I can remember the beautiful, blue, Texas sky like it was yesterday. Even though everything seemed to be falling together so perfectly, I remember having an uneasy feeling as my sister and I drove to the river.
Even as I stood on the banks, I remember looking over to her and saying, "Are you sure I'm going to be okay?" (as if a Division I swimmer should be scared swimming in a river). When she reassured me yes, I jumped into the crystal clear water of the San Marcos River. I had on a snorkel and goggles on so I could explore the floor of the clear blue. There were plants native only to San Marcos lining the floor, fish were caught in the current with me and for about a minute and a half — I was in serenity.
But once that minute and a half finished it all become fuzzy. I remember going under the bridge, getting pulled out of the water and I heard the voice of my sister, on fire with anger. She was yelling at the boy who I was going to resent for a year later, because unknown to him, he would change the course of my life without even knowing it.
This boy's day probably started out familiar to mine. With the beautiful, blue, Texas sky and a ride to the river. But when he got there, instead of fearing the water, he conquered it by being reckless. They got to the park, someone in his group of pals probably said to him, "Dude, let's go jump off that bridge," and this probably wasn't the first time they done that, because there was a sign placed stating "Don't Jump Off Bridge." What was different from this time to any other time of taking that risk was that they roped a complete stranger into the danger with them – because this boy landed directly on me head.
I tried to google the chances of this happening — and with no luck, I have decided to make it comparable to the likelihood of being killed by a shark, which are 1 in 8 million (there is no science behind this comparison).
I was in pain. My head was throbbing and I was having a hard time forming my words — especially when I woke up the next morning with a stutter. Through E.R. visits and specialist visits, we learned that my eye-tracking was slow and that my balance was off. For an extreme extrovert and college athlete, having my speech and athleticism inhibited seemed to be the end of the world.
I had my stutter for two months and my concussion symptoms stayed with me for six months after the incident. Not only was it affecting my day-to-day life, but mentally I was drained.
As my recovery dragged on, my resentment toward this boy continued to grow. If I couldn't concentrate in class, remember a small detail or if my head was pounding, my mind would immediately shoot to blaming this boy. This injury was out of my control so the easiest thing to do when the recovery got hard was to direct all my anger at this stranger — who probably didn't even think of me half as much as I thought about him.
The resentment got exhausting. Mentally, I was crushed. My anxiety shot through the roof and it was hard to live peacefully knowing that my brain felt like oatmeal.
Once I got back into swimming with my team, the smallest things would trigger panic attacks. If someone jumped into the water near me — I would have to leave practice early. If someone scared me when I was in the water — I couldn't control my breathing. Even now, two years later, I still get jumpy.
But when it comes down to it, it doesn't matter that this boy doesn't think about what happened to me. Holding onto this resentment and anger wasn't going to make my recovery easier. It wasn't until I was fully medically cleared that I accepted that and in this process I learned things about myself in ways that I never would have if I was healthy.
Once I fully forgave this boy who hurt me — I felt free. I learned that I am resilient and stronger than I ever thought I could be. I conquered an invisible pain that didn't stop with the physicality of my brain — but the anxieties and anger that came along with it.
Once I forgave and let go, I realized that I had no control over the situation but only over the way I reacted.
Holding onto anger isn't going to make you feel at peace, but taking control of the situation will.