Jessica Peters is a reporter at the Chilliwack Progress.

COLUMN: Bouncing back from a brain injury isn’t easy

‘We didn’t know how bad it was until I tried to return to work’

On Nov. 6, 2015, I suffered a traumatic brain injury during a car crash on the Lickman overpass.

I was pretty banged up.

But we didn’t know how bad it was until I tried to return to work, where I weave words into sentences, sentences into paragraphs, and paragraphs into stories to be read (and criticized) by the public.

After a few short weeks it was obvious I couldn’t do that yet, and I was sent home with a whole new diagnosis that explained why sometimes I couldn’t speak or think, why my head still hurt so much, and why I felt so … dumb.

I had an acquired brain injury from the intense force of air bags – post concussion syndrome.

And I still do.

A few months later, upon release from the intensive, daily WorkSafe therapy program, I was scoring in the highest percentile for brain function. And not just the highest percentile for people with brain injuries, but for the general population.

But I still didn’t feel myself. I still forgot words. I still was angry. I still had times I couldn’t speak.

I still felt … dumb.

Their psychiatrist admitted that yes, I was probably used to being smarter, wittier, faster. As a successful and highly-motivated newspaper reporter, I am what she considers an information synthesizer. That means I can easily write an email while listening to the scanner and the chatter in the newsroom, while keeping an eye on the street and screening incoming messages on all social media channels, and picking up the phone.

And most days, I still can. I’ve healed well.

Most days I am the old Jessica, and I can have these days for weeks on end and really get a handle on things at work, at home, with friends, with family.

But there are days where I can’t remember words like “coffee table,” and others where I’ll totally forget how to pronounce a word.

Some days I’m in pain, and other days I feel really slow. Some days it angers me. Other days I laugh.

This is life with a head injury. It’s nothing at all compared to what others deal with and I know this. So I’m thankful that I am fully functioning, enough to get my own groceries, do my own chores, drive, work, study, read, and learn new things.

But there are days when I’m that woman back in therapy, working quietly at home on brain exercises because I can feel myself falling back in progress. There are days when I have to wear sunglasses around town, to lessen the brain stimulation.

I use a dictionary more. I lean on my colleagues more. I cannot for the life of me remember how to spell “receive,” but my spell checker rarely lets me down.

But none of this has made me less of a reporter.

Being a reporter is about knowing what’s right and what’s wrong. It’s about holding people in power accountable for their actions and words. It’s about reflecting what’s going on in the community, and creating a public record. It’s about shining a light on what’s going on in a community, both good and bad.

It’s about ethics.

It’s about truth, and seeking it out, and reporting it.

It’s about using the right words to relay information.

It’s considering the source, and even facing personal biases.

But more than anything, I think, it’s about sharing the human experience. There are countless people who are hurt this week by the use of a derogatory slang, the repugnant R-word. I could be one of them but I’m used to criticism; it comes with the job and I have decades of armour.

And my job is to wield that mightier sword and continue writing.

Jessica Peters is a reporter at the Chilliwack Progress


@CHWKcommunity
jpeters@theprogress.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Column

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Surrey Police Service’s crest was unveiled Tuesday. (SPS image)
Surrey Police Service hires new communications manager from Surrey RCMP

Lisa Eason was municipal manager of Surrey RCMP’s communications and media unit for almost eight years

Statue of Lady Justice at B.C. Supreme Court in New Westminster. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
Delta Patriots Cricket Club takes Surrey, other clubs to court over Cricket BC voting

‘At issue is the propriety or legality of the voting procedures within Cricket BC,’ Justice John Harvey noted

Surrey Eagles forward Rocco La Cara battles with Coquitlam Express forward Dante Berrettoni during a game earlier this season. (Damon James photo)
Surrey Eagles wrap up BCHL ‘pod’ season with win over Coquitlam

South Surrey-based junior ‘A’ hockey team finishes with 17-2-1 record

A grave marker at the old pet cemetery in Newton, from video posted to the Youtube channel Exit Thru the Gift Shop.
SURREY NOW & THEN: Newton’s abandoned pet cemetery now surrounded by houses

VIDEO: Former B.C. Pet Cemetery might also be a burial site for human remains

Surrey RCMP detachment in Newton. (File photo)
Surrey RCMP say cryptocurrency fraud on the rise

They’ve received 59 reports of cryptocurrency fraud totaling $612,748 since January

A bullet hole is seen in the windshield of an RCMP vehicle approximately 4 km from Vancouver International Airport after a one person was killed during a shooting outside the international departures terminal at the airport, in Richmond, B.C., Sunday, May 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Homicide team IDs man in fatal YVR shooting as police grapple with spate of gang violence

Man, 20, charged in separate fatal shooting Burnaby over the weekend

The Canadian Forces Snowbirds are in the Comox Valley for their annual spring training. Photo by Erin Haluschak
Suspected bird strike on Snowbirds plane during training in B.C.

Pilot followed protocols and landed the aircraft on the ground without any problems

BCIT. (Wikimedia Commons)
BCIT apologizes after employee’s ‘offensive and hurtful’ email leaked to Métis Nation

BCIT says employee’s conduct has been investigated and addressed

An adult male yellow-breasted chat is shown in this undatd photograph on lands protected in collaboration between the En’owkin Centre and Penticton Indian Band with support through ECCC. The rescue from near extinction for a little yellow bird hinges on the wild rose in British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley, a researcher says. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, A. Michael Bezener/ En’owkin Centre 2020 *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Rare yellow birds need wild roses to survive in British Columbia: researcher

The importance of local wild roses emerged over a nearly 20-year experiment

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

RCMP officers search around rows of luggage carts as screens block off an area of the sidewalk after a shooting outside the international departures terminal at Vancouver International Airport, in Richmond, B.C., Sunday, May 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Police say gang conflict in Metro Vancouver may be behind shooting death at airport

Police said this generation of gangsters is taking things to new level and have no regard for community safety

RCMP are looking for information on an alleged shooting attempt near an elementary school in Smithers March 10. (Phil McLachlan/Capital News/Stock)
UPDATE: Man killed in brazen daylight shooting at Vancouver airport

Details about the police incident are still unknown

Pieces of nephrite jade are shown at a mine site in northwestern B.C. in July 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Tahltan Central Government MANDATORY CREDIT
Indigenous nation opposes jade mining in northwestern B.C.

B.C.’s Mines Act requires operators to prepare a plan to protect cultural heritage resources

Vancouver Giants celebrated a Justin Sourdif goal Saturday night in Kamloops. Giants dropped a 3-1 decision to Kamloops, a game that clinched the 2020-21 B.C. Division banner for the Blazers. (Allen Douglas/special to Langley Advance Times)
VIDEO: Vancouver Giants drop 3-1 decision to Kamloops

Third-period rally should have come sooner, said coach of Langley-based team

Most Read