Teenage Athlete With PCS Writes About The Death of Kosta Karageorge

{Editor’s note: I received the following piece from a teenage athlete who suffers from Post-Concussion Syndrome. I speak to this person often, and they have the benefit of a constant and all-encompassing support system with everyone from multiple professionals, family, and peers. That’s important.

Post-Concussion related suicide is the 800 pound elephant in the room. It’s obviously a touchy subject and hard for some to understand, but it must be talked about in the open rather than trying to reverse engineer after the fact why someone who can no longer speak for themselves might have done it.  I recently had a conversation with an AP reporter whose head was swimming with trying to sort out the rationale behind why someone with acute PCS might take their life. I told them quite simply that, “People don’t want to be dead- they just want the constant misery and pain to end”. Unless you have felt it, it’s very difficult to understand. It is an unbelievable level of suffering.

Part of our job here at The Knockout Project is to show others that the incredible pain that comes post-injury doesn’t stay at that level forever. There is light after all of that darkness and you simply must hang on and get good doctors involved. This is why we speak. It can and does get better.

If things ever get too intense, PLEASE call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline 24×7 at (800) 273-8255. Bad times do not last.   –Jay}

despair

By Anonymous

“Suicide.”

As soon as I saw the news report, I had to leave the room, retreat to the bathroom and bawl my eyes out. Kosta Karageorge, the former defensive lineman for the Ohio State Buckeyes had been missing a few days before he was found dead in a dumpster with a handgun nearby. My heart sank, broken into a million pieces, and my thoughts and fears were uncontrollable. My heart raced and I could barely breathe.  I could not fathom what was happening.

I did not have to bring myself to understand why or how; I already knew. Pain.

Karageorge had sustained a number of concussions and much like me, probably suffered with deep depression and chronic pain. He was not able to understand what was happening to his mind and body that was once so perfect and gave him so much.

I knew as soon as it was confirmed that he was found dead of an apparent suicide. I knew his exact thoughts that lead to him pulling the trigger. I knew the pain he felt and that he believed he saw his way out. But, the first words out of my mouth after I heard the news was, “why didn’t you hold on a little bit longer?” In my experience, when an episode like this happens, it never lasts forever. It is a moment; a breath; an hour; but it never lasts forever and it’s not reality.  It has definitely taken me years to realize that. I have felt and thought what Karageorge felt that day as can anyone in chronic pain. I can tell you firsthand what it feels like to want nothing but death; to wish and pray that you die so you don’t have to live in pain any longer; to show the doctors who told you “there isn’t anything else we can do for you” how much pain you are in; to show everyone around you how concussions cause long-term physical, mental and emotional pain.

Karageorge was in a dark place and the pain he felt was real. Perhaps his brain injuries caused his depression which made him unable to regulate his brain chemistry? Maybe he was too scared to ask for help? Maybe he was too scared to admit that he needed it? Or, maybe he was too scared to give up the game that was so central to his identity? Whatever the reason was, I have thought them all and I have asked myself the same questions. There is help. He just could not seem to find it or ask for it.

The past few weeks, there hasn’t been a single day I haven’t thought about Kosta Karageorge.

At one point, I could not get him out of my head and I was writing his name on my doodles in class. My roommate got scared because in the middle of the night they heard me talking and crying in the middle of my sleep saying “You didn’t have to die. Why did you do this?” and “I am so sad”. That was scary, because even while I was sleeping, my mind was there with him and I could not shake it or escape it although I so badly wanted to. It has gotten better over the last few weeks, but it will definitely take some time for me to work through.

So, what does this do for the rest of us?

What does this do for all of us still suffering each day and who are trying to find the light in depression and anxiety caused by brain injury? Karageorge’s suicide is frightening; it steals hope. It doesn’t give me much determination. But, it does give me a reality check that my symptoms and pain are real. I know how hard it is. I know what it is to feel that you simply cannot go on any longer; that you cannot move, breathe or do anything without pain. I know what it is to feel like your life is pain 24 hours a day, 7 days a week no matter how many doctors you have seen. I know what it is like to sit on the cold bathroom floor and pray for it all to stop: to sit there and say, “I give up. Take me please.” I cannot help but to wonder if this will happen to me. I say it will not, and I say that I am stronger than that. But, I also believe that Karageorge was as strong as I am. He fought his hardest as I do every day, and just because he could not fight anymore does not make him weak. It does not mean that he took the easy way out. It means that the pain was unbearable and he believed he had no help. How can I sit here and say that will never happen to me? We do not know our futures, and we do not know what tomorrow will bring. We can only work hard and live each day. I have been given helping hands and guiding lights to help me see my way through, and I have faith I will make it. I know that no matter how bad the pain I felt in response to Kosta Karageorge’s passing, it doesn’t compare to the pain my family and friends would feel if I made the same decision that he did.

I did not know Kosta personally, nor had I even heard of him before any of this happened. But, I wish that he would have held on for a little bit longer and searched for help. If there was one thing I would tell him if I were given the chance, it would be “I know how you feel, I understand. Let me help you.” Those words alone can save the life of a person in pain.

Rest easy Kosta, you are not in pain anymore.

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