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

Just Posted

Vancouver Canucks’ Jake Virtanen (18) and Calgary Flames’ Josh Leivo, front right, vie for the puck as goalie Jacob Markstrom, back left, watches during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Vancouver, on Saturday, February 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Vancouver Canucks forward Jake Virtanen sued over alleged sexual assault

Statement of claim says the woman, identified only by her initials, suffered physical and emotional damages

Items seized by RCMP during a May 13 raid on Butchart Street. (RCMP photo)
Chilliwack RCMP seize guns and drugs during raid on Butchart Street property

Police executed a search warrant on a home May 13, arresting one man at the scene

...
Columbia Bible College hires new men’s basketball head coach

Drew Slaght will lead Abbotsford-based school in Pacwest action for 2021-22 season

The Fraser Valley Bandits have signed guard Gentrey Thomas for the 2021 CEBL season. (Fraser Valley Bandits photo)
Fraser Valley Bandits sign guard Gentrey Thomas

Abbotsford-based basketball club signs former UC Riverside talent

An avalanche near Highway 1 in Glacier National Park. Avalanche Canada will benefit from a $10 million grant from the B.C. government. (Photo by Parks Canada)
Avalanche Canada receives $10-million grant from B.C. government

Long sought-after funds to bolster organization’s important work

Sicamous RCMP Sgt. Murray McNeil and Cpl. Wade Fisher present seven-year-old Cody Krabbendam of Ranchero with an award for bravery on July 22, 2020. (Contributed)
7-year old Shuswap boy receives medal of bravery for rescuing child at beach

Last summer Cody Krabbendam jumped into the lake to save another boy from drowning

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry update the province’s COVID-19 vaccine program, May 10, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate stays below 500 a day over weekend

14 more deaths, down to 350 in hospital as of Monday

(Vancouver Police Department)
Vancouver police expect violence to escalate, ID 6 gangsters who pose ‘public safety risk’

VPD asking public to stay away from these six people, who they say may be targeted in shootings

Royal Bay Secondary School’s rainbow crosswalk was vandalized shortly after being painted but by Monday, coincidentally the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, the crosswalk had been cleaned up and students had surrounded it with chalk messages of support and celebration. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)
B.C. high’s school’s pride crosswalk restored following ‘hateful’ graffiti attack

Hate terms, racial slur, phallic images spray-painted at Greater Victoria high school

Terrance Mack would have celebrated his 34th birthday on May 13, 2021. Mack’s family has identified him as the victim of a homicide in an apartment on Third Avenue in Port Alberni sometime in April. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
Family identifies Ucluelet man as victim of Vancouver Island homicide

Terrance Mack being remembered as ‘kind, gentle’ man

Linda Annis, executive director of Metro Vancouver Crime Stoppers, at press conference Monday. (Submitted photo)
Crime Stoppers receiving $200K from province for ‘Guns and Gangs’ tip line campaign

Executive director Linda Annis broke the news Monday morning in Surrey

An avalanche near Highway 1 in Glacier National Park. Avalanche Canada will benefit from a $10 million grant from the B.C. government. (Photo by Parks Canada)
Avalanche Canada receives $10-million grant from B.C. government

Long sought-after funds to bolster organization’s important work

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

Most Read