Your last memory is eating quesadillas with your wife and her younger sister. You wake up in the ICU and apparently, you’ve already been there for four days. Your wife tells you that you suffered a traumatic brain injury and skull fracture while skateboarding. You don’t remember the accident at all, so you’re not entirely sure you believe her. Your wife tells you the accident happened because a driver ran a stop sign, a situation you apparently tried to avoid. You don’t remember that either, but you believe her because—not because she’s your wife, of course, but—because most people try to avoid getting hit by cars.
You’re home from the ICU and you’re in constant pain. You’re not the self you knew before because, much to your surprise, a brain injury can do that. You don’t like the same beverages. You don’t like the same foods. Your interests have changed, and you haven’t even figured out what your new interests are yet. You experience overwhelming relief when you find out that you still like to write, and you still write well (at least you are telling yourself that). You look into the mirror and recognize yourself, but you don’t recognize yourself.
You don’t necessarily expect compassion, but you don’t expect hatred—and even though you receive an abundance of love and support, you do also receive much hatred. You’re told by the doctors you cannot work, which hey, sounds like a good thing. You have a wife and daughter to support, though (you’re not so worried about feeding yourself, just them, as you don’t even know what you like to eat). You can’t even support your wife and daughter in the same ways physically or emotionally—a temporary but nonetheless upsetting situation. Your finances crumble within a week after you’re discharged from the hospital. You have eleven doctors you’re coordinating with daily, it seems. Your cars (yes, both) are broken down. You’re cyber-bullied regularly (it’s not just an adolescent problem) on top of the nasty phone calls and text messages you’re receiving.
You find yourself hopeless. You find yourself faced with the genuine hardships often accompanied by survival. You don’t want to live. You’re angry. You’re unkind. You’re distraught. You’re sad. You’re giving up.
…You remember, though. You remember that you’ve lived. You remember that you’ve spent years telling others to keep on living, to always keep fighting.
You remember that you’ve been hopeless before, and…you lived.
You remember that you’ve faced hardships before, and…you lived.
You remember that you’ve been angry before, and…you realized anger accomplishes nothing.
You remember that you’ve lived a lifestyle of unkindness before, and…you realized people are human, people are real, and people deserve kindness whether they are kind to you or not.
You remember that you’ve been distraught before, and…you lived.
You remember that you’ve experienced sadness, desperate sadness, before, and…you lived.
You remember that you’ve thought about giving up before, and…you lived. You realize (likely with a touch of annoyance) that…you need to live.
These circumstances may be yours, and they may not be yours. And only parts of these circumstances may be yours. This may not be your story at all, in fact—but you have your own story, which matters too.
But this is me. This is me, and these are my circumstances. This is part of my story. And I cannot understand your exact situation, but I can promise you this: I understand hopelessness, hardship, thoughts of suicide, anger, unkindness, distress, sadness, and the desire to give up. I know I am a champion for continuing to live, for continuing to fight. And you know what? So are you. Every breath you take is a victory. Every mile you travel in this life is a victory. You are a victory.
My story is only one story, but it’s a story that matters—as does yours. You are me and I am you, if in no other way than that one. And I can tell you with the most genuine of hearts that I want you to live.
And…I really love quesadillas. I mean…you. I meant to end this by saying I really love you. I do love you. I just had quesadillas on the brain still because it was a prominent word in the first line of this piece and—you know what? Nevermind. This is getting awkward. I’m totally making it more awkward. Just know that you are loved.