Olivia: I am So Much More than My TBI Diagnosis

I was only 3 years old in 2001 when a car hit our minivan from behind and drove us into a guardrail on Route 7.  I was taken to Lansdowne Hospital, but my injuries were so severe, they transferred me to the pediatric trauma center at Fairfax Hospital. After 2 weeks, I had to undergo intensive rehab so I could learn how to walk, talk, and eat again.

I don’t remember anything about that time. But, I do remember when I asked my parents why I was so different than my classmates. I was 10, and they told me that I had suffered a traumatic brain injury. That is why I have trouble processing information, learning new subjects, and taking tests. Which is why I have to have a lot of accommodations in school.

To make matters worse, some of the kids at my middle school started to bully me just because I was different. I didn’t know how to stand up for myself. I had no self-confidence. I developed terrible anxiety.

The Next Chapter

That’s just about the time I started going to music therapy. At first, I went for only 30 minutes a week. But, once I went to summer camp, I was totally hooked. It was a very welcoming place. They care about you not your label. So I started performing—first singing and then playing the guitar.

I joined a girls support group for teenagers. I found that talking to someone can be very healing. And now, I travel with a troupe that performs at schools throughout Loudoun County. We teach empathy, non-judgment, and kindness. They helped me to accept myself and become more comfortable in my own skin. It took away all the shame and the stigma.

I know that my disability does not define me.

Next year, I plan on going to college. I have applied to Mary Washington and NOVA. But I will stay in touch with the new family I have made. I see myself in the new kids coming in. I remember when I was just like that. But I know that no teen in Loudoun should face a childhood filled with pain, anxiety, and isolation. I just want them to know that they are never alone. The world may be negative, but there is just as much love and happiness.

Unfortunately, too many kids bottle everything up. We all need to make it easier for them to reach out and ask for help, and we need to teach others to accept and respect everyone, regardless of their differences. I hope that everyone will do their part and help us End the Need.