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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