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Recovering from Concussion

Brie Boothby

In a moment my life changed forever.

I went from a highly-motivated and optimistic teenage athlete to an anxious girl plagued with constant headaches struggling just to get through a day. 

It happened on September 10, 2013. I was playing field hockey for Riverbend High School in Virginia, at an away game not too far from my hometown. The opposing team was at our goal trying to score. My team was scrambling around to get the ball out. My sister, the goalie, just made an amazing save but a player from the opposing team tried to take a follow-up shot. At that moment, I took a field hockey stick to the head and blacked out. The next thing I remember was walking off the field. I got ice from the trainer, answered questions like “what day is it?” and “what did you have for breakfast?” and then went back in the game. Looking back, there was no reason to go back into the game after a head injury like that.

The next day I was diagnosed with a concussion. A week later I forgot how to spell my name.

It was my junior year of high school and I spent the entire time suffering through Advanced Placement courses and full school days, intent on not letting my concussion bring me down. For almost 11 months, I attended physical therapy instead of the movies, doctors’ appointments rather than sleepovers, and sat left bench as I watched my teammates play the sport I love.

I struggled with my identity, and was overcome with self-pity. I wondered why this had happened to me in such a pivotal and important time of my life. My mom had to go from working full-time to part time to drive me to all my appointments because I wasn’t allowed to drive, and instead of gratitude, she was met with all the pent up anger I had about my situation. I wore sunglasses and earplugs everywhere to avoid bright lights and loud sounds and teary phone calls made from school with pleas to be picked up early were not uncommon.

Over time I realized I had lost several key moments of my life. I could no longer remember my first kiss, my first date, passwords, or some days even what month it was. I was easily distracted, couldn’t make eye contact, and carried a vomit bag with me at all times. I was diagnosed with ADHD and anxiety. I lost relationships because it took all I had to just get through a day. For seven months, I didn’t sleep an entire night. Frequently, I woke with visions of being hit in the head over and over again. After trying sleep medications to help sleep through a night, I became depressed and suicidal.

I once enjoyed so many things that gave my life meaning that I was no longer able to do. I wondered what my life was even worth anymore. But, I learned that things do get better and to take things one day at a time. I was taught the value of true friendship and support, and learned how to love myself enough to know that I am worthy and capable of anything I set my “brain” to do. Now, I realize that my concussion is not who I am. It is simply a chapter in my story, a small piece of what makes me, me. My concussion impacted my education, my relationships, my personality, and the way I view the world. Without it I wouldn’t have met the incredible people dealing with the same experiences I have, or been able to share my story in order to help others.

I have started my own support group to help others, and am grateful for the lessons I have learned throughout this difficult journey. Today, I remain a proud survivor of a Traumatic Brain Injury and am blessed to live (and remember) another day.

Brie Boothby is a senior at Riverbend High School in Virginia. She created a peer support group called Concussion Connects to help others cope with the effects of suffering a severe concussion. Brie is enjoying her final year of high school and looks forward to going away to college next year.