"It's always darkest before the dawn."
It was late on a Friday night and I was lacing my skates, I couldn’t wait to get on the ice for my second practice of the season. The wet ice felt smooth under my feet and the air was crisp on my face. I heard my favorite sound, that “ch, ch, ch” of my blades scraping the ice. We started doing drills, because it is our first year checking, we were doing hitting drills. I stepped up to the first spot in the line, opposite a new kid on the team and I was eager to get a feel for his skills. We rounded the cones and as I looked up, there he was and his elbow hit me like a train. My head snapped back and I hit the ice. Suddenly, I felt my body tingling, my head throbbing, and my ears ringing like a high-pitched dog whistle. The dizziness struck and lights were flashing. I knew instantly I was concussed. Then, given that I had four previous concussions, I knew my hockey career was over.
Since that night I have faced many challenges. The hardest part has been not getting a break from such a high level of pain. Dealing with this takes a lot of energy out of me and leads to other repercussions like the inability to read or write, or even go to school full-time. Another major repercussion was the realization that I couldn’t play hockey any more. Losing hockey was like losing a piece of myself. It cut out a huge part of what I felt defined me.
After the first couple weeks in a dark room all day, then came the hunt for a treatment to help the headaches and other symptoms. The treatments range from physical therapy to acupuncture. It’s hard to tell if something helps because it needs a few weeks to work. So far, nothing has alleviated the pain. Even though I have faced much adversity, I have had to keep my head held high and try to think about my victories instead.
One of the victories this term that has come from my injury is that in trying all these different things, I have learned to be more open-minded and positive. There are things I have never heard of, like craniosacral treatments, that I try because of this open-mindedness. I also feel really proud that although I haven’t done a lot of the homework and tests, I have worked really hard to keep up with the learning. Even when I don’t feel well, I force myself to sit through my tutoring sessions so that I don’t get too far behind. Finally, I am glad that I established strong connections already so that I have people around me to support me when times got hard.
Many people have really helped me through my struggles. My school, teachers, friends and family being so accommodating have been an essential part of me staying motivated and optimistic. For example, the week after I got my concussion, a friend and his father made the effort to spend time with me at my house because they knew I was struggling with the loss of hockey. Another thing that helps me get through this is all the teachers telling me, “It will get better” whenever they see me. The biggest help has been from my parents, especially my mom who is home with me, helps me with my schoolwork and drives me to my appointments. My dad helps by keeping it all in perspective and when things get me stressed out he has a way of making it feel like it will all be okay. This has been the largest obstacle that I’ve come across thus far in my life. Really, this has put a huge dent in my life, and it makes me very sad, however, after this is over, I’ll be able to emerge and discover who I really want to be. Throughout all of this, I have always kept in my head, the quote, “It is always darkest before the dawn.”