A Letter to Myself, Two Years Ago

{Editor’s note: Alicia Jensen is a freshman at Towson University. She was diagnosed with post-concussion syndrome her sophomore year of high school. After writing this, she read it and sat on it. She realized that it reminded her of Luka Carfagna’s wonderful piece. I told Alicia to hand it over and that it was important to publish it anyway. –Jay}

By Alicia Jensen

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Alicia, second from right 

Dear Alicia,

You’re in pain. I can feel it now, and I know exactly where you are: Probably laying in bed, in the dark, alone, praying and wishing for the pain of PCS to go away. You had a tough day at school today, huh? head on the desk, waiting for the bell to ring just so that you can go to another one for 52 minutes. I wish I could tell you that tomorrow will be easier and that you’ll be in less pain, but I can’t.

I can tell you that every day from this day forward, you will learn how strong you are and I can promise you that you will surprise yourself with your strength. It hurts, I know. Two years from now, you’re still going to feel it. But that’s okay because it means you’re getting stronger every day. School tomorrow is going to be just as tough, but use your 504 Plan and ask for help.  You won’t realize until you graduate (you WILL graduate) how lucky you are to have that 504 plan. Be grateful because there are many people who do need it and are going without it.

Stop complaining to Jay about how much it hurts and not doing anything about it. Listen to your damn doctors, listen to Jay, and listen to your body. Stop fighting treatments because you simply can’t do this alone by yourself.

Even the strongest person on earth can’t do this alone. And, that’s okay.

I can hear the doubts running through your head right now. Stop it. Listen to the girl who used to fight through pain on the soccer field like a warrior; the girl who never stopped no matter how much it hurt. That girl is still in there- even if you’re not wearing cleats or have a soccer ball between your feet. The determined and resilient girl is still in there. You won’t realize it for a while, but you’re a hell of a lot stronger than you think.

The next two years are going to be some of the hardest you’ll probably ever experience, but some days really are better than others, I promise. Graduating high school is going to be a tough goal and I can think of a few times when you will lay in bed crying in pain about how you don’t think that you can do it and you think you won’t get through the next two years to walk across that stage and get your diploma, but you WILL. Keep thinking that. Remember that through the next few ER trips you’re bound to take in the next years- especially when they send you home with nothing but Aleve and a hospital bracelet.

Stop avoiding attending football and basketball games with friends just because it hurt the first few times. Keep going and keep trying. Even if you don’t make it through the whole game, still make it a goal to go. Believe me, you’ll regret it if you stay home. I know it hurts, more than you ever thought. I know. But, you can’t let this run your life anymore. Fight through the pain, pick your head up in class, and do your homework. Stop checking your grades online because you want to make yourself feel worse. Those grades matter, but you have to work a little harder no matter how much it hurts. It’s going to be harder for you than the person next to you in class. That’s okay.

Ask for help from anyone who is in a position to lend it. It’s okay to ask for help. It really is. I know you think it makes you look weak, but, in reality, it means that you are stronger. Talk to your Mom and Dad- they care more than you think. Just because they don’t understand doesn’t mean that they don’t care. They do everything for you and it’s not their fault that they can’t feel your pain. You’ll never understand the pain a parent feels while having to watch their child hurt.  You still won’t understand it even after two years of going through this. Just know that they are hurting too.

It is okay to feel pain, Alicia, but it is not okay to shut down emotionally.

You are strong, you are resilient, and you will beat this. So, get up and do this. Do it for your family, your friends, everyone that has helped you, and everyone that you connect with through PCS. But, most importantly, do this for yourself. Do this for your future. You’ve got this. Keep fighting.

Love,

Alicia

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