2014 before his injury.
I’m taking a break from character introductions to type something that means so much to me. It may not be written perfectly, but it’s written from my heart.
This writing project, that has taken me away from Design and visual arts and placed me in the seat of a writer, has a specific purpose. I would not completely change my creative direction for a small reason. I need for teens to understand what happens in the brain of someone that is healing from Post Concussion Syndrome.
When I was a child, I don’t remember any of my friends ever having a concussion, and we played, hard. But now, it seems like everyone has a concussion story. It’s on the news, there’s a movie, and there are so many social groups on facebook about the topic. They still aren’t talking about something that is also becoming more and more prevalent, Post Concussion Syndrome. Sometimes people don’t take that 1-3 weeks to heal. Sometimes it takes months, sometimes it takes years, sometimes healing never happens. Sometimes people have to get used to their new normal.
My son is two and a half years out from his injury. He was thrown off his longboard during the summer of 2014. He sustained a skull fracture, and major concussion at the age of 14 (he’s about to turn 17). It didn’t start off bad, he had a headache, but could cope, then a few days later, it became completely debilitating. This is something that many don’t understand, the symptoms of a concussion can develop over time. He ended up unable to walk without assistance, unable to hold a pencil, unable to handle any light. He slept for three months straight. We took him to neurologist after neurologist, he was put on many medications, but mostly we were told to just wait it out. That there would be this magical moment that he would blink his eyes, and become okay. As time went on, we added in Physical Therapy in the hopes that he could learn to walk without aid again. Instead of saying that one day he would just come out of it, they started saying they would TRY to get him as close to baseline as possible. We tried speech therapy, but the therapist said she couldn’t help him, his pain was too great. He lived with a headache of 7/10 for two years. Sometimes higher, never less. He began losing his sight, his peripheral vision went dark and was slowly closing in on his entire field of vision. We were beyond frustrated, and completely terrified. He spent a long time like this until we found a Neuro-chiropractor, Dr. Sullivan, who hooked him up with all sorts of electrodes and began sending electric impulses through his brain, and his nerves. This was successful in three months, he was headache free, he still gets a few headaches here and there, but nothing like what they were. But the best thing? His vision came back, 100%. He woke up one morning and he could see, completely. He felt like he had a new life, we were out of the woods.
Then the realization of what had happened started closing in on him. He started having major panic attacks, stopped eating, had very serious social anxiety, as well as other symptoms. This was a part of Post Concussion Syndrome we never expected and weren’t ready for. My child was, once again, wilting in front of my eyes. We have a handle on this now, and he’s doing much better. But there are some things that he will have to deal with for the rest of his life. He will have to stay on top of it, and not become lazy about it. This is where the story of Larkin in Shattered Self takes place. This place where you believe that she’s better, but she’s actually worse. There’s no reason for her to still be kept out of school, but school is a painful place for her to be, for so many reasons.
My son lost friends, my son lost his support system. During those months that he was laying in bed, friends weren’t able to call, text, visit, anything. We have to remember, they are kids, their lives are moving lightning fast, they all have their own issues they are dealing with. Their own heartbreak, their own illnesses, their own family problems. This is exactly what happens with Larkin, but in her mind, they abandoned her, and that’s a very dark place to live. It begins to hurt so much, that you stop trying. You begin to shut yourself off, and only feel the loneliness. For my son, when he started going back to classes he felt like he was a different person. He felt completely misunderstood, and this was extremely frustrating for him. So, in a lot of ways, he gave up.
I’m writing this book so that other teens know what’s going on in their injured friend’s minds. We have friends whose children have been dealing with their post-concussion syndrome for a lot longer than 2.5 years. We have friends that after years and years, still aren’t able to return to school. They get lonely, and it becomes dark. When they do return, it’s just not the same. This is hard for their them and their friends. Larkin is a combination of these teens.
So much is out there about concussion, there’s not a whole lot out there for this place, the place right after. The thing that everyone can do to make this transition better, is to give them hope. They’ve had to give up all of their favorite activities, they’ve lost friends, school may be much harder for them. Find a way to give them hope. Don’t be over critical about those things they can’t do, don’t be over critical of the moments that are dark, don’t hold on to those bad times leading them to believe that it’s what they are worth. They are worth so much more.
2016, The new normal. He’ll never play soccer again, but he coaches and he loves it!
Please, don’t be that person that tells them that they are faking it, just because you don’t understand it (adults and kids alike). Don’t be that person that tells people in their social group that they are making it seem worse than it really is, usually they are trying to fake being better than they really are. Don’t be that person. That’s a horrible thing to do to something that is struggling so hard to just be normal. FYI: This is important for anyone that suffers, from anything.
This is a novel that I need to write, and it wasn’t letting me sleep until I started. I have no idea where it will go, but I have to try.