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I incurred a traumatic brain injury (TBI) in 1996 while a cheerleader in college. I was launched about 25-30 feet and landed on my neck. That night, I began vomiting, feeling dizzy and my feet were purple. Within a few days, I started getting severe migraines. Prior to this accident, I was a perfectly healthy individual. I was never treated for this concussion. I went on with my life and pushed through the pain while having a daily migraine and often ending up in the ER at least 1-2 times a month. I have no idea how I worked in Corporate America nearly 20 years with a daily, pounding, throbbing migraine and extensive neck pain (I have 5 herniated discs and I have NOT had surgery)!
Looking back, I ran myself into the ground and was a total workaholic. I suffered additional concussions throughout my life but in 2014, I slipped and fell on painted wet concrete and lost consciousness. Thankfully, my brother was with me when it happened so he could explain to my family and the ER doctors what had happened.
It’s been a downhill battle since that day in July 2014. I had to leave my corporate career but doctors were telling me that I should continue to work despite the findings of my neuropsych test. Because I was concussed, I never requested a copy of the neuropsych test and realized years later that the last thing I should’ve been doing was working! I’ve worn a mask for so many years to hide the pain, often joking around when I really just wanted to be in a dark room and sleep.
Despite all this drama, I still bleed blue! GO BLUE!
In May 2016, over 20 years since the initial accident, I was diagnosed with a TBI and was suffering from Post Concussion Syndrome (PCS). I feel a great sense of relief that I finally have answers to what is going on inside my brain but it has been a very arduous and tough journey. I had always been fiercely independent from a young age and finally, I told my parents how hard I was struggling in life. I didn’t want to be a burden. My mother has been my lifeline! I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t have her. My mother sold her beautiful home up north to move to South Florida and help me on this journey, thankfully she’s a Registered Nurse and my TBI/PCS advocate!
While many people in my life want the “old Bec back”, I’ve learned to accept that Bec 2.0 is A-okay! Prior to the concussion in July 2014, I was your typical First-born, Type-A Capricorn, what many of my family and friends call “the old Bec”. I had more energy, endurance and drive than anyone I know today. I’m not being conceited, I was someone who got things done! I finally had to embrace Bec 2.0, the Bec after 2014. It has taken years but I have finally grieved my old self and started to embrace qualities about myself that I rarely showed – empathy, emotions, driving the speed limit (this has been a hard one to learn!) and was forced to relax and get a good night of sleep.
I wouldn’t wish this type of injury on anybody, even the few people I do not like in life. There is no recipe, doctors orders or business plan on how you can recover from a brain injury, regardless if it is mild, moderate or severe. Everybody heals differently from concussions and there is little research about female vs. male brains. There are alternative treatments to Western medicine that can enhance the likelihood of getting some semblance of a normal life. Also, diet and light exercise are imperative to a quicker recovery. Had I only known all this information when I landed on my neck in 1996…
This has been such a humbling and humiliating experience to say the least. Thankfully, I am slowly but surely on the path of recovery to a “new normal” while living with the silent epidemic of having an invisible disability.
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