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Why Celebrating My Concussion Means Being 'Brave'

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Happy half-birthday to me! You may be wondering if a “half-birthday” is actually a thing and why a grown adult would even give it any attention. I too rolled my eyes whenever I heard of children eager to celebrate their half-birthdays, dismissing it as an excuse to eat cake.

To me, my half-birthday isn’t just any other day, nor is it a misdirected cry for sugar. On February 26, 2013 I got a serious concussion which left me with a chronic neurological condition called post-concussive syndrome. February 26 also happens to be six months to the day of my actual birthday.

Over the past five years, I’ve greeted my half-birthday day with mixed emotions. A rotation between sadness and grief over all that was lost as a result of my injury, an objective timestamp that marked the passage of time while I waited in limbo for “normal” to come back, and more recently an opportunity to reflect back on how far I progressed since the injury. Today is an extra special half-birthday as I am delighted to launch my first graphic book entitled “BRAVE.”

“BRAVE” is a lighthearted 10-part comic mini-series on living with concussions. It is not meant to substitute medical advice nor be prescriptive. I simply wanted to create something I wish I could have read during my darkest days. Something that validated what I was living through, was honest and easy to understand. Something that not only put a smile on my face, but could tell me that everything will be OK. That I was OK.

In my quest for answers, I became obsessive in trying to understand the human brain. The more I explored, the more it became apparent that there are more questions than answers when it comes to concussion care and recovery. Yet even if there were more answers, there is only so much to be understood. Every single person experiences head trauma differently.

All that matters is how we navigate forward amidst all the fear and unpredictability, choosing to adapt and carry on in ways that uniquely suit us. This to me is what it means to be “brave.” To be OK doing things in my own way – as haphazard, awkward or unprecedented as they may be.

In putting my whole self into the “BRAVE” series I aspire to encourage readers experiencing similar challenges. Perhaps readers will see a bit of themselves in the protagonist, a cartoon character with an oversized head (an intentional creative decision as the focus of this entire series is on the head), a bell-shaped body and stick arms – but more importantly as a friend who is there with them, trying to figure it all out.

Through our ongoing recoveries it is normal to focus on what’s left to regain, what you can no longer do, all that is unknown, and all the pain. By celebrating and acknowledging all the small acts of courage taken everyday to carry on, my hope with “BRAVE” is to bring light into the lives of people affected by this unforgiving injury.

My goal with “BRAVE” is to open people’s eyes and to create greater awareness of what it actually means to have a concussion. For those of us whose brain injuries did not resolve within a couple of days and whose lives have been indefinitely altered, it is often an arduous and trying process to finding a new equilibrium: learning to function in a body that feels foreign, looking completely unaffected on the outside all while trying to stay positive about an uncertain future.

The invisible, non-intuitive nature of this complex injury can make it really difficult for people on the outside to understand what’s happening on the inside of our brains. Each book addresses common myths and misunderstandings in a straightforward, yet humorous approach.  There is a great deal that loved ones and colleagues can do to support someone living through a concussion. It all begins with understanding and compassion.

Now that you know why I’m so excited for today, I invite you to celebrate my half-birthday! Check out the first book: “You got a BUMP on the head…WHAT HAPPENED?” And don’t be shy to help yourself to a piece of cake, because we all have a good reason to celebrate!

A new book will be released every two weeks on the Web and Instagram. You can also download the eBooks for free on Kobo, Kindle and iBooks. Please follow the series, share it with your friends and continue the conversation. #BRAVEcomics

Image provided by contributor.
Originally published: February 26, 2018
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