I played football in high school: truth be told, it was, and still is, one of my favorite sports. Football gave me a lot, but recently I’ve realized it has taken a lot away from me. Most recently, it has started taking my memory.
Officially I’ve had only one concussion in my life. Ironically, I remember it quite clearly: routine tackle, a knee hits my head, next thing I know my entire body is numb. And as if to make my earlier point, the captain of the team (great guy by the way), lifts me up, slaps my helmet and says something that stuck with me to this day:
“You can’t come out. Suck it up, move on. You can hurt later. Earn our respect.”
Frankly, I don’t think I had anyone’s respect before, during, or after that play (long story for another time), but I believed him. I stayed in. And I took several more shots to the head (those I don’t remember so well). At the end of the game, I couldn’t see out of one of my eyes. The trainer took me in, looked at me for maybe 30 seconds, and diagnosed me with a concussion. I lost two games because of that.
Officially that should’ve been the end of it. One concussion is hardly the end of the world: like most injuries, it heals given enough time. In reality, the concussion problem extended further than I think anyone, including me, realized until much much later. By my estimation, I’ve had somewhere between 7 and 10. And that scares the shit out of me.
And when it comes to depression, the battle that I’ve made my first and foremost priority to win, everything seems to tie back to concussions. The NFL has to deal with its own concussion scandal, because of the same kinds of issues. I read recently that CTE (chronic traumatic encepalopathy: if you haven’t heard of it, think of it like degenerative brain disease. It’s the NFL’s greatest nightmare) can cause depression, among other things, in sufferers of concussions. Truth be told, depression only became a significant hindrance in my life starting in high school. Right in the midst of my concussion drama. Too perfect right?
I love the game of football: I gave 7 years of my life playing organized, tackle football. But I look at a picture of my ex-girlfriend (someone I’ve known for years) and there are days when I have no idea who she is. I forget which key unlocks my apartment. I forget someone’s name despite meeting them five times before. But the scariest moment for me is, sometimes if I’m particularly stressed, I’ll be hot and I won’t understand that I can fix it by taking my jacket off.
I never had a chance of playing college or professional football. But I was dumb (read dedicated) enough to believe that one show of toughness in a high school football game was worth sacrificing my body and mind for. There’s a tragic beauty in that I suppose…
So what does one do when their life ever so slowly becomes a foreign wasteland? For me, I write this to my friends and family and anyone who has ever cared about me: I never want to forget any of you. But if and when I do, know that I love and care for ALL of you.
I am twenty-three years old. I am supposed to be in the prime of my life. Funnily enough all I think about these days is whether I’ll have anyone there to help me when I become entirely disabled. And the truth is…I’m afraid that I will end up alone: because football was my first love…and it seems determined to be my last.