I have been recovering from a work-related concussion for around two months now and am realizing that I am on a longer journey than I anticipated, not only in regards to my brain but also in loving myself.
For a while, my concussion seemed to erase core parts of my identity. Even though I was initially told it was only “mild,” as the weeks progressed, my symptoms increased. Before long, I could no longer go to work with the students who show me God in every moment or work out to release stress and feel the excitement of using my God-given strength. I could no longer hang out with the friends who bring me joy, listen to Christian music or even find peace in sleep. I felt like I was in my own personal COVID, where everyone around me could do as they wished, but I was trapped at home, unable to do most of the things that bring me joy.
A common comment made towards people who are suffering is “Tell me if you need anything.” As helpful as that comment may seem, when you are in a dark place, you often do not know what you need. Or if you do, finding the courage to be vulnerable can feel very daunting. I did not know what would be helpful because every time I tried something I thought would help, my symptoms worsened.
When I did ask for what I needed, even simply talking with a friend, many times those plans fell through. I think one reason this happened so frequently is because God knew I could stretch a little further. He knew I was pretty good at seeking what I needed, but not at taking vulnerability one step further and telling people why. Instead of just asking a friend to go for a walk, I started adding something like, “I am feeling really isolated and it’s important for me to see someone each day.” I realized I needed my friends more than they needed me and unless I expressed that, they would not know.
In addition to asking for help, I discovered recovery would not happen without some perspective shifts. I knew I was being really hard on myself, so my mental health therapist gave me some tools to shift my self-talk. Instead of telling myself things like “I am doing something wrong,” I changed it to, “My body is telling me to stop.” In regards to work, it took me weeks of working from home to realize I was the only one putting pressure on myself. I became wrapped up in how little I was able to get done and how long it took me to even read an email. As obvious as it should have seemed, it took God talking to me through multiple people to realize that I needed to focus not on others, but myself. I finally accepted that work will always be there, and I cannot help anyone until I first help myself. I accomplished the same amount of work, but with those shifts towards self-compassion, I finally experienced some peace.
My actual concussion treatment plan is essential, but it was only after I started to acknowledge and face those internal struggles that I was truly able to start recovering. This experience continues to be extremely challenging, yet I am so incredibly grateful for the revelations about my self-worth that God is giving me. He is teaching me so much about myself, not only how to love myself, but to dive into the foundation of my insecurities. I know he is using this concussion to shape me into the person he knows I can be.
During this season of gratitude, I challenge you to find God in a new way in an obstacle you are facing. “[B]ecause of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace” (Luke 1:78-79).