Trying to Find Light in the Dark Times:
Within 6 months after the concussion, I began to stay at home with my Mom in the countryside. The isolation needed to focus on daily treatment with rest & recovery time in between brought me to a quiet darkness that I had not yet known. That winter, when I lost my job because I was not able to return at full capacity, I felt like I was losing the internal battle to heal my brain. It was crushing. But my Mom was my rock and encouraged me to remain hopeful.
In the quiet, I learned to deal with the shame and grief. I grieved the loss of the life I had been living. Spending time at home spurred me to further grieve the loss of my dad, who had slowly declined and passed away from the rare neurodegenerative disease Multiple System Atrophy two years prior to my concussion. I acknowledged the increasing fear that these symptoms could remain present and limiting for the rest of my life and what that meant for my former dreams and aspirations. I considered the fact that singing and playing piano now caused me pain, and wondered if music was truly that important to me after all.
But also in the quiet, I dreamed. I gave myself permission to dream about what life would look like without these limits. I worked on learning how to meditate. I learned more about myself and my spirituality. I journaled about the things I knew I wanted to see myself do in my lifetime. Grieving the loss of my former life made it feel like my world was a blank canvas, which was both terribly scary and exciting. As time went on, I realized it wouldn’t be about getting “back to normal” because I would never be the same - it was more about moving forward and hoping I could make a life for myself where I could do the things I love and be happy. I learned SO much more about myself, how I relate to the people around me, and about the world in this time that I may not have slowed down to discover otherwise.
And I got to spend so much of this time with my Mom, which now I appreciate more than ever. I fought through the dark days to see this as an experience of growth that would shape me into a stronger person rather than loss. I thought deep down that I would come out the other side healthy and strong… of course the only thing that all of this dreaming was dependent on… was my recovery. It has been much slower than I ever could have anticipated, with strides forward paired with even bigger setbacks.
How Music Sparked the Light Again:
For many months of the first year post-injury, I felt useless and lost, wondering if I would ever be able to be a musician again... I wanted to write music to make something meaningful out of the cards I had been dealt, but all that would come out would be fragments of thoughts that my brain couldn’t piece together. I even discussed with my rehabilitation therapists how I felt like my creativity had been stripped from me.
Slowly, music began to return to me. As I was building tolerance to spending more time at the piano with coping techniques like using earplugs and a keyboard at a low volume instead of real piano, I started putting songs together.
The first song that came together through the fragments is called “Quiet My Mind.” It was simple, written in a low range to avoid the pain of singing higher pitches, and had a repetitive piano accompaniment meant to reflect how I felt stuck in my recovery. It expressed how it felt like time was flying by and asked the questions that kept repeating in my mind like “did I let the time escape me” and “how can I win back the time that I’ve lost?”
My therapists considered the completion of this song to be a sign that I was on the right path.