I split my head open on the soccer field at 2pm one glorious Sunday in August 2016.
The wound went to the bone.
If you’re squeamish, scroll through this next bit…
How to ruin a soccer game
I had delivered a fabulous header from my centre midfield position to the front line. Then my much-shorter-than-me opposition player, late off the mark, jumped up.
As I came down, her hairline met my brow. I assume she was aiming for the ball, which had departed at least a second earlier.
She was knocked unconscious, taking about a minute to come around.
My head exploded. At least, that’s what it felt like.
I fell to the ground clutching a spot above my right eyebrow.
My team was full of people you want around you in that situation:
- A police officer, who did an excellent job of holding my head out of the pool of blood on the grass.
- Two qualified doctors (“We’ve got to send her to Charlie Gairdner’s! They have a plastics consult on Sundays”) and another in training.
- On the sideline, one supportive parent turned out to be a paramedic.
They all promised me a concussion, assuring me I would not remember a thing.
I remember thinking ‘bring on that memory loss!’. The horrible memories were accumulating…
…of seeing a large pool of my blood on the ground.
…of trying to crack a joke so my kids wouldn’t panic seeing Mummy prostrate and bleeding in the middle of the field. They were both under three.
(My joke was ‘well, there goes my modelling career!’. My teammates tell me they knew I was OK when they heard that.)
…of my opposition player getting in my face to apologise. I had to resist an overwhelming urge to kick her – hard – with my studs.
…of the words ‘gnarly’ coming out of the words of everyone who sneaked a peek at the wound, including the ambos and ER docs.
…of two hours in Emergency wiping blood out of my eyes. Everyone was too busy to replace the bandage while I waited to be stitched up post triage.
…of two rounds of leading adrenaline injected into the wound. The doc wasn’t happy with his stitching the first time, so he pulled it all out and started again. I am forever grateful as he did an incredible job.
(I should have accepted the serious painkillers instead of the Panadol).
No concussion, but…
As you’d guess from that list above, no memory loss was forthcoming. I was not concussed. Woo hoo!
The ER sent me off with their blessing to sleep as much as I liked, unless I started vomiting. They handed me an information sheet on head injuries as I departed.
I slept. No vomit was forthcoming – no concussion, hooray!
The bruises came and went. They are spectacularly chronicled in a series of videos for a #30days30tips challenge. 14 stitches in my forehead weren’t going to stop me filming.
I was variously nicknamed Harry Potter, Yttrium – the element with the symbol ‘Y’ – and Y-Front (very fitting given my usual nickname is Knickers).
But five weeks later, I was still getting headaches. Off to the GP I went.
She diagnosed a non-concussive brain injury. Not a bad one – I was as verbose and uncoordinated as I usually am. Just bad enough to cause pain.
She was aghast to learn I’d gone straight back to work the next day, on the computer.
“But you should have had at least two weeks away from screens!” she exclaimed.
Guess I missed that in my discharge instructions – or the ER docs didn’t tell me.
I had a bit of rest, the headaches disappeared. All was well.
…unless someone touched my forehead.
Months later, my toddler would bump me as we played on the floor. I would melt in agony at the blinding pain. Tears streamed down my face as I groaned.
My little guy would watch in bewilderment. I assume he was wondering if all adults broke so easily.
Turns out the non-concussive brain injury came with a large bone bruise.
Which took a further two and a half years to disappear completely.
Wounds heal, but the memory remains
To look at me, you’d never guess I’d had this injury. I’ve healed beautifully.
Don’t be surprised if you overhear me saying ‘No, seriously! Look closer! 14 stitches went in there.’
I haven’t stooped to providing photo evidence …often.
The scar is all but invisible.
So too are the memories.
But: they’re there.
I was back at the hospital this weekend for another, unrelated reason. It caused a visceral reaction as soon as I saw the ambulances outside the ER.
My breath quickened. My gut clenched. My left hand formed a fist. My right hand flew to my almost-smooth forehead.
No blood? Check.
Cue brain sending message sitewide: WE ARE OK. I REPEAT, WE ARE OK. Stand down please.
Several deep breaths later, I was back to alert-not-alarmed.
It’s been nearly four year, but one thing is clear: that head injury has changed me.
That reaction on the weekend made think about what else it changed:
It’s made me more cautious about taking headers, for one thing. Given that was 50% of my playing repertoire, it’s meant I don’t want to play soccer anymore. I miss the camaraderie, but not enough to go back!
It’s made me value my brain. The words ‘non-concussive brain injury’ terrified me. I am deeply grateful I haven’t lost any function (well, I don’t *think* I have?)
It’s made me grateful that my skin can heal so well.
Yes, getting 14 stitches in my forehead sucked. But there’s been a lot of good come out of it for my mindset and priorities.
‘What’s this got to do with money, Lacey?’
Financial pain is like physical pain.
It can mark us as much as disease and injury can.
Take my friend Karen*. She will never, ever again have debt, following a traumatic bankruptcy. She hasn’t changed her mind, more than a decade later.
The economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic will mark others .
Some who lose their businesses may never start another.
Others will swear off assets of all descriptions for life.
Still more will vow never to have a single source of income again, for fear of having it cut off in one fell swoop.
My experience was one person getting injured on the field. There will be millions carrying financial wounds through 2020.
In the coming months, you might cop your own personal finance version of non-concussive brain injury and/or bone bruise.
Perhaps long after you thought you were safe from financial injury.
Don’t waste this pain. It has a purpose.
Use the pain
“Never let a good crisis go to waste.”
As awful as the pandemic is, I am grateful for one thing:
It’s prompted people who have been ignoring personal finance to start paying attention.
But getting your money sorted is suddenly on-trend.
I’m delighted, even if it’s a terrible way to arrive here. Because this could be enough to get people working towards financial independence en masse.
It will get them taking responsibility for their money as they never have before. Instead of waiting for someone else – their family, their partner, their employer, their government – to do it for them.
Utopia for Realists
Don’t get me wrong – I want systemic change too.
A move from ‘we live in an economy’ to ‘we live in a society’.
Universal Basic Income (UBI). Free – or at least cheap and plentiful – childcare. Zero tolerance for the disrespect that leads to domestic and financial abuse. World peace.
But here’s the thing:
The world doesn’t change. You do.
Then, you change the world.
Let any financial pain you feel in 2020 mark a watershed moment in your life.
Harness that pain to propel you towards financial independence, so you need not experience it again.
* ‘Karen’ is a pseudonym