Trauma Teaches Important Lessons

Nikki Honda, Sports Editor

Everyone knows the old saying “there’s a first time for everything”. I never fully understood what this meant until it hit me, literally.

In November 2013, I was leaving school when the car in front of me braked suddenly. My instinct was to also brake. I had just enough time to stop before hitting the car in front of me.  I breathed a sigh of relief knowing I had escaped a very close call. Then, abruptly and to my surprise, something behind my car pushed me into the car in front of me.

The next thing I knew, I was pulling over to the side of the road.

School had just ended and there was already traffic. Not only was I embarrassed, but I had hit a teacher’s new car. In the heat of the moment, he was furious, and proceeded to scream at me in front of what felt like was the entire school. I tried to explain that I was sorry and it wasn’t my fault, but it didn’t really matter.

The car that had hit me from behind was driven by a senior student. Eventually, the police came. We received a police report and everyone exchanged insurance cards. I had never been in a car accident before, let alone one with three cars, so the whole experience was new to me.

A classmate’s mother happened to witness the accident and came over to see if we were alright. I explained I had hit my head and it hurt a little, but I was more concerned with what was going on with the other drivers. She advised me to talk to a doctor just to make sure nothing unexpected had happened. The police created a formal report and, after what felt like eternity, I was finally allowed to drive home.

The next day I found out the car that had hit me had been towed and couldn’t be used anymore.

I went to the doctor. He said I had whiplash and strained my neck and that the pain would go away within the next few days.

As the week went on, my head began hurting. It seemed different than a normal headache. My mom took me back to another doctor, who told me I had a concussion and that it would take awhile to recover.

Many of my friends have been diagnosed with concussions, but I was never aware of what they were or how to cure them. The first two weeks were frustrating; I sat at home with unexplainable headaches, dizziness, blurry vision, sensitivity to light and sound, problems balancing, and constantly feeling tired. I wasn’t allowed to read, study, watch TV, use my phone, or basically do anything that made me think. While some students would find these conditions close to ideal, for me they were not.

I don’t like missing school because I have always hated the makeup work. I prefer not to miss more than 1 or 2 days a year, so spending several weeks hanging out at home with nothing to do was painful. I had a lot of free time, which was something I wasn’t used to.

Missing days, let alone weeks of school, is honestly a disaster for me. I sat at home watching my junior year grades drop to unimaginable lows. There were missing tests, classwork and homework assignments, and notes. I was already stressed and it had only just begun.

Thanksgiving break was my time to catch up. My goal was to complete as much work as possible and go back to school the following week. However, I was having trouble remembering material and staying focused. I would get horrible headaches and dizziness after working for just 15 minutes.

The doctor suggested transitioning gradually into classes, because my brain couldn’t tolerate thinking for a full day and my body was still feeling overly tired. She said I wasn’t ready for a full day of school and I should go to half my classes and then alternate to the other half the following day.

The transition after Thanksgiving was difficult. I have always been a quiet student in class. I never liked raising my hand or standing out in any way. I bet that half my teachers probably couldn’t remember my name, but I liked it like that.

After missing so much school, the concussion forced me to interact with my teachers. I had to go to each of my 7 teachers and create individual plans on how I would catch up, even though I was still not in school full time.

Another obstacle was learning material in class when I had not learned anything in the previous weeks of class. I was constantly confused and overwhelmed. On top of this, I felt as if I were getting pressured by teachers and classmates to come to school for full days and to start making up the work. I felt they believed I was faking still being injured or at least exaggerating it.

If only I could tell them I would switch places with them in a heartbeat.

At least I could use this disbelief as motivation to persevere and come out on top. Over Winter break I made a list of everything I wanted to get done and finished almost all of it.

After coming back to school, I realized there is no better feeling than handing in a month’s worth of hard work to my teachers.

The concussion was a major setback for me. I had to postpone SAT prep classes, quit my job, focus on bringing my grades up, and watch out for my health. While I was initially filled with emotions of anger, frustration, and stress, I have come to realize it taught me important lessons.

Although I don’t typically like asking others to help me, I learned that it is okay. My friends were able to help catch me up in most of my classes by teaching me the material and answering all of my questions. In addition, I was able to ask my teachers for their help in explaining the projects I needed to make up. They also gave me extra time to complete work, which I appreciated. This has helped me improve my communication skills with others and has forced me to become a more responsible student. I can now manage my time better and most importantly, I know I can overcome tough situations.

Even though I am only taking 4 of my 1st semester finals on time, I have already scheduled with my counselor to take 3 incomplete assignments in my other classes. This means I am back on track with 4 courses and will be given until the end of the 3rd quarter to catch up to my other 3 classes. Although I am aware the next few months won’t be easy, I am sure I have gotten through the worst of it.

This spring I plan to be 100 percent caught up with my classes. In addition, I will be playing club volleyball, going back to work, taking the SAT and ACT tests, and hopefully coaching and refereeing volleyball for 8th graders.

I have learned that the process of transitioning back into school won’t be easy, but it will be worth it. The week before 1st semester finals will mark the 1st full week of school I have attended since October, which seems outrageous to the average student, but is a huge milestone for me.

I believe in the saying “everything happens for a reason,” and I think it applies to my situation. I had not intended nor ever believed this would have happened to me, but I think there is a reason it did.

I have learned to trust myself and accept that I will be able to overcome adversity that comes my way.