i joined the circus

woman in blue shirt and jeans on floor with hoola hoop looped around her, looking at sky

I was days short of my 50th birthday when I suffered a brain injury.  While most of the physical symptoms eventually subsided,  I suffered from post-concussion syndrome and PTSD, which resulted in cognition problems and clinical depression.

As a long-time runner, I counted on physical exercise to keep me upbeat, but I needed something different. So I decided to test my physical limits and ability to focus. Menopausal, depressed and brain-injured, I did what any woman would do – I joined the circus!

The circus truly changed my life. I chose to study and perform on lyra (aerial hoop). So often during my rehabilitation, I was anxious, isolated, and despondent. Striving to achieve something I’d never considered before my accident, amongst people who didn’t know ‘the old me’, gave me freedom to explore and heal. When I jumped up on my hoop, I regained confidence and mental strength. My classmates and coaches were wonderful and encouraged me, but even they didn’t fully appreciate the depths from which I was climbing.

Five years later, I hope my story will spread the word about the psychological, cognitive and emotional effects of mild traumatic brain injury and PTSD. I also hope it will inspire others to consider alternative, particularly physical and perhaps even uncomfortable pursuits when dealing with mood disorders.

In Ontario alone, annually there are about a half a million people living with a brain injury. More than 90 per cent of people with brain injuries have trouble with concentration, making decisions and memory, and more than 75 per cent have trouble with depression and anxiety.

It’s time to talk about brain injury, and to provide adequate post-injury care. What I really hope for and work toward is compassion and accommodation for people who are living with invisible injuries. With a half million of us in Ontario, if you’re suffering, talk to someone. And please know you’re not alone.

Catherine, Barrie writer, corporate communications expert, qualified mediator focusing on restorative justice, certified in brain rehabilitation after injury, read more of her story in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Step Outside Your Comfort Zone