Updated: Jul 7
So many times, I wished I had a broken bone instead of a concussion. You don’t have to explain what a broken bone is. Everyone will help you if they see you in a wheelchair or walking on crutches, but having a concussion is an invisible injury. People don’t see it; they don’t know how it feels, and they don’t expect that the healing journey will take so long.
How did people react during the first few weeks?
Right after the accident, people were so helpful. They asked many times how I felt and really cared about me. My boss was understanding and told me to take time off; my friends texted me and visited me to keep me company; my doctor really cared about me and was trying to help me the best he could.
But what happened after you still didn’t improve?
The longer my symptoms persisted, the harder it was. People didn’t text me on a daily basis anymore; my boss asked when I was coming back to work; my doctor didn’t know what to do anymore, and his final option was sending me to a psychologist to be treated for an anxiety disorder.
I felt stuck. I didn’t feel better after months; I think I even felt worse, but how could I explain this to others? People still asked me how I was doing but it was hard to tell them that after months, I didn’t improve at all. People didn’t understand and didn’t know what to say anymore, and I didn’t know what to say, either. How could I explain to my boss after months of rest that I still couldn’t come back? I didn’t want to bother my friends with my problems, and I didn’t want to go back to my doctor, who thought it was all in my head. I felt lost, frustrated, and didn’t know where to go.
Did you have anyplace to go where you felt supported?
Luckily, I had my parents; they were the only people I could be honest with, and they always tried to help me without pushing me. I don’t think I could have done this without them. They lived in a quiet place near the beach, and every time I felt overwhelmed in the busy city of Amsterdam, I escaped to them. Believe me; that happened a lot. I was grateful that I had a place to go but on the other hand, it felt like I was escaping the real world. My “real” life in Amsterdam continued without me, and I always felt like I missed out on everything.
I totally understand that not everybody has a close connection with their family, or a place to go. I am really grateful that I had this, but I still felt lonely on my journey. My parents did the best they could to understand me, but I still got comments like, “Some days I am more tired, as well,” or “We all have our bad days,” but what else can you say when your child is not feeling well, and you have no clue about how she feels?
How did people respond after years?
The first months after my accident, I was still “waiting” and telling people that I just needed a bit more time. After insisting on this for a year, I couldn’t do it anymore. I left my job, cut out some people who only cost me energy, and started looking for doctors who could help me.
I didn’t want the people who didn’t care about how I was doing after a year to be part of my life anymore. It sounds dramatic but when you are in a bad place, you get to know who your real friends are. I am grateful for the friends I still have and to be honest, I have a deeper connection with them than I had before the accident. Also, my connection with my family improved, and I realized that an office job is not my dream job, so losing that one was not the worst thing ever, after all. I realized that I was trying to hold onto so many things that didn’t even serve me anymore.
Do you believe your accident happened for a reason?
I started to believe that my concussion was something that needed to happen so that I could organize my life again. Before my accident, I was happy but always in a rush; I always had the fear of missing out and was never 100% happy with a 40-hour-a-week office job. I think I needed these uncomfortable circumstances to get me moving. Otherwise, I would never have made any changes.
Of course, it was a hard time with a lot of struggles and pain, and I don’t want to experience that ever again, but I can see the positive side of it, as well. I hope you can, too—if not now, then there will come a time in the future when you can see it. I promise.