I never imagined the day I would leave work annoyed wishing I didn’t have to work and asking my husband what I could do to quit my job would turn into the day I never went back to that job. Not only did I “quit” that job, but I can’t work a full time job again because I would almost die and get a severe brain injury. I can no longer use my years of experience or my years of college education. Lesson in all that: be careful what you wish for, this was not at all how I wanted to get out of that job and working. This is not at all how I wanted to live on one income and in no way did I ever want to live a life with a brain injury and deal with effects of that daily. I didn’t want to sell most of what we owned like our house and I didn’t want to live a life completely different than I was living. I loved my life, I was happy with my life.
I can’t believe today is the day that 2 years ago my life and I would change forever! I am at home on this 2 year anniversary, not exactly as it was planned to be. I should have been working a helmet clinic this morning and then flying off to Maine for the Love Your Brain Retreat, but COVID happened and things didn’t go as planned. But this is not unknown to me. 2 years ago life would change and we would learn how quick your life can be turned upside down and we have learned over the past 2 years how to navigate that. I’m not thankful for my brain injury, I wish it didn’t happen, but we learned and still are learning so much from it and one of the biggest things being how we are dealing with this pandemic, all things being canceled including work and none of it is devastating to us. We don’t require my income of me to work, so not working no big deal. Having a TBI, we learned to always buy trip protection because we never know with me now what may come up. So all of our vacations and flights and plans we had for March-May that were canceled will all be refunded and not just for COVID but because my doctor does not advise me to travel with all that’s going on. We have also learned that every day is different for me, not all days are easy and great and since my accident we are much more socially isolated, so staying home is no big deal. Now the old me, I would have been going insane and couldn’t handle these stay at home orders. Now it’s no big deal. I probably would of been mad too, but I’m not mad, I’m just thankful to be alive and healthy and to have a great group of supportive real friends and my husband, son and family. My parents got the news while at my sons baseball game and left right away, my husband was home getting ready to go to the game when he got the call. I can’t imagine that drive for any of them. I’m so thankful for my moto friend Christina who was there through it all. She spent nights by my side, she took my truck and bikes home and washed them and held onto them all until my husband could make it there to pick it up. So thankful for her, she’s still in my life and is so thoughtful and loving to me. I know this day also traumatized her and was emotional for her too. She’s a true gem I met thanks to motocross, Woodland Moto and Matty Frank:)
I love doing something healthy and adventurous that involves travel for the date my life changed forever. I love to make something positive out of the date each year. For a day that should be the worst day of my life, I am trying to find the good in that day by celebrating in whatever way I decide for the year. It’s important to me and as I love to travel, so far I have found things to do related to travel and being something healthy to do over such a hard time and date of my life. For my 1 year I flew alone to California and stayed in a couple hotels, saw a couple friends and attended a weekend of counseling called Weekends with Elyse Snipes. I couldn’t have thought of a better way to spend the time of my life that was so life changing and hard than at a weekend of counseling with 4 other Women and a licensed therapist. It was incredible, it was so life changing and it was such a healthy decision I made to do it. I am so completely satisfied with it and I learned so much that weekend. The best part is that I was able to travel to California, all on my own. I flew, used Uber, I checked into hotels and it all went without a problem. Pretty amazing 1 year after a severe TBI and DAI, especially when I shouldn’t even be here writing this.
For my 2 year TBI anniversary, I was accepted to the Love Your Brain, Wavus campus retreat in Portland, Maine. I had applied before, but didn’t realize you had to be 2 years post TBI. My flight was set to leave on 5/16/20, 2 years from when I was lying in a hospital bed, in a coma and on a breathing tube with brain bleeds. The retreat was to start 5/18 but as I have learned when traveling, going a day or two early to relax and catch up with myself for energy, sleep and grounding I would have flown out on the 16th and arrived on the 17th to have a day before the retreat. Sadly, because of COVID, the retreat has been postponed. Luckily it will be rescheduled and at a later date I will get to go and I have a credit with the airline for my future air purchase. I am bummed I won’t meet my new friend Jake who was also going, he had a TBI and DAI too from his Harley accident. But we will get to meet him in December in Austin where he lives and who knows the retreat might be rescheduled before then.
Some of the biggest things I have learned through all this, is how lucky I am. I shouldn’t be here. I beat the odds. I could be asking why? Why did I survive and come out of this so well. But I don’t. Well except some times when I get super frustrated and extremely overwhelmed I catch myself saying negative things like: Why did I survive this? I wish I was dead. And I should never say shit like that, but I become so overwhelmed and so frustrated and so down in the moment I don’t get why I survived to live this way. So yes most days I’m fine, I act fine, I post positive things on my Instagram. But not every day is good, not every day is easy. I think the one thing I have going for me is being so open and honest. When I feel like this I reach out to my brain injury Psychiatrist, I reach out to my Physiatrist, I reach out to my husband. I don’t sugar coat shit. I at times say things I never should say, especially in front of my son. But sadly he’s understanding of my brain injury and gives me a lot of grace. And anytime this happens, it leads to big, real conversations with my 15 year old. I know this whole experience 3 days after his 13th birthday was traumatic and life changing for him as well, but I am so glad we can have ongoing open communication together and work through this life together and all it’s uncertainty.
I have a new found Anxiety since TBI, I am definitely not as social anymore either. I volunteered at a women’s moto event last Summer with Dirtastic. It was fun, I was glad to be there and I got to spent 1:1 quality time with Christina who was there the day of my accident and with Brittany who I raced with and am friends with. It was great to be with them, be apart of a large moto event and I was so glad I got to be apart of it. What I learned from it though is that large social events, 150+ people is too much for me. It also wore me out. I’m so thankful to have been a part of it, but learned so much about my new self. I slept a lot on the Saturday of the event, I was not only exhausted but there was way too much social stimulation for me. I learned that no matter how much I wanted to be apart of it, and how glad I was that I did it and was still able to be apart of the moto community just in a different way, that it was too much for me. Maybe down the road at some point.
I have never really struggled with mental health, but It runs in my genetics so I am very aware of it especially since TBI. I regularly see a therapist, every 3 weeks and more if needed. I just recently started a prescription of Propanol that I can take when I start to feel anxious, I am hoping this will help me when I get super overwhelmed and anxious. After such a major injury and life changing brain injury, anxiety and depression are super common so I stay on top of it.
I am super impulsive. But close friends tell me I was pretty impulsive prior to my brain injury. I know that I am impulsive, I have been impulsive on travels alone that at times made the situation harder due to my impulsiveness. My theory and plan for living life knowing I’m impulsive is to not make any decisions in the moment or rashly. I need to think about it overnight or for a few hours at least and consult my husband or one of my trusted friends or a doctor. Being aware that I am impulsive is a big deal for me, being open about it to others has also been helpful.
Our life, our hobbies, our friends, our relationships and basic everyday things have changed so much. That’s been one of the hardest things. I did not die on 5/16/18, but at times I feel like I did die because of how many relationships and things in our life we did lose. But that has just really taught us what and who are important in our life, what is worth our time and energy, especially being me and having no energy, what is worth my time and what isn’t. Just taking a shower wipes me out. Things you don’t see or realize or take for granted, are a big deal to me. I nap daily, I go to bed at 9pm and wake up at 730am and I’m freaking exhausted daily. When I get exhausted it’s like I’m drunk. That’s how I feel and I don’t drink. My words start to slur, I don’t walk straight, I stumble on my words and my memory gets worst than it already is.
Working out is a whole new experience for me. I can’t believe I did Orange Theory 2 days a week, an hour each time. I lasted for about 2 months and then I slept for a couple months. It wiped me. My physical therapist said my heat rate should be between 112-144 to be able to fully recover and not expend too much energy which wipes me. However just running a mile my heart rate runs about 170. I stopped Orange Theory, I bought a Peloton bike and love it. However I have overdone it so much and learned the hard way. So now I stick to 10 minute low impact rides and a 5 minute cool down. Or I run a mile outside. I have to remember to pace myself, but it’s so hard for me and if I don’t pace myself, yes I can do it but then it wipes me out for a few weeks. It’s a hard balance, and from someone that pre injury worked out 6-7 days a week doing Orange Theory, sometimes 2 in a day plus racing motocross 2-3 times a week on top of working, being a wife and a mom, it is very hard for me to slow down. I realize I have to and I need to because of my brain and recovery, but it’s so hard, it’s just not in my personality.
It’s unreal to me how in one day, literally in a split second your life can change forever. It happened, and not only did my life change forever but so did my husbands and sons. We definitely live our life completely different, our priorities completely changed and our relationships have definitely changed. The Jessy I was before is not longer here or available. The dynamic of our household changed. Our income dramatically changed. Our cares and worries changed. But I’m proud of us. Through all this change, we are making it work, making it work for us. It’s been a hell of a 2 years. My newlywed husband surely never expected this to happen just 10 months after our wedding, neither did I. But we are so thankful I am here, we have learned from it and continue to grow from it. Life’s a little different, but I’m still here and we still have our family and we have adjusted extremely well. I’m beyond grateful to have such a stand up husband who literally would sell everything for his wife, I knew I married the right one for me, but he has proven this for sure! I can’t believe it’s been 2 years, 2 years of dramatic adjustments and changes and 2 years of hard. I just hope each year gets a little easier from here on out, it will never be easy, but I hope it just becomes more normal for us and easier for us to deal with this new daily normal of living life with a brain injury. My brain injury will never go away, I am forever disabled and not able to do all I spent my life learning to do. But I’m still here and still able to have a life and I intend to keep living it to the fullest. Thank you to those who have been there for me and us through all this insanity. We are grateful for you and so thankful to have you.