Where do I begin? For four years where to begin has escaped me.
So here it goes…
When a traumatic event happens to you how do you find the words to explain it? How do you communicate to your family, friends, and colleagues that who you were before is not who you are now? How do you answer a question that on the surface seems so simple?
What is it like?
Are you different now?
Two very simple questions. They’re only four words. Finding the answer shouldn’t be so difficult. Or atleast you would think so.
Truth. I have been struggling to find the answer to those questions since 2010. Four years have gone by since my life changed forever. I survived a traumatic brain injury and a divorce in the same year. I survived falling off my horse, waking up in a hospital with no idea what year it was, who the president was, or what had happened to me. I survived watching my husband flirt with other women in front of me. I survived the realization that he wanted to be with a woman who he had tried to mold me into for 10 years. A mold in my heart of hearts I knew I would never fit. I survived all of this while healing from a traumatic brain injury and battling PTSD. No one deserves that much pain and confusion in such a short period of time.
Pieces of me died that year. I will never be that person again. A truth that is excrutiating to mourn. Waking up every day realizing you will never be the same. This blog became the only way I knew how to heal. To face the pain and deal with it. Writing has always been my medium. I am better at written communication than oral. I know this about myself. I need time to collect my thoughts. To intricately weave them together. To know that the right words are chosen.
So when someone asks those two seemingly simple questions I struggle to find the words, the right words. How do you say, “Yes I am different.”? Do you say I have a disability? Is that what this is? I don’t even know if I can say that.
People still see me as the person before my traumatic brain injury. I do not walk with a limp. I am not in a wheelchair. There are no missing limbs. My persistent injury is not physically visible. My injury affected my brain. To be exact my frontal lobe. It took away my ability to focus for long periods of time without feeling horribly fatigued. It took away my ability to deal with chaos. Something as simple as going to a crowded bar to watch a basketball game or attend a professional networking event will take me days to recover from. The ability to take in noise, lots of people, and activity was taken away from me. I love going to overcrowded bars and watching basketball. I love going to conferences and meeting new people so I can grow as a professional. What I love to do was ripped from me without my consent and people cannot see it.
How do you explain that you can’t do what you love? That every day for four years you have been trying to figure out who this new person is. And it breaks your heart.
There’s a simple word.
That simple word is not in my vocabulary. I do not say I can’t do something. If someone tells me I can’t do something then I will figure out how to do it just to prove them wrong. You can’t play sports you’re a girl. Watch me. You can’t go live in another country…it’s too far. Watch me. You can’t take classes while healing from a traumatic brain injury. Watch me.
Side note: Yes, I finished my masters degree while healing. And yes I did better than just pass the classes.
I despise the word can’t. Can’t and I go way back. We have been battling my whole life. Except now I have to say “I can’t” or “I’m sorry, but this place it too much. I can’t stay here.” To say that simple word kills me.
And if I say…
I can’t be around my horse.
I can’t ride him.
I can’t continue training him.
Then I will be saying a large piece of me is dead. And to do that, to admit that who I was before, someone who dreamed of endurance and competitive trail riding is dead, well you see I simply can’t do that. I have to find a way to get that piece of me back because I have lost so much. That one fraction of who I was before cannot be lost.
I realize that there are people in this world with far larger problems more severe trauma to overcome. What right do I have to feel this way? So I go about my business. I challenge myself professionally and personally. I put myself into situations that are hard for me. That are taxing because I want to be normal. More importantly because I do not want to be a burden.
Truth. I am not normal. I do better in small groups of people. In environments that are calm and quiet, more controlled.
The answer to the simple question, What is it like?, is not so simple.
What is it like to lose your short term memory? What is it like to live with the aftermath of a traumatic brain injury? It is like being on a merry-go-round with no way of jumping off. It is like someone is incessantly shouting at you through a megaphone.
It means that you get a flood of emotion out of no where. A flood that you cannot control. Tears trickle down your cheek and it feels like a brick is sitting on your chest making it impossible to breath. This flood is brought on by the words or the tone a person speaks to you with. It’s that simple, yet complex enough that to explain it accurately seems impossible.
There are good and bad days. There are days where all you can do to slow your brain down from the sensory overload is to sit in a dark room with no noise waiting for the merry-go-round to stop. Those are the worst days. The days where it takes three days to recover. The days you cry angry tears because you are faced with being this new person. This person you didn’t ask to be. And you feel broken because you have to tell people you can’t.
So I write. I fill this blog with my thoughts and experiences because I refuse to let the pain eat me alive. If I have enough courage to share my pain with the worldwide web then maybe just maybe I have the courage to heal from it.
This is raw. This is unfiltered. This is not my claim to fame. This is a tool to find the words I am desperately searching for.
Daring to dream of who I want to be. This is how I pursue reality.
For Jessica who gave me the courage I needed to hit post.
For my soul sista who understands me better than I understand myself at times.
For my Mom who I will one day share my love of horses with once again.