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

Kent Harrison Search and Rescue brought a man to safety, and awaiting paramedics, after a 20-foot fall down an embankment on Jan. 23, 2020, on Harrison West Forest Service Road. (Kent Harrison Search and Rescue photo)
Rescue crew lifts man up 20-foot embankment near Harrison Lake

Kent Harrison Search and Rescue says this is the fifth call already this year

Police tape is shown in Toronto Tuesday, May 2, 2017. (Graeme Roy/The Canadian Press)
CRIME STOPPERS: ‘Most wanted’ for the week of Jan. 24

Crime Stoppers’ weekly list based on information provided by police investigators

A mallard duck swims through Salish Pond in Chilliwack on Saturday, Jan. 23, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
WEATHER: Snow, rain in forecast for Fraser Valley

Fraser Valley has been treated to more than a week of mostly sunny weather, but it’s about to end

sd
VIDEO: Mission drag racer scores 1st career win, sets world record, makes history in 2020

Justin Bond, founder and owner of JBS Equipment, hits milestones in break-out year

A video posted to social media by Chilliwack resident Rob Iezzi shows a teenager getting kicked in the face after being approached by three suspects on Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. (YouTube/Rob i)
VIDEO: Security cameras capture ‘just one more assault’ near Chilliwack secondary

Third high-school related assault Rob Iezzi’s cameras have captured since beginning of 2021

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders sits in on a COVID-19 briefing with Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer, and Adrian Dix, B.C. minister of health. (Birinder Narang/Twitter)
PHOTOS: Bernie Sanders visits B.C. landmarks through the magic of photo editing

Residents jump on viral trend of photoshopping U.S. senator into images

A woman injects herself with crack cocaine at a supervised consumption site Friday, Jan. 22, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Drug users at greater risk of dying as services scale back in second wave of COVID-19

It pins the blame largely on a lack of supports, a corrupted drug supply

Wet’suwet’en supporters and Coastal GasLink opponents continue to protest outside the B.C. Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Thursday, February 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
‘We’re still in it’: Wet’suwet’en push forward on rights recognition

The 670-km Coastal GasLink pipeline was approved by B.C. and 20 elected First Nations councils on its path

Jennifer Cochrane, a Public Health Nurse with Prairie Mountain Health in Virden, administers the COVID-19 vaccine to Robert Farquhar with Westman Regional Laboratory, during the first day of immunizations at the Brandon COVID-19 vaccination supersite in Brandon, Man., on Monday, January 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tim Smith - POOL
Top doctor urges Canadians to keep up with COVID measures, even as vaccines roll out

More than 776,606 vaccines have been administered so far

From the left: Midway RCMP Csts. Jonathan Stermscheg and Chris Hansen, Public Servant Leanne Mclaren and Cpl. Phil Peters. Pictured in the front are Mclaren’s dog, Lincoln and Peters’ dog, Angel. Photo courtesy of BC RCMP
B.C. Mounties commended for bringing firewood to elderly woman

Cpl. Phil Peters said he and detachment members acted after the woman’s husband went to hospital

Dr. Jerome Leis and Dr. Lynfa Stroud are pictured at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto on Thursday, January 21, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
‘It wasn’t called COVID at the time:’ One year since Canada’s first COVID-19 case

The 56-year-old man was admitted to Toronto’s Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre

An Uber driver’s vehicle is seen after the company launched service, in Vancouver, Friday, Jan. 24, 2020. Several taxi companies have lost a court bid to run Uber and Lyft off the road in British Columbia. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Taxi companies lose court bid to quash Uber, Lyft approvals in British Columbia

Uber said in a statement that the ruling of the justice is clear and speaks for itself

A 75-year-old aircraft has been languishing in a parking lot on the campus of the University of the Fraser Valley, but will soon be moved to the B.C. Aviation Museum. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
Vintage military aircraft moving from Chilliwack to new home at B.C. Aviation Museum

The challenging move to Vancouver Island will be documented by Discovery Channel film crews

Most Read