Personal Narrative by Lydia Schweickart

Having a sense of identity is an essential part of the human experience. In a few short, violent seconds, a car wreck stripped me of that identity.

In March 2019, as a junior at Western Kentucky University, I was in a car wreck and suffered a severe Traumatic Brain Injury. I received medical attention for 10 weeks: one week in the ICU of Skyline Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee, two weeks at Frazier Rehabilitation Institute in Louisville, Kentucky, and seven weeks attending Frazier outpatient therapy. Individuals who experience a severe TBI are more likely to have long-term and lasting effects from the injury. After the wreck I found myself in the hospital, not knowing why, lost and confused. The recovery process involved having to relearn everything that I knew before the wreck; walking, eating, writing, fine motor skills, communication, memory, etc.

According to the CDC, those who survive a TBI can have effects that last a few days, or for the rest of their lives. These effects are often identified in four categories: cognitive function (attention and memory), motor function (impaired coordination and balance), sensation (vision, hearing, perception and touch) and behavior (depression, anxiety, aggression, personality changes, emotional regulation and impairments in behavioral control).
There are roughly 1.7 million traumatic brain injuries sustained in the U.S. every year. There are approximately 5.3 million people who live with a disability caused by a TBI in the U.S. alone. Of those injuries...
The consequences of a severe traumatic brain injury can affect all aspects of an individual's life, including their relationships with family and friends, their ability to progress at school or work, doing household tasks, driving or participating in other daily activities

Although my brain tissue has recovered, I will still always question whether a trait, a lapse in memory, slow reaction time, etc., are the result of something related to the car wreck. Because my brain has suffered this damage, I'll never be the same person I was before the TBI. I have to live with the uncertainty of whether or not I will ever fully recover.

When I started my recovery process I was a blank slate, learning and gathering information about who I was before and trying desperately to be that person again. One of the biggest obstacles was coming to terms with the fact that being that person again isn't an option for me.
Accepting that I will be forever changed helped me to stop mourning the Lydia lost in that intersection. Recovery became a way to learn more about the Lydia I am now. Even though I have changed, the support of my family and loved ones never did. I didn't have to go through this exploration alone. Having a traumatic brain injury is like rewriting who you are. My car wreck provoked an identity crisis that forced me to ask myself, "Who Am I?"

One year after the accident, I'm still figuring out who I am. I am in no rush to find the answer.
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