Being a Teenager Post Traumatic Growth, Anyone? Megan Phelps

In early August, just before my first year of high school, I crashed my bike at the bottom of our neighborhood hill. And it wasn’t just an “Ouch, I’m bruised and undeniably in need of a bowl of ice cream” crash. It was a full-on, knocked out for ten minutes, in the ICU-for-three-days type of event. Wear your helmet, people. I probably wouldn’t be around to write this story if I hadn’t been wearing mine. Basically, I had a healthy brain when I left the house, and a “Traumatic Brain Injury” (TBI) three minutes later.

I wasn’t unhappy, but living with a TBI was hard. I’ve always been a social person (nowhere near being an introvert), so I welcomed any friends who wanted to come to visit. But my brain injury made me exhausted, even after very short visits. I slept almost eighteen hours a day in the first few weeks. I was also having headaches and trouble focusing. I couldn’t run and do many of my regular activities. (But I did receive a plethora of “get well soon” cards and cookies – that part wasn’t so bad…)

What I discovered was that despite these negative effects, I was experiencing other positive changes stemming directly from “The Accident.” Because I was still very fatigued during the day and had very little focus, my parents decided that I was not ready to start at the regular high school and sent me to an “independent study” school, where I would be able to take all the classes I had planned while only going to each class for an hour and a half each week.

I resisted this change vehemently and planned to go back to “normal” high school for the second semester. But as it turned out, by the time January rolled around, I didn’t want to go back to the regular high school. I found that there are some benefits to going to school only three days a week. Like four day weekends. Every weekend.

I also discovered other positives in my life stemming from this bike crash, like closer bonds to my close friends and family. Also, I feel as though I have a clearer understanding of what makes me happy. And now I have more time to pursue these activities. So mostly, I’ve been experiencing a lot of happiness. (It doesn’t make complete sense to me, either.)

Three months post accident, I came across a video by Jane McGonigal about “Post Traumatic Growth” (PTG), which changed how I viewed my accident and helped me to accept the fact that I was injured, even if I didn’t feel as hurt as I “should” have.

In everyday life, we sometimes hear about PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). I don’t know about you, but I had never heard about, much less grasped the concept of Post Traumatic Growth. That is, before my brain injury. But as it turns out, not only is PTG attainable, but it also creates feelings of resilience for future trauma and is a beneficial strengthening of character, bonds between loved ones and a love of activities that bring happiness. Doctors encourage families of Traumatic Brain Injured patients to help these patients reach PTG.

Just to be clear (and to state the obvious), I am in no way recommending that you seek out a traumatic experience just to get to PTG. However, what I am recommending is to keep in mind that there can be positives to nearly every situation if you look for them. And mostly, just always wear a helmet.

Featured image from ShutterStock.

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