his life.

    • 01:27

      JAK POWELL: I still hold the same opinionthat it was just something that was always there.

    • 01:33

      LORRAINE ASHDOWN: He's now on a questto rediscover the person he used to be.

    • 01:39

      CHRIS BIRCH: Can't think of their names.They didn't have names, numbers, notches.

    • 01:45

      TERRY: If you had seen Chris in school,the way he was, the way he looked,you would have never in a million yearsthought he was gay.

    • 01:52

      CHRIS BIRCH: You sat on my lap.

    • 01:54

      TERRY: And you're cuddling me.

    • 01:56

      CHRIS BIRCH: People have assumed it's justhappening because it's just a natural thing.

    • 01:59

      SPEAKER 2: If doctors and scientists of this worldhave no idea what's happened to me and you,how can family and friends have any idea?

    • 02:07

      CHRIS BIRCH: The stroke turned me gay.Definitely, there's no other possibility.[MUSIC PLAYING]

    • 02:27

      LORRAINE ASHDOWN: Today, Chris Birchlives in the small Welsh town of Ystrad Mynach.He used to work in a bank, lived for sports,and was the life and soul of any party.[MUSIC PLAYING]Now he's a gay hairdresser, with a love for beauty therapies,

    • 02:51

      LORRAINE ASHDOWN [continued]: and rose wine.

    • 02:52

      CHRIS BIRCH: You want a dry-cut or cut and blow dry?

    • 02:54

      SPEAKER 3: You can cut and blow-dry, Ithink it's gonna need it.

    • 02:58

      CHRIS BIRCH: No problem.Good afternoon, Jay's Hair Salon.It's 28 pounds.[MUSIC PLAYING]

    • 03:11

      LORRAINE ASHDOWN: Chris's dramatic changebegan with a freak accident.

    • 03:16

      CHRIS BIRCH: I rolled down that part of the hill,just down there between those two pillars.And at first, I thought maybe I'djust got really, really dizzy, or maybe Itwisted my neck, or something like that.And I didn't realize it was a lot more serious than that.It's very simply done, I suppose.

    • 03:40

      LORRAINE ASHDOWN: This is the first timehe's been back to the scene.

    • 03:46

      CHRIS BIRCH: It's like my life changedat the bottom of that hill.Completely different at the top.This is just a little grass [INAUDIBLE] It's nothing,it's pathetic.But yet, old Chris was still at the top,and I ended up down there.

    • 04:06

      CHRIS BIRCH [continued]: I finished playing squash with my brother up there,and his friend, and we were walking back down,decided to-- well I suggested-- let's do a forward roll downthis hill.We went down.And they wouldn't do another one, but I did.So they carried on walking on a little bit.And then I go down and this is what happens.This is where-- here and-- this is what I've got left.

    • 04:29

      CHRIS BIRCH [continued]: If I hadn't done the second forward roll thenI would still be old Chris, and not who I am now.So, and I prefer who I am now.Yeah.[MUSIC PLAYING]

    • 04:48

      LORRAINE ASHDOWN: Doctors will neverknow for certain what happened to Chris that day,but it appears that the accident caused Chris to have a stroke.Every five minutes, someone in the UK has one.It's a brain attack.They happen when the vital blood supply to the brainis suddenly cut off.

    • 05:11

      LORRAINE ASHDOWN [continued]: Starved of oxygen, brain cells die.Any part of the brain can be destroyed,affecting any part of how we move, think, or feel.But of all of those who suffer a stroke, roughly 1/3will recover, 1/3 will be permanently disabled,or change from the person they once were, and 1/3 will die.

    • 05:34

      LORRAINE ASHDOWN [continued]: [MUSIC PLAYING]Anyone surviving a stroke has a 40% chance of having another.

    • 05:46

      CHRIS BIRCH: When I had the stroke,my brain was starved of oxygen, so this medicine sort ofstops me from having another one, really.This is part of my life.This is more important than my keys, my phone, my wallet,anything.It's a matter of life and death, I suppose.Every now and again it does get me down-- taking these tablets

    • 06:07

      CHRIS BIRCH [continued]: every morning, every afternoon, and every night.It's difficult because I can't get-- I can't raise my bloodpressure too much.So I can't go swimming, I couldn'tplay squash, or anything like that, somethingthat I would normally do, I can't go running for too long,or anything like that.Having to constantly be aware of the things you have to do,it does, every now and again, I do think enough is enough.

    • 06:30

      CHRIS BIRCH [continued]: I'm not going to take these tablets anymore.And then I maybe go for about six hours or something likethat, without taking them, and then run back to them,because I can't-- I'm too afraid basically.

    • 06:43

      LORRAINE ASHDOWN: Over time, Chrishas become aware of the physical changes to his body.

    • 06:48

      CHRIS BIRCH: Especially when I'm tired you can see that Ihave a droop in my left eye.But for some reason I've decided to cover my right eyewith my hair to sort of disguise that.I think it detracts attention awayfrom this eye being drooped.There are other parts that have drooped as well.

    • 07:06

      JAK POWELL: Hm?

    • 07:07

      CHRIS BIRCH: Like my nipple, and like my one nippleis lower than the other, which is strange.

    • 07:12

      JAK POWELL: You're joking?

    • 07:13

      CHRIS BIRCH: Honestly.Yeah.It's just this one is slightly lower than this, it's really,it's pathetic.And it's really stupid.And it is probably not even noticeable to nearly enoughof everybody.But the fact that you look at yourself in the-- youlook at yourself in the mirror, you notice when you change.But I definitely noticed that change,even though Jak calls me stupid, and says you

    • 07:34

      CHRIS BIRCH [continued]: can't notice things like that.But, you do wonder if someone is saying that just to be kind.

    • 07:41

      JAK POWELL: Are you willing to reveal your nipplesto the nation?

    • 07:43

      CHRIS BIRCH: No, no.They're like saucers.It's fine.Thank you, anyway.

    • 07:53

      LORRAINE ASHDOWN: One of the most common complaintsfrom people who've suffered a stroke is memory loss.Chris remembers almost nothing thathappened before he rolled down the bank of the playing field.In an attempt to remember the man he used to be,Chris has been putting together a memory box.

    • 08:12

      CHRIS BIRCH: A lot of the things thathappened before the stroke, I basically justcan't remember at all.And although you move on with your life,and you just, there's nothing youcan do to bring those memories back,nothing's going to sort that out.The things that I can't remember, or the things thathelp jog my memory, things that, stupid little things,

    • 08:37

      CHRIS BIRCH [continued]: they're all in this box.These photos, that one's of me when I was a child.There's one of me when I was, I think I was either16 or 17 there, that was sort of the school prom kind of thing,I suppose it's called.This is from a trip that my dad and Itook to the Isle of Man which meant a lot to me.

    • 08:59

      CHRIS BIRCH [continued]: But I can't remember anymore.It's a bit upsetting.I wouldn't have those memories at all if it wasn't for this,this jogs something there.And old Chris liked motorbikes.I really don't care anymore.So that's that.

    • 09:20

      CHRIS BIRCH [continued]: And these films I've never actually had developed.I have absolutely no idea what's on them.So old Chris is in here, locked away.[MUSIC PLAYING]

    • 09:46

      LORRAINE ASHDOWN: For Chris these mysterious filmsmay help him piece together memories of his old self.

    • 09:54


    • 09:55

      CHRIS BIRCH: Wondering if I can get these developed?

    • 09:57

      SPEAKER 4: Yeah, no problem at all.

    • 10:02

      LORRAINE ASHDOWN: For the first time since his stroke,he's about to come face-to-face with the man he used to be.[MUSIC - BON IVER]

    • 10:21

      CHRIS BIRCH: I don't know when that was.I look awful in that photo, I look half dead.I was awful.This is-- this is the first time I'veseen myself looking like this.I most definitely would never have done that, ever.

    • 10:44


    • 10:45

      CHRIS BIRCH: Do you really want to see that?That's awful, absolutely awful.It's definitely, definitely sums old Chris up.Yeah my god, I look chavvy.God, it's awful.

    • 11:06

      CHRIS BIRCH [continued]: I definitely would never have these photos taken now.These kind of things would be binned now.It's like I'm looking at somebody else, you know?But with my face, only younger.And in all fairness, if I met myselfI would probably carry on walking.

    • 11:29

      CHRIS BIRCH [continued]: I'm trying to dispel these rumors that I was always gay.It's very, very little here that I look at and I remember.I couldn't imagine being that same person.This is weird.

    • 11:50

      CHRIS BIRCH [continued]: Very strange.

    • 11:52

      LORRAINE ASHDOWN: Though Chris' rebooted personality hascost him many close relationships,there's one photo that reminds himof the greatest loss of all.

    • 12:01

      CHRIS BIRCH: Looking at these, itwould be nice if my mother playedmore of a role in my life now.Because I seemed very happy then,and she's in the photos where I am happy.

    • 12:25

      LORRAINE ASHDOWN: In the months following Chris's accident,it was Chris's mom who first noticedthe changes to his personality.She pushed for a full medical investigation,ultimately suggesting to Chris that itwas a stroke that caused the changes he was experiencing.

    • 12:41

      CHRIS BIRCH: When I was ill, my mother was great,she was [INAUDIBLE] she was really close to me.And she was taking me back and forth to the doctors,and she took me back to the neurologists, which was great.She turned into this very motherly role.She's very protective and she took meto doctor's appointments.

    • 12:59

      LORRAINE ASHDOWN: Today Chris stillhas regular brain scans to make sure all is well.But while his mom once took him to hospital appointments,today he goes alone.

    • 13:10

      SPEAKER 5: You ever to try to rebuild the relationship?

    • 13:16

      CHRIS BIRCH: I think we did once,but I don't think that went anywhere.[MUSIC PLAYING]

    • 13:44

      LORRAINE ASHDOWN: Over recent weeks,there have been times when Chris and his momhave stopped talking all together.

    • 13:50

      CHRIS BIRCH: It's difficult even for meto come to terms with the person that Iam now and the changes that have happened.And I think for somebody who has known me for so long,and known me so closely, to realize that someone can changeas much as they have, I think that's gottabe quite a difficult experience for anybody.Especially for a mother and her child.

    • 14:12

      CHRIS BIRCH [continued]: I think that that's quite a unique sort of bondthat when it's moved, altered, changed, taken away,I think there is a bereavement, thereis this something that goes on there.[MUSIC PLAYING]

    • 14:36

      CHRIS BIRCH [continued]: You can love someone, you don't have to like them.So it could just be the case that she loves mebut she just doesn't like me.She can't stand the sight of my face.That's entirely possible.And I have the same feeling towards other people,so I couldn't blame her, I suppose.[MUSIC PLAYING]

    • 15:42

      LORRAINE ASHDOWN: The next morning, Chrisdecides to write his mom.

    • 15:47

      CHRIS BIRCH: Dear mom, I'm writing to you because it'seasier than texting or phoning.I've been thinking lately about howour relationship has changed, how we've drifted apartsince my stroke.I know I haven't always been the perfect son.And there's things I've done that I look back onand feel guilty about.I know I can't change the past, but I'd

    • 16:10

      CHRIS BIRCH [continued]: like it if you'd be more of a part of my future.Maybe we could have a chat about this,and try and move on, sometime.Love, Chris.Yeah it's quite difficult to write this letter,it's been a bit, it's been a long time coming, really.Needed to be done.

    • 16:33

      CHRIS BIRCH [continued]: I guess I'd be happy the result of this letterbeing just the occasional text, I suppose.I'd be happy with that.

    • 16:42

      SPEAKER 6: Not too much?

    • 16:44

      CHRIS BIRCH: No, not too much at all.The little things in life mean the most.That's it.[INAUDIBLE] send.[MUSIC PLAYING]

    • 17:14

      CHRIS BIRCH [continued]: Going from before the stroke, liking girls,to having a stroke and waking up liking boys,that was a weird experience.It's just strange in a sense, that you walk into somewhereand all of a sudden you go from liking that girl,to liking that boy.The first time it happened, it was a really odd sensation.

    • 17:35

      CHRIS BIRCH [continued]: Thinking, well, I never had these feelings before,and how do I deal with these feelings?It was quite a scary process.I think after being with the first person,or, being with the first guy, it was a very odd experience.And it was a bit, sort of like, fumbling.I didn't know what I was doing.

    • 17:56

      CHRIS BIRCH [continued]: It's kind of a new thing.

    • 17:60

      LORRAINE ASHDOWN: For Chris, living in a traditional SouthWales community, it was a confusing periodthat left him feeling isolated.

    • 18:07

      CHRIS BIRCH: It was sort of a lonely time,it was a time when I was afraid to tell anybody.Because that wasn't, that wasn't who I used to be.So it shouldn't be who I am now.So you're afraid to tell people, you'reafraid to have that conversation,and afraid to even talk about the possibilitythat I've changed in some way.

    • 18:29

      CHRIS BIRCH [continued]: I suppose I dealt with it by moving out of my family home,moving out by myself and having to realizewho I was all over again.

    • 18:42

      LORRAINE ASHDOWN: While personality changes in peopleafter strokes are rare, there areno recorded cases of a stroke turning a straight man gay.[MUSIC PLAYING]Chris has embraced his new gay life,and is now happily living with his fiance, Jak

    • 19:03

      LORRAINE ASHDOWN [continued]: in the flat above the salon.It's domestic bliss in the heart of the Welsh valleys.

    • 19:09

      SPEAKER 6: So who normally does the domestic chores?

    • 19:12

      CHRIS BIRCH: Me, definitely me.Isn't it?

    • 19:16


    • 19:17

      CHRIS BIRCH: We are, we now know,like Jak knows how to do the washing machine,he figured that much out.Yeah, not much else.Jak's really good at baking cakes,he's big into that, which is good.So it just means you end up putting on loads of weight.

    • 19:38

      JAK POWELL: I cut out [INAUDIBLE]

    • 19:44

      LORRAINE ASHDOWN: But not everything is rosy.Chris's straight to gay story has given hima bit of a problem.No one believes it, not even Jak.

    • 19:55

      JAK POWELL: It just sounds like somebody,somebody who always knew they were gay would go through.He's just going through it a later stage in life, really.And it would be weird to like women before, but then Isuppose a lot of gay men like women, a lot of gay menare married with kids, and then they find out they're gay.So it's like, I compare his situation to a lot more normal

    • 20:18

      JAK POWELL [continued]: heard-all situations.[MUSIC PLAYING]

    • 20:30

      LORRAINE ASHDOWN: Openly ridiculedwherever his story was discussed,Chris soon found himself doubted and mistrusted by thosewho he'd once been closest to.

    • 20:39

      CHRIS BIRCH: After I had the stroke,everybody was very supportive during the recovery process.It was just afterwards when I realizedthat I was completely different that everybody else around mestarted to become more distant.The things that held us together before, aren't there anymore.

    • 21:00

      CHRIS BIRCH [continued]: We have nothing in common, we have nothing to talk about.It's difficult to talk to people about it,because they don't know what's going on inside.They don't know how you feel.Yeah there's a bit of a lonely sort of moment.I didn't enjoy that part of my lifewhen I realized I was somebody else.

    • 21:22

      CHRIS BIRCH [continued]: So I'd had a lot of personality changes and things that.I felt quite alone at that moment in time.[MUSIC PLAYING]

    • 21:49


    • 21:57

      LORRAINE ASHDOWN: Although Chris has lost touch with almost allof the wide circle of friends he used to have,there's one school friend who stood by him.One who can help him remember what he was really like before.

    • 22:20

      SPEAKER 7: Hi.

    • 22:21

      CHRIS BIRCH: How are you?

    • 22:23

      LORRAINE ASHDOWN: Terry is perhapsthe only person who can tell Chrishow much he's really changed.

    • 22:29

      CHRIS BIRCH: So would you say I'm a different person,personality wise?

    • 22:34

      TERRY: No.

    • 22:34

      CHRIS BIRCH: No?

    • 22:35

      TERRY: No, you still the same person to me.

    • 22:37

      CHRIS BIRCH: Yeah?

    • 22:38

      TERRY: Yeah, you're still the same person--still the same Chris who was in school, as you are now.

    • 22:44

      CHRIS BIRCH: Well, that's good to know.

    • 22:45

      TERRY: The only thing that has changedis, obviously, your locks and you sexuality, that's it.

    • 22:50

      CHRIS BIRCH: Would you say my voice has sort of changed,like gone softer, or anything like that?

    • 22:54

      TERRY: Yeah, it has, you sound, I don't mean to,you sound a bit more feminine.

    • 23:00

      CHRIS BIRCH: That's nice.

    • 23:01

      TERRY: There's nothing wrong with that, though.

    • 23:02

      CHRIS BIRCH: Okay, won't change that, then.

    • 23:04

      TERRY: No, don't change that.[INTERPOSING VOICES]

    • 23:07

      TERRY: If you had seen Chris in school,the way he was, the way he looked,you would've never in a million years thought he was gay.Never.If you had stood him up with nine other boys,and have to point out who you thought would be the least gay,it would be Chris.

    • 23:26

      CHRIS BIRCH: [INAUDIBLE] There's loads of things from schoolthat I can't really remember.

    • 23:32

      TERRY: Yeah.

    • 23:33

      CHRIS BIRCH: So, I can't really tell 100% how different I was.

    • 23:39

      TERRY: Yeah.

    • 23:40

      CHRIS BIRCH: It's nice to know--

    • 23:42

      TERRY: It's just that reassurance, yeah.

    • 23:44

      CHRIS BIRCH: Yeah, pop your head down a bit for me.I love what I am doing now, I didn't always,I can't say I'm a passionate hairdresser.Sorry, that's probably really offensive, but I don't care.I can say puff, and gay and queer,and everything like that, because that's where I am.

    • 24:08

      CHRIS BIRCH [continued]: The girls in the salon who are wondering with me,I have to be fair.Even though I probably don't do anything while I'm there,they still keep me there.It's great, I love them,[MUSIC PLAYING]

    • 24:32

      LORRAINE ASHDOWN: Not prepared to believethat Chris is unique to medical science,Jak is now more convinced as ever that Chris was always gay.Even if Chris himself didn't realize it.

    • 24:44

      JAK POWELL: I still hold the same opinionthat it was just something that was always there.No matter if the stroke brought a brand new thing out in you,or if it just brought something out in youthat was always there.

    • 24:57

      CHRIS BIRCH: It was something that was always there,that hadn't been switched on before.You gotta agree with that?

    • 25:03

      JAK POWELL: Yeah, but people grow upnot knowing they're gay, and they have families,and then they realize they're gay.But they don't have like a stroke or anythingto realize that.

    • 25:12

      CHRIS BIRCH: They, at some point,though, suddenly realized.So, maybe like the stroke just made me suddenly realize.So the stroke turned me gay.

    • 25:21

      JAK POWELL: Helped you find out that you were gay.

    • 25:24

      CHRIS BIRCH: But I didn't know before.

    • 25:29

      JAK POWELL: Anyway, there's no winning an argument with him,this is never going-- this is nevergoing to be me saying what I think,because he will always be right.

    • 25:40

      CHRIS BIRCH: So you think something just naturallyswitched on with me?

    • 25:44

      JAK POWELL: Yeah, I think eventually if you hadn't havehad the stroke, it would have happened to [INAUDIBLE].

    • 25:48

      CHRIS BIRCH: So the stroke brought it on sooner,that's what you think?

    • 25:51

      JAK POWELL: Yeah, yeah.

    • 25:52

      CHRIS BIRCH: So the stroke turned me gay, then?

    • 25:54

      JAK POWELL: It didn't, though.

    • 25:56

      CHRIS BIRCH: We're never going to reachan agreement [INAUDIBLE].But it's fine, it's something to talk about for the restof our lives.[MUSIC PLAYING]

    • 26:09

      LORRAINE ASHDOWN: But Chris mighthave an opportunity to end the argument, once and for all.His extraordinary story has attracted national attention.And Chris has been invited to undergo tests with a leadingexpert in sexual orientation.[MUSIC PLAYING]

    • 26:34

      LORRAINE ASHDOWN [continued]: Doctor Qazi Rahman of Queen Mary University of Londonhas tested hundreds of gay, lesbian,and straight volunteers and detected patterns that tell himif a person was born gay or straight,regardless of the lifestyle they currently live.

    • 26:51

      CHRIS BIRCH: We're in London.We're about to get started doing some tests.I feel like a guinea pig, to be honest.All the scientists seem to love my story,and get really excited over it, for some stupid reason.So we're going to do these tests now.

    • 27:13

      CHRIS BIRCH [continued]: And a little bit nervous, if I'm honest.Hopefully, she'll clear a few things up, I'm hoping.

    • 27:24

      QAZI RAHMAN: Hello, Chris.

    • 27:25

      CHRIS BIRCH: How do you do?

    • 27:27

      QAZI RAHMAN: Hi, Jak, nice to meet you.Well the work I do, is regarding studyingthe biological basis of what makes people gay or straight.And what this research shows us is that the brains of gay menare perhaps organized in a different way, or workin a different way.And we think that that might be becauseof biological factors such as genes,

    • 27:48

      QAZI RAHMAN [continued]: and hormonal factors that operate early in life, perhapseven before birth.[MUSIC PLAYING]

    • 28:01

      LORRAINE ASHDOWN: Though controversial,some scientists think our genes and hormonesmay determine sexuality before birth, and personality traits,too.These traits can be tested.And this means Doctor Rahman is thenable to work out whether or not a person was truly born gay.

    • 28:20

      JAK POWELL: I think he would be upset if I he'd done the test,and the results came up that he wasgay before he had the stroke.I think he's based his whole life on everythingthat he thinks has happened.So it would be like almost starting from scratch again.Like, he wasn't actually straight before,and it's a whole new hurdle he's got to get over,quite hard for him, I think.[MUSIC PLAYING]

    • 28:54

      QAZI RAHMAN: So how was that, Chris?

    • 28:56

      CHRIS BIRCH: It wasn't too bad, it was fine.

    • 28:58

      QAZI RAHMAN: Good, good.So the tests you performed were tests of how gay your brain is.So in half of these tests, you doperform in the expected direction for a gay man.But for half, you don't, you perform within the rangeof a straight man.

    • 29:15

      CHRIS BIRCH: So does that mean that these tests, to put itinto lay terms, does that mean that the stroke could'vecaused me to be gay?

    • 29:24

      QAZI RAHMAN: I would put my bets on no for now.

    • 29:35

      CHRIS BIRCH: But the evidence says it's possible?

    • 29:37

      QAZI RAHMAN: Yes.

    • 29:38

      CHRIS BIRCH: But you say no?

    • 29:40

      QAZI RAHMAN: The bulk of the evidencein the biological sciences, in genetics,and psychology, and neuroscience suggestthat sexuality is something that you're born withand it develops later on through life.

    • 29:53

      CHRIS BIRCH: And yet I'm standing here.

    • 29:55

      QAZI RAHMAN: Sometimes it takes somethinglike a neurological insult, which is what a stroke is,to make you reassess those feelings perhaps lying dormantand bring them into the front of your mind.And that's possible that that's what's happened with you.

    • 30:09

      JAK POWELL: If it lays dormant in his brain,is there ever a possibility if hewas to have another stroke again,and things changed in his brain, that hecould go back to what he thought was straight. [INAUDIBLE]

    • 30:19

      QAZI RAHMAN: The short answer to that is, we don't know.The evidence to date suggests that if you develop,or if you release a psychological traitafter a stroke, you don't really go back.

    • 30:30

      JAK POWELL: It was always, there'salways this fear in the back of your mind,that it could go back.But then I suppose if the science is saying otherwise,you're safe now?

    • 30:41

      CHRIS BIRCH: It's really, to be honest, really irritating.In all fairness, I've had to deal with, I don't believe you,this can't happen, and doctors saying things like,well, we can't tell you for definite.And all this shit.Which, OK, you're entitled to your opinion,but at the end of the day, I gotta live with this, not you.

    • 31:04

      CHRIS BIRCH [continued]: To be honest, it pissed me off.[MUSIC PLAYING]

    • 31:18

      LORRAINE ASHDOWN: Chris is convinced the stroke haschanged in all sorts of ways.Old Chris had no interest in his appearance,but new Chris is keen to correct any imperfections.He visits Jo for regular doses of Botox.

    • 31:38

      JO: OK, we've got a little bit of a sharp scratch coming in.Fantastic.

    • 31:43

      CHRIS BIRCH: I think if my ex-girlfriends could see thisnow, they would be laughing.

    • 31:48

      JO: Do you keep in touch with any of them,do you see them around?

    • 31:52

      CHRIS BIRCH: No.

    • 31:53

      JO: No, you haven't spoken to themto see what they think is--

    • 31:56

      CHRIS BIRCH: No.

    • 31:57

      JO: How you've changed?

    • 31:58

      CHRIS BIRCH: Not purposefully, just--

    • 31:60

      JO: Yeah, you just haven't bumped into them.So it would be quite interesting to see how they see the change.Because obviously you see it from a very personal pointof view.But they may see it more objectively.They knew the old Chris, and obviouslyknew the old Chris quite well.

    • 32:15

      CHRIS BIRCH: Yeah, that's a good point,I'll have to get in touch.[MUSIC PLAYING]When I went to see Jo who did my Botox the other day,she said about ex-girlfriends, and things that,

    • 32:39

      CHRIS BIRCH [continued]: and have I been in touch with them.And I realized that I haven't been in touch with any of themsince the stroke.So I am going to make a list of the girls who I went outwith in the past, and see if I canget in touch with any of them.I'm hoping these girls would be able to say that I definitelyfancied them, and it was definitely genuine,and it wasn't some sort of cover story, or anything like that.

    • 33:02

      CHRIS BIRCH [continued]: Trouble's remembering, that's the problem.There's drink involved, then all of a sudden everythinggets forgotten.I think there might be two broken hearts on hereand I think the rest were just glad to get rid to me.I would be.Awful!Yeah, old Chris was an awful boyfriend, terrible.

    • 33:24

      CHRIS BIRCH [continued]: Just loving them, leaving them, kind of thing.[INAUDIBLE] it's not looking good.They have a player.[INAUDIBLE] There was a girl, my friendand I went on holidays to, [INAUDIBLE]there was a girl there, and I can't remember her name,

    • 33:44

      CHRIS BIRCH [continued]: she's probably going to see me.She doesn't live around here, so it's fine.There was a girl in the rugby club down here, Ican't think of her name. [INAUDIBLE]And then we used to go to a club in Blackwood.And there were quite a few there,and I can't remember any of their names.

    • 34:07

      CHRIS BIRCH [continued]: I can't think of their names.They didn't have names, they were numbers, notches.No, that's awful, don't let my friends hear.[MUSIC PLAYING]

    • 34:28

      LORRAINE ASHDOWN: Chris's memories of lifebefore the stroke are patchy at best.But he's thought of a way to track down an old flame.A clue he remembered spotting in the photographsfrom his memory box.

    • 34:40

      CHRIS BIRCH: These are the photosthat I found my memory box, and that we got developed.I'm looking for an ex-girlfriend who, I think, went on this tripwith me.I am hoping so, anyway.And if she is, I'm looking to see

    • 35:00

      CHRIS BIRCH [continued]: if I can get in touch with her.This is her.We were at film studios in California.Stood next to the cardboard cutouts.

    • 35:26

      CHRIS BIRCH [continued]: I can't remember if we're going out, actually.So I don't really know.It would be nice to find out, actually.I think now knowing that she was on this trip,because it's jogging a few memories, just lookingthrough these photos, I think it'dbe best if, maybe I get in touch with her.And see if she can shed a bit more light on these things.

    • 35:49

      CHRIS BIRCH [continued]: The main one being to make sure that I was definitely straightbefore.Who better to tell me that?[MUSIC PLAYING]

    • 36:01

      LORRAINE ASHDOWN: Using social network sites,he finds it easy to track down the girl in the photograph.

    • 36:07

      CHRIS BIRCH: [INAUDIBLE] What should I write?You're a girl.I have found her.I'm sort of struggling as to what to say, though.

    • 36:29

      CHRIS BIRCH [continued]: I don't know-- I can't remember on what terms we left on.So, because obviously an ex is only an ex for a reason.I'm hoping if she does agree to meet me,it's not just to quickly give me a slapin the face, or anything.That wouldn't be so good.

    • 36:47

      LORRAINE ASHDOWN: With his message now sent,all Chris can do is wait.[MUSIC PLAYING]In spite of medical opinion, the views of his partner, Jak,and much of the world's press, Chris alone is convincedthat the stroke turned him gay.

    • 37:08

      LORRAINE ASHDOWN [continued]: Quietly, he's continued his detective workand has found the one person who might be able to help.

    • 37:18

      SUDAD JAWAD: Oh, hello, hi.

    • 37:19

      CHRIS BIRCH: Hi, hi.

    • 37:20

      LORRAINE ASHDOWN: Cardiff-based consultant neurophsychiatristDr Sudad Jawad has worked with hundreds of young peoplewho've had strokes.If anyone knows the impact a stroke can have,then it's doctor Jawad.

    • 37:32

      CHRIS BIRCH: So can you tell me a bit more of the patientsyou've treated in the past?

    • 37:37

      SUDAD JAWAD: There's some people have a stroke in their life,you find there's a traumatic change in their personality.

    • 37:42

      CHRIS BIRCH: Have you found that with a lot of people?

    • 37:45

      SUDAD JAWAD: Yes, I mean you find that a lot.People do change.People sometimes change the way they behave, they think.

    • 37:52

      CHRIS BIRCH: So have you ever encounteredsomeone whose sexual orientation has changed after a stroke?

    • 37:57

      SUDAD JAWAD: Yes I have come across a gentleman, whomyou have, you see this sexual orientation has dramaticallychanged following a stroke.From a homosexual to heterosexual.I come across this case, for example.That person noticed that graduallyand stated openly that he found himself now different.

    • 38:22

      SUDAD JAWAD [continued]: We would come across, yes, unusual cases.

    • 38:25

      CHRIS BIRCH: So in your experience,do you believe that a stroke can change your sexual orientation?

    • 38:32

      SUDAD JAWAD: I think it's possible, yes.Just like a stroke can change you as a person, your behavior,your personality, the way you think.Why not sexual orientation?It's part of the personality of the individual, isn't it?

    • 38:45

      CHRIS BIRCH: Yeah, yeah

    • 38:46

      SUDAD JAWAD: It's all linked together.

    • 38:47

      CHRIS BIRCH: Right.

    • 38:48

      SUDAD JAWAD: I mean, people behave, the way they think,the way they feel, the way they act,the way they behave in the society,we call it personality, isn't it?That changes with, well known, following a headinjury, following a stroke.So, why not sexual orientation would change?[INAUDIBLE] change as well.

    • 39:07

      CHRIS BIRCH: That's absolutely amazing,it's very reassuring to know from my point-of-view.That's great.I say doctor, I really appreciate you seeing me.Thank you--

    • 39:20

      SUDAD JAWAD: My pleasure.

    • 39:21

      CHRIS BIRCH: Thank you so much, I've learned so much today.I really, really appreciate it.

    • 39:24

      SUDAD JAWAD: I wish you the best of luck and lookafter yourself, OK?Good luck.

    • 39:26

      CHRIS BIRCH: Thank you very much.

    • 39:27

      SUDAD JAWAD: Good-bye.

    • 39:34

      CHRIS BIRCH: I feel so relieved now,I've met a doctor who's treated someone who had a strokeand it changed their sexuality.It's a real weight off my shoulders now.[MUSIC PLAYING]

    • 39:59

      LORRAINE ASHDOWN: Chris has had a reply to his email.It turns out, his old flame, Lindsey is now marriedand still living nearby.[MUSIC PLAYING]She's agreed to meet in the local pub.

    • 40:19

      CHRIS BIRCH: Hello, how are you?

    • 40:21

      LINDSAY: Nice to see you, god you look different

    • 40:23

      CHRIS BIRCH: Thanks, so do you.

    • 40:24

      LINDSAY: I don't know. [INAUDIBLE]

    • 40:28

      CHRIS BIRCH: Thanks so much for coming,I know I really appreciate it because I'vegot these photos to show you, and itwould be great to just go through it with somebody else.

    • 40:36

      LINDSAY: Yeah.

    • 40:37

      CHRIS BIRCH: So you could have a look at them, as well.There's, there you are.

    • 40:41

      LINDSAY: There's me.

    • 40:42

      CHRIS BIRCH: That's where I found you,right next to Tom Hanks.

    • 40:45

      LINDSAY: I remember the [INAUDIBLE] Idon't know why we had to have our picture next to that one.

    • 40:50

      CHRIS BIRCH: No, just a really random photo.[INTERPOSING VOICES]

    • 41:01

      CHRIS BIRCH: My memory of this has been absolutely rubbish--

    • 41:05

      LINDSAY: You don't remember being there?

    • 41:06

      CHRIS BIRCH: No, it is like looking at somebody elseand getting the occasional memory from somebody else.

    • 41:11

      LINDSAY: Well, I brought a photo to show you as well,of when we were younger.When we were in the play, because I rememberhow close we were then.

    • 41:17

      CHRIS BIRCH: Yeah I only did though because I fancied youat the time.

    • 41:20

      LINDSAY: The stories you tell, anyway.

    • 41:22

      CHRIS BIRCH: Yeah.

    • 41:23

      LINDSAY: But yeah, I just remember that photo distinctly.And then--

    • 41:26

      CHRIS BIRCH: Yes, you talked me into that.

    • 41:28

      LINDSAY: I did talk you into it, it was nice though,nice times that we spent--

    • 41:31

      CHRIS BIRCH: Oh, I enjoyed that, yeah.

    • 41:33

      LINDSAY: And that's us in the corner there.And the nice little cuddle.

    • 41:38

      CHRIS BIRCH: What was your memory of me there,because my memory is completely gone about who I used to be.

    • 41:45

      LINDSAY: I don't-- I would've never have openly said that Ithought you were gay.But the Chris now, right here, I would obviously say is gay.So it's difficult looking back, because it'sdifferent to compare the two people in my mindwho seem different.

    • 42:01

      CHRIS BIRCH: It is nice for someone,you know, someone like you who knew me before the stroketo actually say, you know, no, I never thought you were gay.That's really reassuring.

    • 42:10

      LINDSAY: Yeah, I mean, people can't judge.They don't know you, and they didn't know youbefore, they don't know you now.So that's--

    • 42:18

      CHRIS BIRCH: But you knew me.

    • 42:20

      LINDSAY: There's me, I was right there with you.

    • 42:22

      CHRIS BIRCH: We couldn't have got much closer.

    • 42:24

      LINDSAY: It's very, true, a very close picture.

    • 42:26

      CHRIS BIRCH: You sat on my lap.

    • 42:28

      LINDSAY: And you're cuddling me.

    • 42:29


    • 42:43

      LORRAINE ASHDOWN: It's not unusual for stroke sufferersto lose touch with people who were once close to them.When blood doesn't get oxygen to the brain, parts of itcan die, leaving the brain to make new connections.Sometimes those new connections result

    • 43:05

      LORRAINE ASHDOWN [continued]: in extraordinary transformations.Transformations that friends and familyoften find hard to cope with.[MUSIC PLAYING]Chris has been doing his research

    • 43:27

      LORRAINE ASHDOWN [continued]: and has come across the story of Tommy McHugh from Liverpool.A man, who, like Chris, has had his personalitychanged forever by a stroke.[MUSIC PLAYING]

    • 43:49

      LORRAINE ASHDOWN: Chris wants to knowhow his friends and family cope with the changes heexperienced.

    • 43:55

      TOMMY MCHUGH: Hello, Chris come in.How you doing, kid?[INAUDIBLE] Thanks for coming down.

    • 43:60

      CHRIS BIRCH: It's great, thanks for having me.

    • 44:02

      TOMMY MCHUGH: Now, it's very brave and strong of youto come down here and speak with usabout what's going on with you.

    • 44:09

      CHRIS BIRCH: Yeah, this is great.

    • 44:10

      TOMMY MCHUGH: It's been my [INAUDIBLE]

    • 44:15

      CHRIS BIRCH: The stroke caused you to start painting?

    • 44:17

      TOMMY MCHUGH: Everything, Chris, itstarted me painting, and talking in rhyme,writing rhyme, and just creating art.So I never had talent before, I didn'thave any artistic talents, I was a builder and stuff like that.So, I never knew art.

    • 44:33

      CHRIS BIRCH: Yeah.

    • 44:34

      TOMMY MCHUGH: At times I wish this happened to me whenI was 14 years of age, I could have been an artist all melife.Or creative.It was a whole new world for me.I lost family, friends, and wife, and everythingwhen this happened to me.Because I changed so quickly and as you know,it's an alien change, and you kinda live in isolation

    • 44:54

      TOMMY MCHUGH [continued]: alone with what's going on with you because there's notmany people who can understand the dramatic changes thathappen to anyone that's had a stroke.Because it's-- it's so, so weird and alien.Look at-- I was looking at these tattoos,I couldn't remember putting them on,and seeing them and thinking, who the hell put these on?

    • 45:17

      TOMMY MCHUGH [continued]: So we looking at the long, [INAUDIBLE]but I don't recognize him. [INAUDIBLE]things were different, emotions were different.Come up and let me show you some of the stuffI'm painting up here.I painted everywhere, even under all these pictures,

    • 45:39

      TOMMY MCHUGH [continued]: there are all kinds of other images.

    • 45:42

      CHRIS BIRCH: You've painted on top of them again?

    • 45:44

      TOMMY MCHUGH: Yeah, over, and over, and over.Some of the paintings have painted over and over again.I even painted some of these [INAUDIBLE] and everything.Human clay heads, writing in rhyme, drawing little figures,and sculpting, and painting.Seeing endless, all the different things thatwere coming out the brain.

    • 46:04

      TOMMY MCHUGH [continued]: It was like, just one cell had been locked.You must have experienced it yourself?

    • 46:09

      CHRIS BIRCH: Yeah.

    • 46:10

      TOMMY MCHUGH: The changes?

    • 46:11

      CHRIS BIRCH: Yeah, definitely.

    • 46:12

      TOMMY MCHUGH: Even then, I couldn't get anyoneto believe me, Chris.It was so shocked.

    • 46:17

      CHRIS BIRCH: Have you had that with-- just with friends,or with family as well?

    • 46:21

      TOMMY MCHUGH: No it was friends and family.Kind of doubted me, doubted all this was coming from me,but they knew that-- and really, that'swhy I was going to ask you about, how was it like for you?

    • 46:33

      CHRIS BIRCH: It's been quite difficult,because people have assumed that, oh it's just happeningbecause it's just a natural thing as you grow up,you change, and things like that.But it's not, it happened from a single point in time,and all of a sudden it just sort of explodes from thereand you become a different person from there.[INTERPOSING VOICES]

    • 46:51

      TOMMY MCHUGH: And you've obviouslybeen going through what I have been going through.It's taken nearly 11 years for peopleto understand that I'm not kidding them.You know, all my family and friends now know,I'm not kidding them.But the problem is, they stayed away from me for so along,and misjudged me for so long, that [INAUDIBLE]come see me again now.

    • 47:12

      TOMMY MCHUGH [continued]: That they know is true.My identity has changed, like yours has.See, these people have got no idea of what'shappening inside the brain.If doctors and scientists of this worldhave got no idea what's happened to me and you,how can family and friends have any idea?Why should they prejudge us?

    • 47:30

      CHRIS BIRCH: It's absolutely brilliantto meet you, I've got to be fair,because you were saying things that I've been thinking,and you've already been there, you'vealready had to put up with the problems with havingto face people.And the people not believing you, things like that.It is nice to know it's not just someone like me,

    • 47:50

      CHRIS BIRCH [continued]: it's not just me who's not being believed in.

    • 47:52

      TOMMY MCHUGH: It's not--

    • 47:53

      CHRIS BIRCH: I don't just feel, sort of, alone,in a way, if you know what I mean.

    • 47:56

      TOMMY MCHUGH: Exactly, Chris.Come here, kid. [INAUDIBLE] Proud of you.Really am.And stay strong Chris, always stay strong.Don't be [INAUDIBLE] about anything.[MUSIC PLAYING]

    • 48:15

      CHRIS BIRCH: Today I met Tommy McHugh.Absolutely amazing guy.I learned a shed-load's from being with him today.He, because he had the stroke, and changedhim years before me.And he's just learned far, far, far morethan I could have ever hoped.

    • 48:35

      CHRIS BIRCH [continued]: He's told me things that, like his familybecame more distant with him, same with me.His friends, same with me.He developed a completely different personality,same with me.I feel like we are kindred spiritsin a sort of strange way.I think the main thing I'm going to take awayfrom meeting Tommy is that no matter what happens,

    • 48:59

      CHRIS BIRCH [continued]: I am who I am, and I should be proud of that.So after meeting Tommy today, I reallydon't care about what anybody else thinks.Because Tommy's happy, I'm happy,and that's just the way it's going to stay.[MUSIC PLAYING]

    • 49:32

      LORRAINE ASHDOWN: Back at home, Chris is preparingto leave old Chris behind.

    • 49:40

      CHRIS BIRCH: I am putting old Chris into a photo album.It's a book of the person I used to be.These photos represent who I used to be,and there's a lot of memories that I haven't got anymore.

    • 50:02

      CHRIS BIRCH [continued]: And I've got a book of memories now, which is great.I'd hoped the relationship with my mother would get better.It may, but I think it takes time.And maybe she needs more time.Maybe in some way, maybe I need more time.

    • 50:26

      CHRIS BIRCH [continued]: In the meantime, I suppose I'm happy the way I am.Just carry on with life.When I look at these photos, I don't-- think anybody lookingat these would agree that there isn't a gay person here.

    • 50:46

      CHRIS BIRCH [continued]: Not by these.Definitely not.I'm convinced more than ever looking at these photosthat the stroke did turn me gay, because there'sno way that I was gay before.I have photos as proof, and I have friends as proof.

    • 51:06

      CHRIS BIRCH [continued]: And now I have memories as proof.This is where old Chris lives now.Totally different person than who was in here.

    • 51:27

      CHRIS BIRCH [continued]: I'm happier now, than I ever have been, why wouldI want to change?[MUSIC PLAYING]

A Totally Different Me

View Segments Segment :

Unique ID: bd-psyc-docu-tdm-AA01058


After a stroke triggered by a freak accident, Chris Birch underwent a significant personality change: He became gay. But no one believes him, not even the love of his life. He consults doctors, ex-girlfriends, and other stroke survivors in an effort to find the truth and accept his new life.

A Totally Different Me

After a stroke triggered by a freak accident, Chris Birch underwent a significant personality change: He became gay. But no one believes him, not even the love of his life. He consults doctors, ex-girlfriends, and other stroke survivors in an effort to find the truth and accept his new life.

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