It happened so fast. I got up off the ice and knew I had been hit hard, but I didn’t think I was hurt. I didn’t get knocked out, and I didn’t really feel much or know much about what happened. Oh well, I thought, just another hard hit … let’s play! When I think back, I realize I was stunned senseless. I didn’t know what the score was or what period it was, but I knew I was at the ice rink and they were setting up for a face-off, so I went on playing like I always do. No one even questioned it.
After the game, when I walked out of the locker room, my mom was waiting. She came running over to me and wanted to know what was wrong with me. I said, “What do you mean? I’m fine,” but I could see she was freaking out. She got right in my face and made me look into her eyes. Then she said, “We are going to the hospital … now!”
I didn’t think that anything was wrong except for the fact that I had a killer headache and felt tired. I didn’t realize that I had been playing differently, but my mom noticed. I had fallen a few times, but I didn’t think anything of it. I realize now that I was responding slower, was easier to knock down, and was tiring more quickly – and my mom saw it. I went to the doctor because she made me; I thought she was being ridiculous.
I was wrong. What had happened to me would affect me for a long time. Even as my doctor told me that I had a concussion, I had no understanding of what that meant or what my next year would be like because of it.
By Monday, I was back in school, but still had the worst headache. Any noise made me crazy, and it hurt to hear voices. I was feeling irritated, overwhelmed, and tired. I tried to pay attention but couldn’t because of the headache. When I had to take a quiz, I couldn’t even focus on the paper – it was so white that it hurt my eyes. I texted my mom to tell her how I was feeling, and it made my face throb just to look at the screen. Wow, this is not good, I thought. I left school early and went straight back to the doctor, this time willingly.
While we were waiting, my mom told me to look in the mirror. I had what looked like two deep black eyes. The doctor confirmed that my head injury was serious, and that it would probably take months to recover. He told me that I was to go home, close the curtains, and sleep. No TV, no phone, no lights, no reading, no schoolwork – just rest until the headaches and pressure got better.
I had no idea recovery would take so long. It was five weeks before I could return to school, and with my first day back came the realization that I was still not well. My head hurt, and schoolwork made it worse. Loud noises hurt. The overhead projector in class was unbearable; I had to leave the room. I couldn’t concentrate or get my work done; it was too hard and it hurt too much. I was tired and overwhelmed just being awake, never mind being at school. But somehow I thought I had to get through it without help.
The days turned into weeks, weeks into months. The struggle continued. I was always tired. I had no energy to do anything and no focus for my schoolwork. Noise made it worse, so I stopped going to loud places. I spent a lot less time with my friends and began to prefer my couch, my dog, and the quiet of home. My parents were unhappy with my schoolwork, but I still avoided it and avoided any communication or conflict about it. I felt done with everything and hopeless. I had a short fuse and was quick to go off on anyone and everyone. I didn’t care anymore; I just wanted to be left alone.
This is where I remain today: the “just don’t bother me” phase. But moms are moms, and mine has been constantly bothering me, trying to help with my work and explain to me what is going on with me – “from the perspective of all the rest of us,” she says. It has been 18 months since my injury on the ice, and I have no idea where the time went, why I am about to graduate, or what to do next. She says that not making a choice is unacceptable, that I have to do something. But I can’t. I can’t seem to figure it out in my head. It’s like everything is jumbled, and it hurts to think, so I just avoid it.
So what happens now? I don’t know. After my mom’s constant feedback and a little research of my own, I now know that I am still hurt, and I also know that I am not myself right now. I feel nothing, I avoid everything, and I can’t see the logic in anything, so I am afraid and withdrawn. I don’t want to go to school, yet I don’t want to graduate because that means I have to move on. I am not ready, because I can’t think straight long enough to get ready. I am in trouble, and I think I need help out of this one.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.