"In an instantaneous moment of my perception, I went from surfing in a competition to waking up in a hospital bed. A look in the mirror I didn’t recognize myself with blood running from my mouth to my bathing suit and still covered in sand. The pain of the stitches through my lip was surpassed by the pounding I felt in my head. Even with a dislocated jaw, it was the process of my thinking that was preventing me to express myself.
After weeks, the stitches fell out, my scar continued to heal, and my friends and family treated me as if I was normal. But it was the turmoil inside of foggy thinking, dizziness and nausea that overtook my life.
My basic and daily activities changed. I couldn’t drive, read or write. Any type of screen interface sent me into an episode of nausea and vomiting that was proportional to the screen time. My vestibular function was impaired and even crossing the street to go to the store left me lost and confused, unaware to why I was there. Twice a week I was being driven for physical and speech therapy. Forced to drop out of school and stay out of the water, I was frustrated, ashamed, embarrassed and guilty. Everything I had worked so hard for felt as if it was taken away from me and it was my own fault. I isolated myself because I felt as if I was a burden. At the time, I remember thinking I would never be me again; surfing, studying, sailing, communicating with my friends and family. This was the low that I thought I could never be brought up from.
It has been over a year since my second concussion and I want to reach out to those who need hope. After overcoming this past year, I have grown to be grateful of all the qualities of life. I have returned to school to pursue a Ph.D. in nanoengineering. I have continued to surf, consciously, on a various quiver of boards. I sail every Saturday at noon with my friends and family. I am able to ration my screen time, and have continued to build relationships with those around me.
The hardest time of my life of hopelessness has shown me that there is always hope. My own perception controls my emotional view on life, even with physical deficits. I am not defined by a head injury. I am only me and try to be the best I can be.
This is the persistence that I believe with inevitably lead to prosperity and success. For those who are suffering silently, know that it will get better. You do not have to be alone and there is always hope.
Baby steps of improvement may seem tedious but in retrospect, you are worth all the efforts. You will move on from the depression, anxiety, shame and guilt. You are loved and worth it."
-Michelle, TBI Survivor