"Questions unanswered, leave us on the brink
constantly questioning our worth,
Based on statuses we do not claim.
Our minds deceive us
Heart ache unfolds it's broken wings
Questions still remain, we cannot fly
No answers to be found,
We sit and watch other birds take flight
And, as they fly towards the glowing horizon, in a perfect V
We sit alone, in the growing dark, wishing we too could fly."
-Jessie McGee 2013
In 2007 I suffered a Traumatic Brain Injury, and my world has been flipped upside down ever since. I was two sport Collegiate Athlete, Excelled in my Academics, and was the Most Outstanding Senior in my College's graduating class in 2002. I planned on making a big impact on society, I was going to make a difference! I would teach and coach the next generations; instill wisdom, discipline and sense of self worth in others! I would write and play music, maybe even make it big with one of my hits. I would have my own place with my own furniture, a new car, and be financially independent and stable. Perhaps I would even find love. I felt as though I could do anything, I was invincible. I was going to live the "American Dream".
It only took a split second in time to change everything I had dreamed of, who I was, and how I viewed myself, and others. Now I wonder will I ever have a day without a headache, will I ever get to enjoy playing my saxophone again, will I ever be able to support myself, or am I to live the rest of my life relying on others to support me? Who am I, What can I do, Can I make it through the day, are now the questions that rack my mind. Physically I look "normal", well other than a nice dent in the side of my head. Looking "normal" is great, but if people can't see an injury, disability, or "flaw", they have a hard time understanding it. If you can't write because you broke your arm, all it takes for someone to understand is to see your cast. When you injure your brain, there is no cast. Sure I had staples for awhile, and nice shaved head, and a great scar!, But my hair grew back, the staples came out, and even though the scar and dent remain, people don't understand that that scar represents a very small part of my injury. What they don't see is the brain that was bruised, they don't see the metal plate and screws holding my skull together. They don't see the pressure that increases, that in turn raises my headaches to migraines. They don't see the inactive areas of the brain causing memory loss, word finding problems, insomnia and fatigue. They don't see the frusterations anger, depression, anxiety, and sence of complete loss. What they see is a functioning individual who should be doing more, who should be pulling their own weight to make a better society. What they don't see is the hill I must walk up every day, a hill that never seems to crest. They don't see how what they consider to be "functional" takes every last ounce of effort for me to achieve. I don't tell you this to make you feel sorry for me, I tell you this to help you understand, so that you can become more informed. So that maybe instead of following, you turn around and start to lead the heard in a better direction.
I hear comments all the time about how people on Medicare, and Welfare, or any other government help are "lazy" have an entitlement complex, and just aren't trying". Before my brain Injury in 2007, there is no way I ever would have thought I would now be one of "those people". But I am, and even with the "government help" which by the way is like trying to navigate a through a circus, while you, try to juggle all the red tape they throw at you, I still can't live independently, I still can't function as a productive member of society. Am I proud of that? Not in anyway what so ever! But when people say I'm not trying, I want to put them in my shoes for a day, and see just how long they can remain standing. My bet most people wouldn't last very long.
It's been 5 1/2 years since my injury, 4 of those I had no government help what so ever. Now that I do, I am more limited as to what doctors I can see, when I can see them, and for how long. Eastern Medicine, forget it, because the government doesn't consider them as "medically needed"; they consider it "elective medicine". Well, they are right, I'm electing to try and figure things out, trying to get off their system, but I can't. It's literally the perfect example of a catch 22. I am not going to go into every detail of how insane the system is, or how uneducated people really are. I am both grateful and ashamed of the help I receive; and I long for the day when I can be an individual again, not some case number.
What I want is for people to realize that their comments hurt, and are based on stereotypes, fear, and lies. Like so many other things in life, that we don't understand, we immediatly consider them "bad, wrong, and unworthy." We fear "it" or others, because we cannot relate to them. But sometimes it's not about relating, so much as it is about having compassion and understanding. Instead of fearing the unknown we can own it, we can discover new paths to go on. No one's journey is as individualized as they might like to think. We all need some help along the way, some just more than others. So, if you find yourself flipped upside down at some point, I hope you will remember that no one dreams of the life I am now living. I hope you find yourself able to withstand the constant negativity and deterrents. I hope that the people that surround you are more educated, understanding, and helpful. I hope, that the system provides you with solid foundation to help rebuild your future, instead of the constantly shifting foundation that it is now. Mostly, though, I hope that you are never flipped upside down.
Do I still have dreams? The answer is sometimes; But dreams are just that dreams: fictional hope that we provide ourselves to make it through the days. Living in reality is a much harder task. There is not always rainbows, and sunny skies. In fact their are usually quite a few storms. What helps to make it easier, is if the people around us have the knowledge, compassion, and love to allow us to move forward; even if it's only an inch at a time.