One thing I wish I was told when I left Jim Thorpe rehabilitation was “that it’s going to be hard to watch life pass you by as you try to just get back to baseline. While you are achieving huge gains on your recovery from a traumatic brain injury you will watch others continue on in life & while you are celebrating monumental moments like walking again, standing to take a shower, being able to find & spell four letter words others will be celebrating getting married or having children. Just because your achievements seem small compared to others does not mean you haven’t moved forward in life. Your moving forward will just be quite a bit slower & harder to see.”
I don’t know if being told this while leaving Jim Thorpe would’ve helped much because I was still in my walking coma at that time but I wish I could’ve had an hourly, daily, weekly reminder just so I could have prepared myself better. Once I left Jim Thorpe I started outpatient therapy at Mercy. I went three days a week for three hours. I did occupational, speech & physical therapy. During this time in my recovery I was just focused on surviving & doing what I needed to do to make it to the next hour & if I’m being completely honest I still haven’t fully left that mindset. My therapists at mercy were God sent. I honestly don’t think I would be where I am today without them. They helped me improve so much. They all tried to prepare me as well as they could for when I started to wake up more from my walking coma & had the ability to think of a future for myself. But despite their best efforts I still wasn’t prepared. I went to a few traumatic brain injury support group meetings to seek help in moving on. The first meeting I went to the topic was grieving for the loss of yourself. At the time I didn’t really grasp that concept but once I started seeing my neuropsychologist she helped me to dive deeper into that. She helped me grieve the loss of myself & the loss of that girls future, the future I thought I had planned out. This was by far the hardest part of my recovery from a traumatic brain injury. I can deal with physical pain. Dealing with the “razor blades in my head” headaches, the pain of my broken hip, pelvis, sternum, ribs, collapsed lung & lung treatments were something I knew how to deal with. I grew up in sports & athletics so dealing with physical pain came easy to me. It was tough because sometimes the pain was blinding but I knew it would go away once it healed & once a little more time went by. It was the emotional pain that was the hardest. I joke sometimes about how I would go through the wreck 100 times if all I had to deal with was the physical pain & I got to bypass the emotional. I say I joke but now that it’s been almost 9 years since my wreck I’m quite serious.
It’s hard to explain the kind of emotional pain, heartache & loneliness that comes with watching life leave you behind. It’s like being a child’s former favorite toy that has been stowed away in a closet & you watch that child pick up, play with new & better toys knowing that the child will never come back for you. You can never get back those moments. The child a.k.a life has moved on.
We all deal with this feeling of being forgotten or being left behind & it can weigh you down, make you feel insecure, make you depressed, increase your anxiety but the one thing it can not do is stop you from moving forward in life. I know I can’t get back the huge life moments I missed. I can’t go back in time to witness friends weddings or friends having their children those moments are unfortunately lost. But I know I have the ability to move forward & create/witness new life moments. No matter what emotional pain you might be dealing with or life struggle you may currently be battling just know we always have the choice to keep taking baby steps forward. Yes it will be hard & there will be times when you think you have reached your endpoint, I know I did, but it’s in these hard moments when it is so important to keep going because once you’ve taken a few steps & gotten out of that darkness you will know there is nothing that can hold you back. You will have found your inner strength.