I've had an interesting day.
I have come to the conclusion, or rather, it was brought to my attention, that although I'm raising concussion awareness, I am still in denial about mine.
Figure that one out.
A few wonderful young ladies reached out to me over Twitter and Facebook about my project and we chatted for some time. It was incredible. All whom I've talked with today, I felt an instant connection and even made a "BESTIES" joke because sharing our stories felt like we were one and the same.
I look forward to meeting them all, but I had the chance to meet one today for a drink. And as I was listening to her tell her story, I couldn't help but gape wide mouthed - it was like looking in the mirror and having my thoughts read out loud.
Everything from how "stupid" she felt about getting hit in the first place, to every emotion that came throughout the roller coaster of the past 2 years. As I refer to: the shadow of our former selves. She was also athletic, motivated, funny, social, smart, confident, and an all around fun person. But now, she can't participate in any of the sports she used to live for and going to the gym is literally a slow crawl on the treadmill, anxious when it comes to work, finds going out a chore, and doesn't feel half as smart as she used to. She beats herself up for it and has lost the confidence of the person she used to be; questioning who she is now.
I keep saying "she", but this entire time I could've exchanged them all with an "I", and I bet I can exchange it with a "you" if you're suffering from a concussion.
It was amazing to talk to someone who understands. That said, this amazing meet up - this connection, if you will, - was followed by a few exchanges about how we're dealing with things. She mentioned baby steps and working up from a 5 minute walk to 10, 15, etc, from working 2 hours to gradually increasing it to 3, 4, etc, weaning off the happy pills, and learning her limits - whether it's driving, social activities, drinking, or reading.
I realized this is where we differ. Where she has the patience to work her way up, I refuse to admit I need to stop. I can't accept I'm not who I used to be, I can't accept I'm not normal, and I can't accept that I'm disabled. If I know a 5 minute walk gives me a headache, instead of working my way up, I'll think I'm already up so I may as well do the hour. And then it bites me in the ass (or head. Ha!).
Whereas she feels a headache coming on as soon as she hits her limit, I push to my norm and don't realize I'm in pain until I've relaxed and sat down - only the pain is now unbearable and I'm in tears taking days to recover.
Whereas she knows her limits and can comfortably say no to friends and social gatherings, I'm embarrassed to decline an invitation.
It's almost like I'm afraid for people to see who I am now. It's almost like I'm afraid to admit to them who I am. And worst of all, it's like I'm embarrassed to admit it to myself.
I'm aware I sustained 4 concussions and I'm aware I'm disabled and unable to work (albeit extremely ashamed when the subject comes up and more often than not it brings out the tears). But knowing all this and still refusing to accept the new me is denial. And that was brought to my attention when I shared today's connection with my husband.
Sitting on the couch, I was laughing about my stubbornness to stop, when he looked me straight in the eyes and asked if I realized what I'm doing.
How can I raise concussion awareness when I'm in denial myself?
The answer is we're in this together and I'll be taking this journey with you. We will recover from this - and we WILL recover from it - one step at a time together. We will share our stories with those unaware of what is happening to them, and we will share these stories amongst ourselves because it is the only way we will learn.
I cannot believe it took me 2.5 years to realize who I am. This is who I am now, and although I will stay positive and recover from this, there are aspects of this new life that will stay with me.
So stand with me, embrace who you are, and let's work together!