By Jay Fraga
Wes, I turned 42 this summer. The last four years have been hard.
Before I became this guy, I was a meat-eating, hard-charging, will-powered machine of a person. I believed that I could do anything. I still kind of believe that I can do anything. I raced bikes and loved it. The end came with what was my 8th concussion on paper. I know I’ve had many more than that. I’m sure you know what I mean.
Lots of pundits are out there discussing your well-being and what you should do. A lot of them are well-intentioned, but don’t speak from experience.
I want to tell you what it’s like to sleep through entire weekends while your family does things without you. It’s got to be that way because you can’t get out of bed. I want to tell you what it’s like to sit in countless appointments and hear doctors talk about your brain using language that makes you feel like they have to be talking about someone else. I want to tell you what it’s like to have to wear weird glasses to help cut down on the amount of spots you see in your vision and the searing effects of the sun’s brightness.
I want to tell you what it’s like to pull into a gas station and look one of your friends in the eyes without recognizing them. Then they say your name and it surprises you. That happens a lot. So, too, does getting lost in your own town that you know like the back of your own hand.
I need to tell you about talking to your wife late at night and apologizing to her for the man that you’ve become and telling her that you never meant to end up this way. You’re here by accident. You loved what you did so much and you had such supreme faith in your abilities and strength that you had no clue this could happen to you- even though everyone and their brother talks about how bad concussions are. I need to tell you about looking at your kids, cursing what you’ve done to yourself, and hoping that there won’t come a time when you can’t remember who they are. You’re deathly afraid that moment will come.
I need to tell you about moods so dark that they take over your life and make you wonder what you’ve turned into. And I need to tell you about how many athletes I’ve talked to from all walks of sports- from NFL slot receivers like yourself to MMA fighters and downhill skiers- who all share these realities with me after hitting their heads too many times. We all shared a common trait: supreme confidence in ourselves.
That supreme confidence has landed us in this boat. It has taken every ounce of that supreme confidence to try to get us through each minute of the day now where we try to be what we once knew as “normal”.
Wes, if you read this, I’d like the Wes of today to consider that there is going to be a version of you ten years from now. That version’s quality of life is up to you.
It’s not all terrible, but it is hard.