Never in a million years would I have imagined a silly little collision in left field on my high school softball field would affect my mental health and overall life for the months to come. It was just another softball game of a winless season when bam, and the next thing I knew, I was lying on the grass and the world around me was spinning. After one appointment, I discovered I had suffered a concussion and would be shut down from all life activities for an undisclosed amount of time. Before I knew it, that time turned into a month, then two, then three, then four, then five, and so on, and is currently sitting at nine-plus months since the collision. To say this concussion has taken a toll on my mental health would be a complete understatement.
Immediately following that appointment, I was confined to my dark bedroom doing nothing but sleeping for the next two days. That was when the realization kicked in just how much I could miss in the months to come. The next day was supposed to be my first homecoming with my new, amazing, core group of friends. I had to break the news to them that I was unable to go, and we were all devastated. All I could do was sit in my bedroom thinking about how much fun my friends were having without me. I then wondered if my friends were having more fun without me. This thought crossed my mind during every event I had to miss due to my concussion. I missed out on so many exciting moments and was feeling more and more lonely, useless, and hopeless as each day passed.
Little did I know, my concussion would also take away what I had always centered my identity around—being an athlete—and make me rethink who I am. Going from playing competitive soccer and softball all year long to not being able to do any sort of physical exercise besides going on walks was rough. I have never gone over nine months without playing a sport since the day I first stepped foot on a field. I no longer had that activity which brought me so much joy and was my escape from the rest of the world; that place where I could simply be myself and didn’t have to worry about what others thought. I was housebound and just wanted to go out for a run or participate in soccer practice. Not only that, but during all of this, I returned to my old soccer club and joined a very small team with some new and old faces. This was an extremely hard transition. Because I had played for this club before, I knew of everyone on the team but I didn’t know if they knew me. I was unable to try out for the team, so it felt wrong and stressful to just walk onto the team and show up to hang out and watch for practice without having something visibly wrong with me. After a few practices and tournaments, I quickly found out that this was a great group of girls. Unfortunately, our team can’t even field a full team and each game watching from the bench got harder and harder. I felt so useless and just wanted to jump on the field to help. It got to the point where I could barely even watch sports on TV, and that’s saying a lot. I was simply too mad and frustrated that I wasn’t getting any better and felt that I didn’t have a purpose in life anymore.
That’s when the temple youth group (TYG) came into play. Just a few weeks prior to my concussion, I was elected as our temple youth group president. I wasn’t extremely excited about it, as it was just another thing to worry about, but before I could blink, it became such a blessing. As I returned from my month-long NFTY Israel trip, I was prepared to start my return-to-play protocol, as all the doctors believed everything would be better when I returned. The case was the exact opposite, I was still experiencing concussion symptoms and so I decided I would turn my attention to the presidency. It was the opportunity of a lifetime. I got to bring back my leadership skills in a different form and learned how to work with a team of adults and high schoolers. I have always embraced being not only a planner but a trustworthy, reliable leader. Since I didn’t have the opportunity to be a leader on the field, I have loved leading our youth group through event after event. From High Holy Day services, to mitzvah events, to sleepovers, it has been an incredible journey.
I have always taken pride in my Judaism, attending sleepaway camp for over five summers, finding some of my best friends through the Jewish community, and attending youth group events. It has been so rewarding for me to watch these teens not only be introduced but find their place in this Jewish community that I call home. Home is simply an understatement. Like sports, youth group gives me one of the only opportunities to really just be me. I don’t have a care in the world what others think, always have people to look up to, and never have to think twice about asking for help. For me to have a place right now in life where others can look up to me or go to me for help has been so rewarding on my end; it gives me that purpose that I have yearned for, for months. No matter where my sports recovery journey takes me next year, my position as president is going nowhere; these past few months being president has been the perfect thing to get my mind off my concussion, keep me busy, and give me a purpose in life.
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