Purpose in trauma: My victory over my traumatic brain injury

It was eight months after my car accident; I was sitting on my bed, staring at the sky blue walls of my bedroom.

I knew nothing else but these three things: I was still suffering with a traumatic brain injury, I was without friends and I desperately and selfishly wanted to die.

On July 23, 2010 I was in a terrible car accident. I was found wrapped around a tree, completely unconscious and turning blue.

Firemen extracted my lifeless body from the car and resuscitated me as I was transported to the nearest hospital. From that point on, I was transferred to two other hospitals.

According to the many doctors my family encountered, the details of my possible future recovery were a mystery.

Traumatic brain injuries are very complex and no two injuries are the same, so there wasn’t any telling if and how I would recover.

The nine months following my car accident was complete chaos for me and for everyone around me.

With the frontal right brain injury that I suffered with, both the emotional and reactive processes were extremely compromised.

In my mind, I understood everything going on around me, yet did not have the capacity to react or express myself properly.

I was trapped within my own mind.

My inability to react properly caused me extreme anxiety and panic. It also fueled extreme animosity between my friends and I.

Everyone thought I was crazy and I even began to believe them.

There is nothing more frustrating than knowing how you want to react to an event or situation and not being able to.

Being stuck inside of my own mind for so long was destroying my faith in God. I started to believe that God did not exist, or that He wanted me to suffer.

As my faith deteriorated, my desire to die started to consume me. I was in physical and emotional distress and was seemingly without any friends.

It was on this day sitting on my bed and staring at the optimistic blue walls when I made a decision away from any self-harm.

This was the day I decided that I would rise above my circumstances. I almost died in that car accident, so I knew that my second chance was here and now.

With or without the support of my friends and family, I was determined to be the best version of myself.

I had to learn who I was at that moment and not who I was prior to the accident. The person who I became ended up being who I would be for the following six and a half years.

One thing I needed to reconcile with was that my personality was noticeably different than it was prior to the traumatic brain injury. This was a huge internal struggle.

My friends and family struggled with the extreme change of my personality; they couldn’t handle seeing the change in me.

Personality changes are a common side effect of brain injury. I used to be shy and I kept to myself. After the car accident, it was as though my shell was forever broken.

As soon as I began to embrace my new outgoing self, my friends and family became more comfortable around me.

Time went on and I started working diligently on little pieces of myself to define who I was and who I will be.

I played brain games that my doctors pointed me to and I started seeing huge progress within myself.

In being more conscious of what I was doing, what I was reacting at and how I would handle myself, I started to see even more improvement in my social life.

As I started to become more of my new self, I started to gain more confidence. With this confidence, my faith was restored.

It was becoming more apparent that my purpose on this Earth was to be the best version of myself that I could possibly be.

My complete recovery with zero lasting effects is what doctors may call a “medical miracle.” I consider my recovery to be a product of hope, faith and hard work.

The following years after my car accident have flown by me. I have been married, I have earned excellent grades in my college education and I have ultimately risen above my circumstances.

Going back to that dark moment in my bedroom several years ago, I look back to think of the importance of overcoming adversity without ceasing.

Elizabeth Silburn is a features staff writer and can be reached at easilbur@buffalo.edu