A Short Film by Ali Rosenthal
I'm producing a short film this year and we just launched our Kickstarter page. We would appreciate any and all support. Click the link below to contribute and read more about the project. Thanks!
Where to even begin? There’s a moment at the end of C.S. Lewis’ Prince Caspian where Peter and Susan tell Edmund and Lucy that they won’t be returning to Narnia. Their time was up. And yet, the elder Pevensies knew they had had their fill and their fun and that it was time to move on. There were more trips to Narnia in store for the younger two, but all the same, Edmund and Lucy, too, were ready to go home—for a while. My time in Oxford began with an immediate immersion in a world I’d long dreamt of but hadn’t dared to imagine actually existed. As an English major and a lover of stories and fantasy, checking into the Stanford House in Oxford last September was a dream come true. I have spent the past five months living mere yards away from where C.S. Lewis returned to his Christian faith and was inspired to write The Narnia Chronicles, a stone’s throw from where Alice in Wonderland was written, and a few blocks away from where the Inklings met and J.R.R. Tolkien studied and taught. The veil between fact and fiction is thin in Oxford and the overlap of worlds both real and imaginary is palpable. There’s something in the air here, something to do with Oxford’s thousands of years of history, tradition of cutting-edge scholarship, scientific discovery, and literary masterpieces. One can’t help but feel that if its’ ancient walls could talk, the stories they’d tell would keep us intrigued for many lifetimes to come. It’s real, and yet, it’s mythical at the same time. One moment, Oxford is Hogwarts, and the next, it’s The Shire. Moments later you feel as if you’ve stumbled down a rabbit hole into Wonderland, or that the picture of Dorian Grey might be lurking behind one of the heavy, stone walls at the end of the corridor. You glance at the lamp post in the mist and feel like Mr. Tumnus might scurry down the street beside you, or as you peer at the vines creeping over the lofty wall, imagine a secret garden just on the other side. Oxford is a place that inspires the mind and stirs the soul, and it’s a place I’ll miss dearly. But like Lucy and Edmund preparing to leave Narnia for their second time, my time is up—for now—but, I have a hunch it won’t be the last time I’ll see this magical city.
A year ago, I was scared and confused as my volleyball career officially ended. It was a long decline, but I found myself one spring day hit with the reality that it was over, that my Olympic dreams would not come to be, and that there would be no professional volleyball contract waiting for me upon graduation. So, on a whim, I decided to apply to Stanford’s study abroad program in Oxford, even though the deadline had passed. I figured it was worth a shot. Studying abroad hadn’t been an option as a D1 athlete and so, when days later I found out I’d been accepted to the program and was going to Oxford in the fall, I was struck by God’s graciousness. He provided me with an opportunity I barely even knew existed. In September, I flew to England and embarked on a journey, one that from the beginning felt a bit like a second chance, a chance to make new memories, have different experiences, and explore other interests. In Michaelmas term (Oxford’s fall term) I studied C.S. Lewis with Dr. Michael Ward. If I didn’t already feel like I was in Narnia, reading almost every C.S. Lewis book was an educational experience that fed my soul as much as it did my mind. Just today, I visited his home, called The Kilns, with my parents and was amazed that I probably could have given the tour. Towards the end of November, I sort of accidentally found myself in the chorus of an Oxford production of Twelfth Night, my first time back on a stage since the end of my childhood theatre endeavors that culminated when I hit 6’0” and volleyball took off in 8th grade. Performing was my first love, and a passion I channeled on the volleyball court. To return to the stage was medicine in a way, reminding me of who I was all those years ago before volleyball got intense and before I had a clue what I even wanted to study. It’s amazing to look back at one’s life and see just how much has changed, but also recognize the things that have stayed exactly the same.
While in Oxford, I had the chance to explore my interest in film, too. I got to produce a short mini-series about sexual assault with a group of Oxford students. While the film is still in post-production, it was incredible to get to be a part of such an important project while abroad. This Hilary Term (Oxford’s winter term) I had two tutorials—one in Old English and one in Screenwriting. Both tutorials were extremely challenging and rewarding. In Old English, I spent the first four weeks of the eight week term taking a crash course in the Old English language while simultaneously translating hundreds of lines of Old English poetry. I wrote essays, too, beginning the second week and came away a bit brain-fried but intrigued by the language and further amazed by Anglo-Saxon literature. In my screenwriting tutorial, I spent the first few weeks writing short scripts. However, in the final three weeks of the term, I began and completed a feature-length screenplay. As my first feature-length screenplay, and as it was written in an insanely short period of time, I’ll be filing this one away as a reminder that it can be done despite the fact that the script is a long way from great. I lived this term a bit like a hermit, locked in my room writing furiously in what I lovingly (sometimes loathsomely) referred to as my writer’s lair. However, after basically learning Old English in a week and churning out 120 pages of a screenplay in the course of eight weeks, I’m headed back to the US a bit exhausted but also ready to take on whatever God has in store for me next. Post-brain injury, it is often scary to think about my future. There are days I can’t get out of bed and weeks where migraines seem omnipresent. There are still days where I can’t stop crying and moments where it seems impossible to carry on. But, God is walking me through this new chapter of my life, allowing me to suffer, and also helping me flourish and grow. As I prepare to leave Oxford in the morning, I am counting my blessings and feel totally overwhelmed by how lucky I am that what felt like an impossible obstacle and major loss was the very thing that allowed me to come to Oxford. Oxford has stretched me and challenged me in many ways, and soothed and healed me in others.
So, my time is up. I can’t help but feel a sense of loss that after tomorrow, I’ll no longer be waking up and walking out the door onto High Street. And yet, I can’t help but look forward to a giant kale salad and acai bowl when I get home. I’m going to miss the friends I’ve made here so much it hurts, but I’m looking forward to seeing my friends back in California. Oxford will forever be a part of my story, a part I’ll look back on fondly for years to come. Stanford, I’m coming for ya! Goodbye, Oxford. Don’t forget me.
“I have passed through fire and deep water, since we parted. I have forgotten much that I thought I knew, and learned again much that I had forgotten.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings
As most of you know, I love cinema. No one calls it that any more, especially with the ease of access we have to digital media on our private televisions, computers, smartphones, tablets. But every time I walk into a cinema—and I’m proud to say I go pretty much once a week—I come back out a little bit different. Movies change how we see and understand the world. Film is an art form made up of images and infused with emotion. It is story-telling in its ideal form, in my opinion, mimicking real life and yet, it is anything but real. Films are finely crafted dreamscapes, manifestations of what we hope and fear and feel. And, it is for this reason that I have been unable, despite my best efforts, to not constantly watch films, study them, and try my best to make them.
I was raised by parents who work in entertainment. They were not glamorous Hollywood stars or executives, but hard-working, passionate people. They both took measures to protect me from Hollywood’s dark side and debunk the mythic of allure of the silver screen. And yet, they accidentally guided me right into the very state of ambition they’d hoped I might avoid. They taught me to watch films with a critical eye, to not take things at face value, to guard my heart and mind and to walk out of a theatre when the film was sleazy, offensive, or unedifying. They raised me to treasure stories and to appreciate their artistry. When we went to the cinema as a family, we always stayed until we had watched the very last credit. Every boom guy, every location scout, every catering company—we stayed and watch your credit roll by.
In high school, movies became my thing. My dad would receive Screen Actors Guild screeners each year, and over time, I was the one watching most of the films and telling him how to vote. I was an elite volleyball player in high school, and for me, that was a job I took very seriously. I didn’t go to parties and I protected my sleep and my muscles. As a result, movies were what I did for fun in the few hours I had to spare each week between studying for copious AP classes and recovering from dozens of hours of training.
One of my friends in high school was a movie addict. I say addict because he’d skimp on sleep to watch a full movie every single night. He would send me lists of classic films to see. Fortunately for me, this was right when Netflix was becoming ubiquitous and prestigious. I would download films from iTunes or watch them on Netflix and I quickly began my crash-course in film history. At some point, I decided that I would use the Oscars as a way to structure my DIY film school. It started with just trying to watch some of the Oscar nominated films each year. Then it became a mandate to watch all the Best Picture nominees. Now, I hold myself to watching all the Best Picture nominees, plus any film with a Best Actor or Actress nomination, all the films by Best Director nominees, and all the Best Screenplay nominated films for both writing categories. Beyond that, I try to watch as many nominated films as I can depending on my access to them and availability in my schedule, of course.
This year, my Oscar watching endeavour kicked off at the Telluride Film Festival where I sat with my mom in the front row of a fully packed theatre up in the Colorado Rockies as we laughed and cried at Greta Gerwig’s delightfully raw Lady Bird. We walked out of that screening and knew we’d just seen something special. I cheered (along with most cinephile females) when she received her screenwriting and directing nominations. The other nominated film we saw in Telluride was Loving Vincent, a hand-painted animated film telling the story of Vincent Van Gogh’s life. Fun fact: Saoirse Ronan is in that one, too. We met the director of Loving Vincent and making that film was a very ambitious labor of love, so I’m glad they got their Oscar nomination.
In November, Oscar speculation began to buzz and highly anticipated films hit the theatres. I have spent the last three months strategically going from theatre to theatre watching what I suspected, and then knew, to be Oscar-nominated films. This year, while there were some highlights especially in regards to history being made and diversity at last beginning to appear in the list of nominations, I was a bit disappointed by the Best Picture category. I feel that there is no one film that quite had the full package for me like La La Land and Moonlight both did last year. However, I prefer to focus on the positive. So much hard work goes into every film made, and each film touches different hearts and inspires different minds, and so, without further ado, I bring to you my must-sees, predictions, and excitements about the rapidly approaching 90th Academy Awards.
And the nominees for Best Picture are: “Call Me by Your Name”, “Darkest Hour”, “Dunkirk”, “Get Out”, “Lady Bird”, “Phantom Thread”, “The Post”, “The Shape of Water”, and “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”. In this category, I am refusing to make a prediction mainly because my favourite is not likely to prevail. I’ve already expressed my like for “Lady Bird” and highly suggest you go see it. “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” was my favourite (I saw it twice), and I would be thrilled to see Martin McDonagh et al. take home the Oscar for this darkly comedic, whistle-blowing, small-town story about injustice and community. As for the others, “Shape of Water” was beautifully made and creatively ambitious and “Phantom Thread” is oddly riveting, especially if you tend to like stories about narcissistic and controlling powerful white men. “Get Out” is extremely original and disturbing with great acting, but is also just a bit bizarre. “The Post”, “Dunkirk”, and “Darkest Hour” are all historical stories with acclaimed casts.
The nominees for Best Actor are: Timothée Chalamet for “Call Me by Your Name”, Daniel Day-Lewis in “Phantom Thread”, Daniel Kaluuya in “Get Out”, Gary Oldman in “Darkest Hour”, and Denzel Washington in “Roman J. Israel, Esq.” It is my opinion that this is 2018’s strongest category. While Gary Oldman is likely to take home the Oscar for his portrayal of Winston Churchill, the other four actor’s performances are much more emotionally compelling. If the Academy diverges from its tendency to honour big names and big stories, I’d like to see Timothée Chalamet take home the Oscar. Not only is his performance in “Call Me by Your Name” top notch, the emotional range of his performance is truly sensational….plus, he is twenty-two years old and easily of the same caliber as the legends in his category (for real, though, how cool is it that this twenty-year old, hard-working talent is nominated along side Day-Lewis, Oldman, and Washington?). Daniel Day-Lewis in Phantom Thread is captivating, but perhaps the most underrated performance this year was Denzel Washington’s in “Roman J. Israel, Esq.” Washington plays a quirky LA lawyer and his performance is spot-on. Great film, too.
The nominees for best actress are Sally Hawkins in “The Shape of Water”, Frances McDormand in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”, in Margot Robbie in “I, Tonya”, Saoirse Ronan in “Lady Bird”, and Meryl Streep in “The Post”. All I’m going to say is that if Frances McDormand doesn’t win tonight I will cry. I watched this film twice and her performance as a fierce, imperfect mother is one of the most memorable performances I’ve ever seen. Go see it, please. Just do it. Otherwise, Saorise Ronan and Sally Hawkins give standout performances this year.
Moving on, the one film in the Supporting Actor category I didn’t get to see was “The Florida Project” which I have heard is very good. Sam Rockwell likely will and should take home the Oscar for Supporting Actor tonight for his performance in “Three Billboards”. In the Supporting Actress category, Allison Janney is the most memorable part of “I, Tonya”, and Laurie Metcalf gives a moving and honest perforce as Lady Bird’s mother in “Lady Bird.” Octavia Spencer is the best part of “The Shape of Water” and both Mary J. Bilge and Lesley Manville are compelling in “Mudbound” and “Phantom Thread” respectively.
Best Director will probably go to Guillermo del Toro. He takes risks and pulls them off in the soggy fantasy “The Shape of Water.” It would be cool, though, if we had a woman take home the Best Director award. Jordan Peele is a frontrunner for “Get Out”, as well. I’m rooting for Greta but have a strong feeling the father of one of my fifth grade classmates will be winning an Oscar for his cinematic and creative “The Shape of Water.”
Screenplays… I’ve been reading and writing screenplays like crazy lately. I think this year had a lot of good ones. I’d like to see “Call Me by Your Name” and “Three Billboards” win tonight. “Lady Bird” is another favourite of mine, as is “Molly’s Game.” “Molly’s Game” received its sole nomination for Aaron Sorkin’s screenplay, but it’s a film you need to go see if you haven’t yet. I was quite happy to see a couple of women in the mix for the screenplay categories this year.
And now for miscellaneous thoughts and notes. Watch “Blade Runner 2049” if you haven’t. I was surprised to find that it is actually really good. Look for it to take home cinematography and sound awards tonight, and possible a Production Design Oscar. A big note is that a female cinematographer was nominated for her work in “Mudbound” which is the first time a woman has ever been nominated in that category. Her work is vivid, poignant, stunning. I am praying that “This is Me” from “The Greatest Showman” wins for best song. That song has inspired me though a very challenging academic term these past few months. Lastly, “Baby Driver” received a few nominations and rightly so. It’s precise editing and sound mixing far overpower the presence of a certain unsavoury actor starring in the film.
This year I watched 24 Oscar nominated films, and would have liked to have seen more. It has been a tumultuous year in Hollywood, however, it has been one of revolution, too. Stories matter and films have the power to change the current of our culture. My hope is that the #MeToo and Time’s Up campaigns will continue to make Hollywood a better safer place and that artists of all colours, genders, shapes, and sizes will be given a fair shot in an industry that has long been dominated by an insular circle of powerful white men. If you’re a powerful white man, I support you, and my hope is that you do not squander the power you've been given, but use it to make a difference.
Due to the gargantuan quantity of work I have to do this winter, the book club will resume in March. In the coming weeks, I have to read and translate quite a bit of Old English and in addition to translations and essays, will be attempting to write a feature-length screenplay in a very short period of time. Sorry (to the few that actually read this blog) everyone!
This week, we'll be reading The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction by Walter Benjamin. The link to the newsletter can be found here.
Just as I was feeling like it might be time to give up this resolution, I remembered that I can do this and will do my best to continue to pick interest reads. This week, we're delving into a nice, short, relevant work of cultural theory dealing with art and machines and how modernisation changes how we can view and access art. Very cool.
Last week was Twelfth Night week. Here's a quote from a review for our show here in Oxford:
"Arguably, the beauty of the Shakespearean cannon is its ability to speak to us using the language of 500 years ago but in terms we understand, in settings we can relate to, and with layers of meaning that peel open only for us to peek in. Taylor’s production recognises all that, and more."
Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare
WEEK 3: JAN. 15-21
Due to an overwhelmingly busy week ahead of me, I will not be reading for the book club this week, but rather performing in Shakespeare's Twelfth Night here at Oxford, so if you'd like some thing to read, you may read Twelfth Night.
Last week I read Landskipping by Anna Pavord. It was a lovely way to get back into a British mindset, as Pavord writes about British landscape and how we relate to it in a deeply insightful way. Last summer, I went on a Stanford seminar entitled Language, Landscape, and Identity and traipsed all through the English and Welsh countryside and towns drawing connections between the land, language, and identity of the Anglo-Saxons. Now, I feel I am on my own journey of realising that I am profoundly moved and deeply drawn to the the English landscape, and am eager to explore more of it this ter
This upcoming week, I'll be reading Landskipping by Anna Pavord and invite you to join me in doing so. View the newsletter here and subscribe by filling out the form to the right.
Last week, I read You Can Do Anything George Anders. I’m en route back to the University of Oxford as I write this, so it is only fitting that I highlight a few of the takeaways from Anders’ book. First of all, there is no shame in being a humanities major. I know that many people out there are humanities majors (myself included), but I always feel like I have to defend myself at Stanford (a hub for techies and a university populated largely with engineering, computer science, and social sciences majors). However, being a minority at Stanford as an English major, I get dug in. I get defensive. I feel a rebel with a cause. I feel it is my duty to argue for the value of a liberal arts education. And while Anders validates and explicates the importance of a liberal arts degree, he also breaks down the so-called barrier between the arts and sciences and encourages his readers to look at where their humanities degrees and the tech sector intersect. He called me out for my stubborn, dead-set ways and inspired me to begin looking for opportunities where my critical thinking skills, eagerness to learn, versatility and adaptability, and story-telling skills might be in needed in fields other than publishing and entertainment. He encourages humanities majors to tell their stories. I giggled when I read that and thought to myself, “Hm, I can do that. It’s sorta what I do.” I made a note in the margins at one point. The note read: “Be an intellectual, and be an opportunity-seeking dare-devil.” I like that. What are we waiting for? Let’s go for it this year. Dream big, fail hard, and never give up. We are the humanists, the people that thrive “where feelings matter” (p. 5). [A nice follow-up read might be anything by Brene Brown, a fabulous author, researcher, and champion of doing hard things and supporting the importance of feelings.]
SEE THE NEWSLETTER HERE AND SUBSCRIBE TO THE RIGHT: static-promote.weebly.com/share/521f8948-d618-4aa7-ab4c-f5458f668e7d
My goal for the year is to read, read, read, and write, write, write. If you're looking for a resolution that doesn't involve dieting or selling your soul to Soul Cycle or dropping everything and taking to the great outdoors in full Cheryl Strayed and Chris McCandless fashion, perhaps you'd like to join me in reading what is certain to be an odd, interesting, and intellectually stimulating collection of books. My resolution is to read one book for fun every week (although longer books will be allowed two week reading schedules). Subscribe to the newsletter to the right, and welcome to The Daily Hayley.
WEEK 1: JAN. 1-7TH
You Can Do Anything by George Anders
This is the perfect book to set the stage for a year of bettering yourself and embracing the importance of the non-digital pass-time of reading. In an age of technology, the humanities are more important than ever before, so join me in reading a book designed to soothe the anxieties of every ambitious, but discouraged humanities major... written by a Stanford graduate, of course.
Looking for a New Years resolution that doesn't involve gargantuan quantities of kale juice or giving up coffee (which is utter madness, in my opinion)? If so, then you're in luck because my New Years resolution is to READ more and WRITE more, so I'm starting a book club! Well, I guess it is pretty much a book and film review newsletter, but I would like to invite you all to read long with me so that we can make 2018 great! Join me in my epic quest to arrive at 2019 well-read and full of knowledge across many disciplines, as my curatorial interests range from backyard gardening and medieval astrology to couture fashion and modern theology.
I don't know about you, but for me, 2017 was a wild ride. This year, in an effort to force myself to read more (and have a place to ramble about all the movies I watch), I'm giving myself a new platform to share my thoughts and motivate me to commit to something. My plan is to send out an email every Monday with a recommended book, film, some book/film reviews, and other literary/cultural odds and ends. Each week's newsletter will discuss the book from the week before briefly because we are all busy and don't need more noise added to our already cluttered lives. I've curated a reading list for the first five weeks so that you can start gathering books, if you wish. And if you don't wish to read along with me, feel free to use the newsletter as an eclectic booklist to work your way through as you please. So, here's to 2018. May we arrive at 2019 smarter, more sensitive, and well-read.
Week 1 (Jan. 1-7): You Can Do Anything by George Anders
Week 2 (Jan. 8-14): Landskipping by Anna Pavord
Week 3 (Jan. 15-21): The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction by Walter Benjamin
Week 4 (Jan. 22-28): The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams
Week 5 (Jan.29-Feb. 4): The Reason for God by Timothy Keller
I spent Monday through Thursday this week in Provo, Utah at a place called CognitiveFx. I felt the need to blog about my experience for two reasons: first, it was a really neat and helpful experience, and secondly, because this blog is the reason I found CognitiveFx (well, they found me via this blog) in the first place. CognitiveFx. It's rad. Check it out. www.cognitivefxusa.com/
My internal monologue during treatment went something like this:
Day 1. “Okay, this seems doable and like it might help a bit.”
Day 2. “Apart from the headaches and the fact that this is an exhausting treatment schedule, it at least won’t be detrimental to my brain health. Lots of good mental exercises.”
Day 3. “HOLY CRAP, WHAT ARE THEY DOING TO ME? THIS BETTER BE WORTH IT. EVERYTHING HURTS AND MY HEAD FEELS LIKES IT'S GOING TO EXPLODE. Maybe this means the treatment is working? Clearly something is going on with my brain because OUCH!!!”
Day 4. “WOAH. I never thought that pain would end and now I’m reacting and processing faster and more accurately on all the brain games and cognitive exercises. Could this wizardry have worked? I think they might have rebooted my brain.”
And 24 Hours after the end of my CognitiveFx treatment, I feel the difference big time...
I woke up without a groan. I’ve been composing poetry in my sleep. I did three face masks this morning because #selfcare. I forgot to finish my coffee because I was already alert and on to the next thing. I started doing crafts after breakfast. I made a to-do list. My hands are not shaky. I'm not dizzy for the first time in ages. I have 85 tabs open on my computer (summer job hunting is not a streamlined process for We the Humanities Majors) and I’m not even frazzled by it in the slightest. I am finding my words faster. The world looks brighter and clearer (literally, although probably metaphorically, too). I completed my to-do list.
Leaving CognitiveFx yesterday afternoon was like leaving camp. The staff and other patients had become sort of like family in the span of just four days. For the first time in two years I left a doctor without feeling like I’d had to prove to them that 1) yes, you could get a concussion in volleyball, and 2) that I was not okay. For the first time in two years I met with a psychologist who GOT IT, who looked at me and didn’t try to define me as a psychological basket case and prescribe hundreds of hours (and thousands of dollars) of psychotherapy, but instead offered her support, counsel, and advice to help me through the remainder of my battle with TBI-induced depression and anxiety (TBI=Traumatic Brain Injury). She did not undermine my PTSD, she did not tell me that all my problems were due to some genetic emotional instability, and she articulated that the root of my psychological issues was the neurological disturbance that resulted from blunt-force trauma to the brain, a truth that few psychologists understand. During dynamic vision exercises my brain went a little wild and when I giggled uncontrollably with tears streaming down my face I was not looked at like a crazy person or given the loathsome gentle shoulder pat. Instead, I was seen, I was heard, and when I told the cognitive therapist that my weird emotional reactions to benign stimuli used to scare me a lot but now I’m used to it, he smiled and we both decided just to laugh through the bizarre brain moment. I spent four days in a world of people like me, and by like me, I mean those who understand and have experienced traumatic brain injuries. We all came from different walks of life, got our concussions in a variety of ways, but had all somehow found CognitiveFx. There’s an incredible short-hand between people who have lost their worlds and have found the means and strength to journey on regardless. It’s beautiful to see determination and love be the products of seasons of adversity. Don't underestimate the healing power that empathy and camaraderie can have.
It’s essential to have a support system and recognise someone’s pain even if it manifests differently than what you had ever imagined possible. Our culture is improving in recognising and supporting those struggling with mental health. There are incredible cancer support groups, Alzheimer’s research fundraisers, etc, etc. But we are way behind in supporting people with traumatic brain injuries, regardless of degree of injury. Just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it’s not there. The brain controls the whole body and when even a little thing is off up there, the chain reaction of repercussions can and do wreak havoc on sufferers’ lives. The science is progressing quickly. The evidence is becoming more clear-cut. But, we have got to insert TBI into our vocabulary. We have to understand that the word concussion is a term with connotations that do concussion-victims a major disservice. There's no such thing as a 'minor’ concussion. Concussions are cumulative. EVERY. HIT. COUNTS. You cannot undue brain damage; it happens at a cellular level. And, no one ever even uses the word brain in sports when we get concussions (at least, that hasn’t been my experience). We’re asked about symptoms, our heads, our vision, balance, and are told we are concussed (sometimes they even fail to tell us that much), but no one calls it brain damage or brain injury. I think we’d all be a hell of a lot more careful if we got pulled off of a court or a field and were told, “Hey, you just got hit pretty hard. We’re going to pull you out now because you just damaged your brain.” Sub-concussive blows to the head cause injury, too. I’ve been hit hundreds of times. I’ve been diagnosed officially with three concussions. I can guarantee I've had two more and have had many other hits that may have come close.
At CognitiveFx, for the first time, I was treated by a doctor who understood all of this, offered a non-invasive and non-medicated treatment plan to help me and my brain get functionality back. It’s not a magic wand that makes it all go away. Once that damage is done, it’s there, but thanks to neuroplasticity and cutting-edge research and resources, there are now ways that make it possible for those of us who suffer from TBIs to find new brain pathways to perform the tasks we once did effortlessly.
“But, Hayley,” you might say, “You seem fine.” Well, today, for the first time in two years, I would probably respond, “You know what, today I am fine.” But that has not been the case. “Seeming fine” took every ounce of energy I had and a strong reliance on my childhood theatre training to pull off. And I'm still working towards feeling not just fine, but good. When you have an invisible injury, you don’t get pity. Often, you are accused--oddly enough--of doing something wrong or failing to excel or of being weak. Brain injury is an internal battle. It’s your brain gone haywire, it’s pain that can’t be seen, it’s frustration you can’t even articulate because your ability to articulate has been reduced. It’s being exhausted and drained, but not being able to sleep. It’s trying to exercise because everyone in the world loves telling you that exercise is good for the brain, but every time you do, you end up with a debilitating migraine or tension headache or are so tired you can’t move for the rest of the day and it’s not because you’re out of shape. I’m rambling now (mainly because my brain is working so much more sharply after four days in brain boot camp that I’m too excited and can’t stop writing), but the point is that we need to change the way we think about, talk about, and treat Traumatic Brain Injuries. And no, I’m not exaggerating or trying to scare you (although if I do, that might be good). This is science, and although I’m not a scientist, I am a Humanist, and since I am much better at writing than neurology, this is my take on what living with and recovering from a TBI has been like. CognitiveFx treatment has rebooted my brain and laid a foundation for an upward spiral (shout out to Brené Brown for that term) towards better cognition, reduced pain, and a fuller life.
Bottom line, this is my HUGE thank you to the team at CognitiveFx. Thank you to Anna at CFX for tracking me down and Porter for making me smile even when I was nauseous and having a moment and to Aimee for ‘getting me’ and to all the neuromuscular therapists who eradicated my neck pain, and to the cognitive and occupational therapists who forced my brain to re-wire itself even when both it and I didn’t want to do the work, and to the MRI technicians and Dr. Fong for presenting me with images and charts that helped me understand where my brain was at, where and how it could improve, and celebrating with me when it did. You guys rock!
Love thy noggin.
P.S.This blog has led three people to CognitiveFx treatment…you could be next.
**Disclaimer: This is not an ad, just the musings of an excited girl in the process of healing from a traumatic brain injury.
The Book Club Reading List