Weathered Down

Changed by Brain Damage

Weathered Down

Pain is a feeling triggered by the nervous system. One may feel it as a prick, tingle, sting, burn, or ache. Everyone experiences pain at some point or another, yet everyone experiences pain differently. Sometimes pain can’t be shown, leaving those around us unaware of what one is actually experiencing.

For the past two years, I have woken up every day with pain. Sometimes people can notice my pain. In most instances, people can’t see my pain. No one told me that doing what I love so much would cause me so much pain. So much pain that my life would be altered, and I would from that point not only suffer, but fight through the pain.

I suffer brain damage in my left occipital brain lobe due to a skiing accident, which in all honesty I really don’t remember anything. Was I wearing a helmet? Yes. Was I cautious of my surroundings? Yes. Can I predict the weather and the low visibility on the ski mountain? No.

I have had concussions in the past; in fact I have had six with some additional brain damage on top of that. Most people that experience brain damage will often suffer from memory loss, or speech impediments. In my rare case, I suffer from severe migraines, memory loss, and light sensitivity.

Migraines, those are fun. On average I endure 2-3 migraines per week while being on medicine, which doctors still haven’t quite mastered yet. These migraines are debilitating, as in there seems to be a stabbing, pulsing nail hammering through the back of my skull to the front of my skull. The effects of these migraines are I suffer a lot from light sensitivity; I have been known for wearing my sunglasses when it's completely dark out, just because the street lights almost seem worse than natural lighting. Staring at a projector screen for eight hours a day does not help with that either. Once I have a sense that my migraines are coming, I also have nausea, and my left eye droops and my vision blurs, and in the end, goes black.

Short-term memory loss I thought was for older people. But once I realized I had suffered from this, I realized that not only can anyone suffer from short-term memory loss, this makes a difficult task like studying for tests 10x more difficult. I am reminded by my peers very often that I am repeating myself when in all retrospect, I have no clue that I am repeating myself.

Doctors’ offices. Love them… NOT! I go to a doctor about twice a month to make sure my oxygen levels, and I have no other signs that my brain damage has grown into a tumor, or that I have a brain bleed. Doctors always find my case very interesting; they always ask you a ton of questions like:

  • How many fingers am I holding up?
  • Do you have a job?
  • Are you stressed?
  • Do you workout?
  • Do you sleep?
  • What are your eating habits?

Seemingly opinionated questions turn into what feels like a hard midterm test. I have been told that I shouldn’t be able to do the things that I am doing. In fact, my doctor told me I should actually stop working out, due to the numbing sensation that is a side effect of the medicine I was prescribed. I have learned to take doctors’ advice with a grain of salt. I still work out, yes, my body feels numb, but working out is how I cope with my surroundings.

I am often told that I will grow out of these migraines. The realization that I have is that I may be able to grow out of the migraines, but one cannot just one day wake up and not have brain damage any longer. So, at this point in my life, I suffer. People can’t tell if I’m suffering unless they really know me. My friends are very supportive and know when I am experiencing pain. My parents live 6000 miles away. I have no one to hold my hand through appointments, yet I hear things like, “let’s get you an MRI ASAP, it seems you may be having a brain bleed.” Those are terrifying words for a 20-year-old to hear. Yes, medicine can help alleviate pain, but I wonder every day what my life would be like if I didn’t have pain when I wake up.

I think every day what it was like before I was weathered down, and what it would be like if I had never hit my head. But in all retrospect I wouldn't change anything that happened to me. This has made me stronger, and made me the person I am today. I enjoy life; sure I can't jump on a trampoline, and I have terrible pain most days. But I take this as an opportunity to build myself and make myself stronger.

Hannelore Gruber
Hannelore Gruber
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