In 2017, I was working as a guard at a prison when I was assaulted. The horrific attack left me with a severe concussion, third degree shoulder separation, and serious muscle strains. Despite the unrelenting physical pain that ensued, I maintained my composure and put up an emotional wall to show everyone “I was fine” and could slip right back into my job and my life. I was so determined not to appear weak that I failed to see the impact this assault had on my mental health and the invisible scars that never fully healed.
Within months, the pain became debilitating and I finally had to admit that something was wrong. However, every doctor I went to for help treated me with skepticism. This wasn’t a typical physical injury that could be seen on various scans, the only thing the doctors had was my word, and that wasn’t enough. I was continuously told there was nothing they could do. They prescribed Tylenol and sent me home. As the time passed and the pain grew, I was overcome with helplessness and hopelessness.
It took several years and dozens of doctors to finally receive accurate diagnoses and treatments. My concussion and separated shoulder were significantly more complicated than the doctors first thought. As a result of my traumatic brain injury, I suffered from Visual Midline Shift Syndrome, Occipital Neuralgia, Central Sleep Apnea, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. But that was only the beginning.
It was the emotional toll this journey took on me that surprised me the most. I battled feelings of defeat and depression. Would this be my new normal? Would I have to give up the dreams I once held? After the pain was treated and disappeared, I expected to return to my “old self”, only to find that person no longer existed. I had to rediscover who I was, and that meant coming to terms with everything I lost—and everything I could be.
Through my journey I have learned that recovery from a traumatic brain injury does not have a finish line. Recovery is about living every day to the best of your circumstances. Some days I can take on the world, other days I have to pace myself to get through the day. I have learned not to be ashamed of what happened to me, or the issues that I am still dealing with. Most importantly, I have learned that even when there aren’t answers to be found, a little compassion from those around you can ease almost any pain. You don’t have to go through something like this alone. If you can be brave enough to ask for help, be vulnerable, and let people in, it can make a tremendous difference. I hope that by sharing my story I can connect with others who feel alone in their journey to recovery. Please join me on my blog and forum, or pick up my book, You’ve Got Some Nerve: The Battle Back from an Invisible Injury, for more information. You’re not alone.
To offer hope and strength to individuals suffering from brain injuries, PTSD, and other invisible illnesses and to encourage them to advocate for their needs on their path to recovery.
I envision a world where those suffering from invisible illnesses aren’t forced to paint a smile on their faces, where they can be vulnerable and confide in those closest to them knowing they will be met with compassion, empathy, and understanding.