Braver than I thought

BY: HILARY PEARSON

I didn’t think attending a wedding with a brain injury was possible for me. Last year I remember a very specific anxiety attack sparked from the idea of being in a room with loud music and 50 plus guests with flashing lights from picture taking and claps and cheers and meetings and greetings that require a working memory and coherent communication. 

I thought;
Where will I sit?
Who’s name will I forget?
How many times will I slur my words and stare blankly at people I’ve never met?
How many flashes of light will pierce my eyes like a knife and cause me to wince?
How many times will I gasp and clutch my ears at loud noises?
How many times will tears instantly fill my eyes due to uncontrolled sensory stimuli?
How will I explain to strangers why I am making a scene at an event that should be all about the bride and groom? 
Where can I hide when the sound and light make me dizzy. Where will I lay down. Under a table. On the stairs. Crouched in a bathroom stall. 
What if I disappoint my friends. What if they regret inviting me. How did I delude myself into thinking I could be normal enough to be in public. 

My answers;
My loving mother held my hand while I lay on a couch every hour or so. 
I wore soft pink noise cancelling headphones that matched the colour of my sandals. 
I lay on the stairs and propped my head up with my hand and listened to my friend from high school talk to my mom about his job as a physicist. 
I drank a bottle of water every hour. 
I wore transition contact lenses and sat in the shade. 
I laughed shamelessly at jokes —that probably weren’t even jokes— when brain fog hit and I found everything funny and wishy-washy and bubbly. 
I closed my eyes often and counted my breaths. 
I ate three cupcakes and two cream tarts. 
I cried in the bride’s arms when we hugged for the first time since high school. It was surreal. Nothing compared to the virtual hugs we give each other during our five hour FaceTime calls every week for the past year and a half. That hug was a more powerful pain drug and brain fog sobering clutch that I didn’t even know existed. 
We held each other for minutes. 
Love and patience is how I made it.


Hilary is a Toronto-based non-fiction writer and UofT master’s student. Hilary is recovering from TBI, PCS— and spends much of her free time on FaceTime with Isla, her baby niece.”