Losing My Identity After a Concussion

Ever since I can remember, I've thought of myself as an athlete. I was proud of that title. I liked being athletic.

I also molded myself into the categories of: motivated student, runner, loyal friend, music-lover, and a homebody.

When I suffered my concussion and had to move home, all of these things were stripped from me.

I lost my athleticism and my lacrosse game. My education stopped. I could not watch TV, use a cell phone, read, or engage in much conversation.

My friendships suffered, my relationships suffered, and my rosy outlook on life greatly diminished (to say the least).

Instead of being motivated and always on the go, my life path reached a cliff. My identity was gone, and my ego and I were in crisis.

The ego is tricky, however. Though I did lose my identity to a large degree, my ego quickly snuck in and picked up another one. I became “the concussed kid.”

Everything I talked about, everything I saw, everything I experienced fit into this template. If I saw someone running, I thought about my lack of activity. I berated myself for feeling so paranoid all the time. I was irritable, unfriendly, sad, angry—all descriptions of my new identity.

I continued to eat like an athlete, and I saw my body change unfavorably. And I had way too much time to sit and think about all of the above.

Yeah, so I went through a challenging time. Who hasn’t?

We all have our story. This continued for almost a year.

Finally, I had an awakening. I happened across Eckhart Tolle, who talks about presence in The Power of Now. He also talks about the ego. The greatest lessons I learned from Tolle were that this moment is all we ever really have, and the ego is not who we are.

We are that presence behind the thoughts that does the objective observing. We are not our thoughts, nor our feelings. We are the eternal part that watches the goings-on of the chronic mind from beyond.

Whoa did that hit me hard! What do you mean I wasn’t an athlete? What do you mean I wasn’t defined by my quads, my grades, or my mile time?

I had to sit with this notion for some time. I meditated every day for a half hour in the morning and another in the evening. After months of despair, I saw a light. I was able to accept the present moment exactly as it is.

It wasn’t immediate change, and it was not easy, but I saw progress in my injury within weeks—progress I had been waiting months for. I began reading, driving, and smiling again. (Laughing! What a concept!)

My identity continues to shift, but I am aware of it. Awareness is the key to all healing, as I have been told over and over again. This time, however, I know who I am. I simply am. Nothing comes after that if I do not want it to.

But, there are many things that I also like to be: kind, witty, friendly, enchanting, charismatic, charming, inspiring, and so on. No longer paranoid and angry, now I choose happiness and health. So I reached that cliff on my life path, and instead of crumbling to the bottom, I chose to take off and fly.

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