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2019 – Amber Youngberg – HWRA – Weber High

Mar 27, 2019

Two years ago in March 2017, my life changed when I got a concussion. I was in the gym for cheer tryouts when somebody threw a basketball from an upper balcony. They were trying to make a full court shot but instead of the ball hitting the basket, the ball hit me in the back of the head. Ever since then, I’ve lived with chronic migraines everyday. It’s still hard to be around places that have a lot of light, noise, and commotion going on. Because of this, I’ve had to stop cheerleading, going to school, and hanging around large groups of people.

My life did a complete 180 degree turn. While I was used to working hard in school and getting straight A’s, after my brain injury, no matter how hard I tried to focus I couldn’t. All of my grades became F’s! If that wasn’t enough to get me discouraged I also had to stop doing what I loved, cheerleading. Every Friday night I was used to tumbling, stunting, and cheering for my school’s sports teams in front of tons of people. To say the least, I ate it up. I loved the feeling of performing and getting the crowd’s energy up. The first 6 months after my accident, my Friday nights became nothing more than sitting alone someplace quiet and dark. Anything more that that gave me more pain that I could handle. In my eyes, I had lost everything I’d worked so hard to get. I felt like a failure. I couldn’t drive, get a job, go to school, hangout with friends, or do so many of the things most teenagers do.

It gets really depressing to look at it that way so I had to start finding the good things even if they were small. As much as I wanted to go to school, it was nice to be able to sleep in each morning. As sad as I was to miss out on social events, I got a lot more time to spend with my family and I wouldn’t trade my close relationships with them for anything. I’ve become really good at finding joy in the little moments. Another thing I’ve realized throughout all of this is not to stress over things that are of little importance. Plans can change overnight so there’s no need to worry over something you might not even have control over tomorrow. You just do the best you can, remind yourself to keep a positive mindset, and hope that great possibilities come your way.

Nobody can see my pain, I don’t have a cast, or a splint, or a visible scar. However, my pain is there, and it is strong and real. It takes a toll on my body, mind, spirit, and also those of the people closest to me. I’ve learned that every person is fighting their own battles. Some are just more visible than others. I’ve had people tell me I’m faking my injury or that it’s all in my head and that I should just get over it. I do my best to put on a brave face when others are around, as I’m sure so many other people in this world also do. I think it is very important to keep an open heart and mind as to what others are going through because we can never really know how they are feeling.

To people in a similar position as me, or to anyone going through a hard time I would say: find the one thing in your life that makes each day worth living. Whether it is a person you love, or your favorite show on t.v., or your favorite dessert. Find something that gives you joy and hold onto it. There are going to be times when the sadness will feel overwhelming, but there will also be times where the happiness can be overwhelming. In those times, soak in as much of the happiness as you possibly can and let it carry you through life.

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  1. Jacqueline

    Thank you for your beautiful essay. Your words touched my heart and have given me strength today.

  2. J.A. Carter-Winward


    I feel your pain on so many levels. I understand your feelings of loss–the word “concussion” is too often dismissed, and it’s a term many medical professionals are trying to get rid of in the field.

    You have a TBI, and whether mild, moderate, or severe, they present in everyone differently. You feel like your life was taken, and in a way it was. You mourn the person you were because you now have limitations. I get that, too. I think that your ability to find the “one thing” to live for, each day, is so vital. We put so much focus on DOING, we forget–we are human BEINGS.

    So be in the moment, and be happy with where you are. Or not. Because mourning, being sad, angry, hurt–that’s okay, too. I try to remember to honor my feelings of loss, but also I work hard to remember not to “live” there, if you KWIM.

    I, too sustained a TBI, back when I was 27 years old but I was not diagnosed with a TBI. I was a straight-A student at the “U” and wanted to be a psychologist and a writer, both. After my head was hit, I flunked out of college. That was almost 25 years ago. About 6 years after that, I sustained a series of other head traumas–all caused by medications, because after my first TBI, they told me I had a mental illness, even though it was a head injury that caused my moods to go all over the map.

    Today, I am an award-winning poet, artist and novelist, and while I don’t have the degrees or letters after my name, I fought to do and be who I am, despite the fact I didn’t even know my issues were caused by brain injuries until the last few months.

    The one thing that pulls me through my darkest times and days is getting out of my own pain, like you did here, and helping others. I feel you have important work to do here, if you choose to do it. I hope you do. You are a skilled writer. You bring emotion and clarity to something too many people don’t understand–head injuries are not simply a case of shaking it off and moving forward after some rest.

    Your brain is literally your control center for every, single physical and bio-mechanical process your body does. However, we can’t forget it is also the seat of our emotions, behavior, feelings, and how we interact with the world. When it gets damaged, we are forever changed. While that might be out of our control, HOW we choose to move forward and change, in many ways, is totally within our power.

    I am so glad you’re giving hope and vital information to so many, who don’t know–it is not just a “bump on the head” or a little metallic taste in the mouth after someone “rings your bell” in sports or in a car wreck or even an accident at home. It’s a brain injury. Why would we believe that is simple when we understand so little about the brain?

    And my opinion only, here, but I believe that too many people walking around today who have been labeled “mentally ill” or with “personality disorders” or even people who are just sen as “unstable” or troubled or “slow” mentally–you know, maybe they weren’t always that way, and maybe they have TBIs that were never diagnosed. Because you were hit with a basketball. A rubber ball–how could that really be a TBI?? Well, I know someone who was putting her groceries into her trunk, and the lid fell and whacked her on the head. She didn’t lose consciousness, she didn’t fall. She just yelped in pain, winced as she rubbed at the small lump that began to grow, and drove away.

    But her life was forever changed.

    Thank you for your beautiful words and I wish you way more than luck.

    JulieAnn Carter-Winward

    • Laura

      Your support of Amber and other kids like her is life saving!


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