Almost three years ago I sustained two traumatic brain injuries in a week and was hospitalized with seizures, hyponatremia and diabetes insipidus. I hardly remember my time in the hospital, except for waking up with about 4 different needles taped to my hands and arms, a terribly bruised and swollen tongue, and the overall feeling of having been hit by a truck. Since that experience I have lived with the constant anxiety of another traumatic event happening, and not having the luck to survive it. I have suffered from panic about having other seizures, or having my body fail me again.
I used to be very athletic. I could run 4 miles just because I wanted to and I once did more push-ups than most members of the Mount Holyoke soccer team (37 to be exact). I prided myself in the ability to push limits and bend rules, see how far my body could take me.
Post TBI, I have tried multiple times to start up again. Start running, hiking, dancing. I have often suffered since then from fatigue, nausea, and headaches post work-out. Though I have expressed my concerns to many doctors, I am greeted with one diagnosis: “anxiety.” And I have tried. I went to trauma therapy, I started slow, but there is this deep seeded fear that I will never be the same, never be as free, as I once was.
As my senior year reaches its end, my fears have worsened and expanded. I think once a person has had a serious confrontation with the possibility of death, it is a hard one to forget. I have become terrified of plane or car crashes, sudden illness, house fires, or any other chance event that could take me out before I have the chance to graduate. None of them are peaceful; they all would leave me dying afraid with so much left to do and to move past.
I don’t tell many people how afraid I am of another injury or a traumatic event. I have friends and family who I have told and they make fun of me for it, call me “hyper vigilant, paranoid, afraid of everything”. In some ways, I guess I am. Those who don’t know see me as strong and persistent. I would not want to expose such “foolish” thoughts and look so weak, maybe even crazy.
I see myself as so much more than my fear, and I often feel held back by it. I keep hoping I will come to peace with my trauma and move on, so I can go back to jumping from high places, hiking into the middle of nowhere, or sprinting on empty fields. Even the little things: feeling calm during a flight, being able to fall asleep easily, eating raw cookie dough or old left-overs. I want all of it fearless. I want pre- TBI me back.