A Fraction Stronger Interview

A Fraction Stronger Interview

Inspiring true story of one man's survival after a life-changing accident & finding possibility in life's darkest moments

In a split second, Mark Berridge's life came crashing down. His bicycle understeered through a corner, the impact wrenching him over the handlebars and catapulting him headfirst into a stormwater drain. A large piece of dislodged vertebra compressed his spinal cord, causing devastating nerve damage. Mark spent more than seven weeks in hospital and nine months in intensive rehabilitation. His sustained effort to regain mobility became an integral part of his new identity.

In the powerful new book, A Fraction Stronger, Mark shares his inspiring true story of how an average person achieved an exceptional outcome after a life- changing accident. He shares practical lessons and insights that readers can also apply to their own challenges, to help guide them through life's impossible moments. These small actions, combined with determination to seek out possibility in the darkness, can light your way forward.

This is not a story about the occurrence of a miracle. It's about an everyday person who visualised an exceptional outcome. It's about reframing your demons into sources of motivation and fighting for your dream when it starts to fade.

We all have obstacles thrown at us, but it's how you choose to handle them that counts. The world is full of possibility if you choose to explore it. Mark found the power within himself to become A Fraction Stronger every day. And this book shows that no matter your circumstances, you can too.

About the author
Mark Berridge's high-powered corporate career came to an abrupt end in March 2019 when he suffered a severe spinal cord injury from a bicycle accident, fracturing his identity and triggering a personal battle to regain mobility and find new meaning. Due to the gratitude for those who helped him throughout his journey, Mark now writes and speaks about facing adversity, and shares the actions and attitudes that supported his recovery to help others bounce back after a traumatic situation or instigate productive change in their lives.

A Fraction Stronger
Mark Berridge
Major Street Publishing
ISBN: 9781922611284
RRP: $32.99

Interview with Mark Berridge

Question: What originally inspired the idea to write A Fraction Stronger?

Mark Berridge: The book was a series of waves coming together. In mid-2020 I shared my spinal cord injury news publicly for the first time, using the nexus between the displacement I was feeling and the disruption many were experiencing in that first Covid wave. I received a lot of positive feedback on my article, some being quite forthright that I must write and speak about my journey. As I was wrestling with "Really? Me?", I reflected on the impact of the help I received and how sharing my gratitude would reward those acts. I thought about the comments I regularly heard like "the physiotherapists must love you" because I was so hard. I wondered "what if I could just get a few more people to try, or a few more people to try harder and longer. Imagine the benefit for them, their loved ones, their carers".

Question: Can you tell us about your rehabilitation experience?

Mark Berridge: I spent 7 weeks in hospital. Mostly my experience was scary, deflating, lonely and difficult. There were sparks of incredible kindness. There was great advice. There was exceptional skill from surgeons and physiotherapists. There was positive feedback and reward for effort. By nurturing how we feel about these positive moments we can navigate the more prevalent negative ones, and that is what I did. That attitude powered me through 8 months of full-time rehabilitation. I still do 3 hours per week of physiotherapy, 3 years after the accident to chase valuable marginal improvement.

Question: What did you learn, about yourself, whilst writing A Fraction Stronger?

Mark Berridge: I am a more capable writer than I expected. Even better, I discovered (or rediscovered after 25+ years hibernation) how much I loved writing. The book was a more cathartic process than I ever predicted, which made me appreciate how much brilliant stuff we all do innately. By relaying my actions and thoughts I became more cognisant of these. One of my hopes for A Fraction Stronger is that as readers reflect on the stories in the book, they become more self-aware of the incredible things they are doing intrinsically. They are much stronger than they give themselves credit for.

Question: Was it difficult reliving certain aspects/times of your life, whilst writing A Fraction Stronger?

Mark Berridge: Totally – it was often uncomfortable. I regressed to self-pity as I relived certain scenes.

I faced my deepest emotional scars in mid-2020 when I wrote that first article. I forced myself to open the diary recording the events of my first 8 weeks, which had sat on my i-Pad unread for 15 months. I dreaded opening that file. I also forced myself to watch the 2 x 40 second videos of my first "walking" attempt on day 10. Five metres of hell, dragging myself along with my one good arm and almost no awareness or control of what my legs were doing below me. On the day of submitting the final manuscript to print, I skim read it one last time and had tears as I relived the many moments of treasured kindness that helped me overcome my confusion, fear and pain. I am OK. That simply shows my emotional rawness can be triggered by certain situations.

Question: Can you share some tips with us, featured in the book?

Mark Berridge: The book is framed in three sections – Lanterns that illuminate hope, our Angels that drive us forward and the Demons that might derail us, but we can harness for motivation. I'll provide one key reflection from each section (in that same order):

• Embracing uncertainty is uncomfortable, but without the determination to do so we slow our progress and constrain our possibility.
• Love is much more extensive than we appreciate, and by reaching out for kindness and welcoming it, we enable it to be much more impactful.
• Our sense of worth evolves. I set about fighting for the physical capacity I had lost, believing that it would lead me back to my old identity and worth. But my needs had changed, and in time I worked out that my true worth was in front of me, not behind.

Question: What research (other than your own rehab) did you do, prior to writing A Fraction Stronger?

Mark Berridge: My research focussed on establishing clarity of who I was writing for and what other books were targeting that market. I looked at statistics on the prevalence and impacts of spinal cord injuries – I am glad I never googled them in the first days and weeks of my recovery. I appraised books that were in my target market and compared what I was planning to provide readers with what those books were, so that I understood where the opportunities might be given my project's relative strengths and weaknesses compared to those books.

Question: What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

Mark Berridge: I want to share one recommendation and one reflection.

1. Commit to the process. The decision to sign up to Kelly Irving's Expert Author Academy elevated my writing from an idea that I was dabbling with to a deadline driven objective. You may be able to achieve that same impetus by just publicising your intentions or joining a free writing community. Success loves a deadline, so commit.
2. It is so much more than the words. I started the process wanting to write a book to help others. I feel I achieved that. What I didn't expect was how much I would grow through writing. It clarifies your thoughts and hones your insight. It puts you in contact with a bunch of amazing, diverse, inspirational people who welcome you as an equal. It's awesome.

Question: What or who inspired your love of reading/writing?

Mark Berridge: My mother was a primary school teacher who specialised in early childhood literacy. She is a talented musician, creative director, writer, painter, sculptor, seamstress and chef. She excelled at anything creative that she decided to tackle. I am sure her artistic brilliance had its impact on me, if only in terms of writing!

Question: What's next, for you?

Mark Berridge: I treasured the writing process, especially the relationship I developed with my incredible editor Brooke Lyons. I'd love to start work on book two (not a sequel!) in 2023 so that it publishes in 2024. You never know, Brooke and I might even meet face to face by then!

Interview by Gwen van Montfort


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