To preserve the original tone and after discussing it with Lana, we have decided not to copy-edit this piece. – Ed.
In May 2009, I graduated with a B.A in English Language Literature. Immediately, I knew I wanted to teach abroad but it was a matter of where. After weeks of research, I decided on South Korea. It took a few months of obtaining paper work and looking for the perfect position, but finally in November 2009, I boarded a flight. After several years of teaching English, Writing Labs and Phonic courses, I decided it was time to repatriate to The U.S. The decision was bittersweet, but I wanted to open a made to order, web based business.
August 2013, arrived and I began the strenuous task of packing up several years of my life. On August 12, 2013, my flight landed at O’Hare International Airport. The first few weeks were an adjustment. Although I’d visited home several times whilst abroad, knowing I was not leaving was difficult to grasp. I busied myself by unpacking, organizing, obtaining products for the business and spending time with my family. My nieces and nephews were particularly excited to have me back-permanently. I also began applying for part time teaching positions. It took some time, but I was beginning to readjust to life in The U.S. Grocery trips no longer resulted in culture shocked and I was planning for my niece’s upcoming birthday.
October 23, 2013 began like another other day. My disposition was considerably well. In a twist of fate, a daycare center within walking distance of my home responded to my initial application inquiry. My website was finally up and running, my hard work seemed to be panning out. The day came and went. I’d just finished watching a movie, wrapped a blanket around me and headed up the stairs. Somewhere in between reaching the bed and settling in, I happened to hit near the back of the left side of my head. The hit was not particularly hard, similar to a sting from bumping a knee, elbow or stubbing a toe. After a few rubs, I settled into bed but sleep did not come easy. Most of the night was spent resting. My head was hurting just a bit but nothing too major. About 3 am, I decided to let my warm bed go and take a trip to the bathroom. Upon sitting up, a throbbing rush of pain swept through my head. It took a few moments to adjust. After getting back into bed, it clicked why I was experiencing such immense pain-I’d hit my head. By 6 am the pain was so horrific, I called my mother sobbing on the phone. Between gasps, I managed to explain what happened the night before.
My mother said a lot of things during that conversation. What I remembered most, “this happened to you when you were five-remember? I took you to the hospital. You had a MRI, and they diagnosed you with a concussion, gave you meds and sent you home” and “you just came back to The U.S, you don’t have insurance.” She was correct. Less than 2 months after repatriating, nearly one hundred job applications submitted, and I’d yet to land a teaching position. I decided to follow her advice: rest, take meds and relax. This proved to be an ill fated decision. Less than 24 hours later, I was at The ER. With less than a stellar diagnosis, and worsening symptoms, another ER visit was in order-this time, I went to a different hospital. After several hours, pain relief-thanks to wonderful meds administered intravenously and a diagnosis: Post Concussion Syndrome.
Apparently my brain just could not take another hit so it decided to shut down until further notice. While I am not the same as I was when I first suffered a traumatic brain injury, I am inarguably not the same person I was pre-concussion.
The following four to six weeks are somewhat of a blue. Roughly twenty three hours a day were spent sleeping, only waking to shower, eat, and take medication. I do remember a few things about this period; the pain was unbearable, I was exhausted and everyone around me cried-a lot. As I became more lucid, I found that my voice was much different, I struggled to pronounce words and I had difficulty interacting with others and focusing. My memory-both long and short term was and still remains affected. I have also had a headache every single day, all day since October 23, 2013. Imagine the worst migraine you’ve ever had and multiple it times ten. That is what a level one feels like and any emotion, whether happy, sad, confused or upset only leads to an elevated headache. I’ve not taken prescription medication since week three so , I rely on ice packs and over the counter medications to manage pain. Practically home confined, usually I leave for dr. visits and the occasional late breakfast due to being overly sensitive to light and sound.
I suppose it’s easier to recount the negative aspects but I choose to focus on the good that’s come from it. Becoming frustrated serves little purpose. I have a much greater appreciation for life and there is nothing that I feel I am incapable of accomplishing. Being impulsive has also served me well. Instead of second guessing or rationalizing, I have a thought and act on it-immediately. It’s usually something business related. If the idea falls short of execution, I wait until the next idea surfaces-perhaps it will be a success. Another positive aspect is reconnecting to writing. It’s something that I’ve always enjoyed but haven’t done in quite some time. Life sort of got in the way. Writing allows me to record my memories, focus on something other than pain and structure my thoughts; which improves my interaction and conversation with others. These are the aspects that will help me heal. There is no definitive period on when or if I will return to pre-concussion state. For now, I embrace my new normal and live life one day at a time. Visit www.tbiguide.com and http://www.postconcussionsyndrome.net to learn more about Traumatic Brain Injuries.