By Guest Blogger Amy Zellmer, author and member of the Brain Injury Association of America Advisory Council
Two years ago I began a journey unlike anything I anticipated. Nothing could have prepared me for it, and I’m not sure I still understand it completely.
On a cold February morning in 2014, I slipped on a patch of ice. I had zero warning as my feet went out from under me, and I landed directly on the back of my head, with my skull taking the full impact of the fall.
As I got up, I knew immediately that something was very wrong. I had excruciating pain in my head, my vision was blurry, I was seeing the proverbial stars in my peripheral, and it took all the energy I could muster to walk myself back to my apartment. I was diagnosed with a severe concussion, and later I would come to understand the term traumatic brain injury (TBI). In addition to my brain injury, I also sustained major whiplash, torn muscles, and a dislocated sternum.
It’s amazing to me how our lives can change so drastically in literally the blink of an eye. I no longer had any idea how to use my microwave, I wasn’t able to read, my short term memory was completely gone—which was incredibly frustrating—I had dizziness and balance issues, numbers confused me, and I suffered from a great deal of aphasia (not being able to recall words, or saying the wrong word.)
What was most challenging was the fact that I could vividly remember the old me. I knew what I “should” be able to do, yet I couldn’t. I knew I used to have an internal GPS, and now I got lost driving to familiar locations. I used to be able to multitask, and now doing even one chore at a time expended all of my energy. I used to read a book a week, and now I couldn’t even read a chapter.
All of my symptoms were invisible; no one could see them or understand them. Friends slowly started slipping away, telling me, “It’s just a concussion” and to “Get over it.” It was an isolating and dark place.
At the one year mark, I began writing as a form of therapy. On a whim, I submitted my story to The Huffington Post, and, to my delight, they published it.
I began receiving emails and messages from people all over the world, telling me that I had put into words what they hadn’t been able to. In an instant, I was surrounded by people who understood what I was going through. I created a Facebook group called The TBI Tribe as a place where we could all get together and share our experiences.
March is Brain Injury Awareness Month, and I am thrilled to be attending BIA Day on Capitol Hill once again this year in Washington DC.
Learn more about the Brain Injury Association of America at www.biausa.org.