By Samantha Narciso
There's this new TikTok trend where people are talking about things that permanently changed their brain chemistry. So many of these TikToks are about Walt Disney World. Some people make TikToks about how a certain ride at Disney World was so awesome they’re a changed woman. Others rave over the tacos at Pecos Bill’s being out of this world. I want to make my own TikTok about Disney World, but I don't want to be a downer.
The fact is, Disney World did permanently change my brain chemistry, just not in the same positive way that other people are talking about. On November 14, 2017, I hit the back of my head on the bottom of my locker at Disney's Polynesian Village Resort and gave myself a life-altering concussion, from which I still haven't fully recovered from.
My name is Samantha Narciso. I'm 27 years old, and I have Post-Concussion Syndrome and Occipital Nerve Damage. My concussion journey began on January 31, 2017 after I hit my head on a concrete step. I'd never gotten a concussion before, so I didn't know what to look for or expect. I didn't even realize I was concussed until the next day at dinner. According to my friends, I started slurring my words, and my eyes glazed. It took me a month and a half to recover. During that time, I wore sunglasses indoors every day, never took out my earplugs, and had friends type my homework so I wouldn't fail out of college during my senior year. I was hit in the same spot with a basketball in April 2017 but recovered pretty quickly. But the aforementioned "Disney Concussion" or "Concussion 3" was the one that caused the most damage.
When people hear the word concussion, they typically think of a bad headache with a small recovery time. What you don't see in the movies are the side effects that last for much longer. I was a teacher and had to quit my job due to the noise and overstimulation. I can't go to concerts or out dancing with my girlfriend without wearing earplugs and sunglasses. I get claustrophobic easily. I'm terrified of biking, skiing, and trampolines; any time my feet leave the ground, I get so scared. When I get too overwhelmed by stimuli, I develop a severe stutter. I don't know when or if that's going to change.
Taking things for granted is something that I experience from all sides. People in my life didn’t (and still don’t) understand why I have new limitations. Although there are certain accommodations I can make to make my life and the lives of people around me easier, I don't understand why able-bodies are the expectation and me not having one is frustrating.
I've had six concussions in the exact same spot and now have permanent nerve damage. I am not going to fully recover. I will not be able to experience what I once was able to because of the trauma my nerves have endured. I even switched careers and work a fully remote job. I sleep more and take time to prepare for big events. If I have to drive, I bring as many caffeine beverages as possible to keep myself awake and not have headaches. And lastly, I try not to get mad when people are frustrated with my brain. I know it's not either of our faults. But taking for granted the abilities I used to have makes their absence that much more painful. That frustration is a constant presence, and I guess that's what I take for granted now.