Sunday, May 24, 2015

The Riley Transformation (still in Progress)

        Let me answer some questions and clear up a few things. First, I will not be creating a new blog. This blog is about the recovery of someone with a traumatic brain injury. Yes, it is titled Shannon Blackham, but it does not change the nature of the blog. Riley is the persona of someone who has to live with a brain injury every day. And yes, Riley and Shannon are the same person if you see the very core of who I am, so no, I will not be creating a new blog. I also will not be legally changing my name. As far as email and social media, I do believe that I will be creating a new email, although I’m not 100% positive on that one. However, I am more certain that I will eventually create a new facebook. The only other version of social media that I’ve ever even gotten into has been Instagram. If you have an Instagram, you should add me (shannon.blackham) until I report that I have officially changed that to Riley as well. I am still working on letting go of Shannon.
        Let me tell you why it’s so important to me for you let go of Shannon. In my mind, 16 year old Shannon was an amazing person, who worked very hard to get there. In my mind, 16 year old Shannon was everything that I want to be now. In my mind, Shannon deserves to be preserved. Shannon deserves the dignity, respect, and common decency that pre-TBI Shannon earned. When the TBI struck me, it took away who I was down to the very core for a very long time. As time has progressed, I have been able to fight this TBI – but the TBI is still in control more than probably 80% of the time. Pre-injury Shannon did absolutely nothing to deserve her name to be torn apart because of a terrible brain injury. But right after the accident, the TBI took control nearly 100% of the time. So yes, the pre-Shannon did die, and it didn’t occur to me until recently that my friends were grieving the loss of a friend, while still trying to deal with someone else functioning inside of her body, while that other person thought they were the same friend as before. Okay, that sentence didn’t make a lot of sense, but let me share with you the biggest catalyst in this discovery.

        After my blogpost on my anniversary, I received a text from an old friend that said, “Hey, I saw your blog post... I can’t believe it has already been 5 years since your accident. I remember the day I found out, I was in my peer tutor class and Tonya was crying and kept saying ‘Shannon’s in the hospital.’ I thought maybe she had a bad dream. After class I ran into Emily who told me what happened. My stomach dropped and my heart ached. It was the first time a friend had been taken from me. When I found out you were okay, I was so excited to have my friend back but was suddenly shot down when I was told you were still ‘Shannon’ but won’t be the same Shannon I talked to weeks earlier. I thought, ‘There is no way the Shannon I knew was gone’ but the following months and years proved it to be so. The TBI had changed one of my favorite people in the world. And it hurt me inside. Instead of getting to know the new Shannon and being a good friend, I acted as if she really did die that day 5 years ago. It was too hard for me to see her struggling and what one stupid accident did to her life. I didn’t even think about how you felt and how me not being a friend affected you too. After reading your blogpost I got the same feeling I did 5 years ago and cried a little that Shannon had died. But was excited to see how you are moving on with it. I hope I can get to know Riley and be a better friend. If not, I will always remember Shannon – how she was before the accident. And I will never forget the friendship we shared. She was my go to girl, my example, and the friend that helped shape me and grow the most. She was always there for me, whether it was dumb boys or help on assignments. I miss her so much and was so mad that God took her away. I think it is definitely going to be hard to transition, Riley, but I am proud of you for doing that. So Goodbye Shannon, I love you. And take luck Riley. I wish you the best. And hope you find greater happiness because you definitely deserve it.”
                The best part about this text is the way that it made me feel afterwards. Honestly, when I read  ‘Goodbye Shannon’ my heart dropped to my toes. It hurt and it made me feel like I was asking everyone to abandon me all over again, except this time, I was going to abandon myself too. Until I read ‘I love you’ and welcomed Riley into this world, that’s where it all changed. That and reading over her preserving the memory that she has of Shannon. That’s exactly what I need in this identity switch. I need people to freeze their view of Shannon before the accident. Remember that person, love that person, tell me that you love that person and that as hard as it is, you will save that name in your heart forever and no longer associate the TBI-affected-Shannon (who I am now calling Riley) with the name Shannon. One other text I received made me feel similar, “Hello Riley, just thought I’d introduce myself. My name is Sarah and I like friends and ice cream. Sometimes at the same time. I’m a pretty busy person and when I’m not, I’m an introvert. Not that I hate people but I get anxiety being around them, even the ones I care about a lot. I’d love to get to know you better and when I move back to Alpine next month I’m sure I’ll be able to, anxious or not. P.S. Even when I’m not in contact, I still read a certain blog.”

       But what has made all of the pain and all of the struggles of making this switch worth it is this. After receiving those texts, I can actually look back on all of my memories with those people with a little bit of joy. It does not tear me to pieces every time I think about when I would hang out with friend #1 or when I would go to young women’s with friend #2. It doesn’t bother me when I think about all of the laughter, smiles, or joy that I had with them; whereas with everyone else, it does. It tears me apart inside because I can never have that again. It destroys me because we will never be friends again, and they have such an ugly opinion of Shannon L Blackham. I would love for people to be willing to get to know Riley, but even if that’s not something that they are willing to do, then please just tell me that you love and will always love the memory that you have and will forever keep of Shannon. 

P.S. The pictures of Riley here are not the complete transformation. 

1 comment:

  1. Wow, how did I miss this post in my checking in on the blog. This post is powerful. I love Shannon, I always will. I also know that even though I am far away from you so that I can really get to know the new you I know I love you now too. This post will be so powerful for so many people.