Last night, I was scrolling through Facebook before I went to sleep, and I watched this video.
I knew that Kevin Pierce, the pro-snowboarder who was about to beat Shawn White in the Vancouver Olympics, suffered a TBI. He’s much different then me, however- he doesn’t have as much balance issues, was able to be a good snowboarder again less than a year after his horrific injury, didn’t have speech issues, etc- and I let our differences get in the way of our similarities. But then I saw this movie on Facebook from Lululemon, and the way I though of him completely changed.
There were a few poignant statements in the movie that really hit me. The first thing that snagged my attention was Kevin saying “Everybody knows me now as someone who had a TBI. They very rarely see me as something different.” Because of the documentary that was filmed while he was recovering, The Crash Reel, people tied him to that- the terrible accident that happened to him. They never thought of him as the advanced snowboarder who could do amazing things in the halfpipe.
That’s how I think that people see me. I was very good at the work I did for the ski industry, and I was an pretty good skier. Now, people see me as the girl who suffered a TBI. It’s been very difficult for me to find a job (I don’t have one now), and I don’t ski like I used to. I’m very sad that a simple ski accident led to a significant decrease in workplace ability, and my life outside of the simple and boring one that I have at home is not as exciting as what I used to have.
Towards the end of the film, the comments by Gretchen Bleiler about how you feel alone and isolated after a TBI is dead-on. She said “You can control if you do it alone, or as a community.” I thought that I was abnormal for feeling this way, so it was good to hear someone else say it and show me that maybe that feeling is not too far off. I really enjoyed the TBIAlive community I had in Boulder, where it was great to hear an experience from someone where it happened the same as it would have for me.
Recently, I had coffee with a high school acquaintance who suffered a TBI when she was living in DC, walking across the street, and hit by a car going 35 miles per hour. She kind of allowed me to believe that, yes, things are different for me then they used to be, but there’s a lot that’s still the same- my personality, long-term memory, and athleticism. She has trouble with loud noises, like I do, and gets lost very easily. All TBI’s are different, but it’s good to hear another completely normal person is also going through some of the same challenges.
Last night, I just came to the realization that I’m not horrible; things are just different, and I was overwhelmed by noticing that Kevin Pierce has some of the same differences. It was good to be reminded that he struggles too, and my high school friend also has some similar challenges. It’s good to know that I’m not alone.