“Live the life you have, not the one you wish you had.”
That’s a popular inspirational quote that can be found on a number of social media sites, but it’s more than that for Enlightium Academy senior Hannah Yohe, who had her life turned around at the beginning of her junior year in high school when her family was involved in an automobile accident that left her with traumatic brain injuries to both her frontal and occipital lobes.
Yohe puts it in easier to understand terms:
“My whole family was injured when we were hit, and at first I didn’t know what was wrong with me. But over the next few days and weeks, I was dizzy, I suddenly developed dyslexia, I couldn’t walk straight, and I couldn’t put words together in the right order. I lost most of my memory from when I was younger.
“At first, the doctors just said, ‘Let’s keep an eye on it,’ but things got worse and I started getting migraines.
“I was out of school (Ferris, at that time) for a couple months, and when I tried to go back I developed really bad anxiety. I had been around only my parents and siblings for that whole time, and it felt like freshman year all over again. I would sit in my dad’s office at school and do assignments. I finished first semester at Ferris, but I withdrew in April and enrolled at Enlightium, which is an online Christian-centered school.
“Grades had always been really important to me because I wanted to be a doctor, and my struggles put me in a really bad spot mentally. Everything resulted in a downward spiral of depression and anxiety, and I was feeling overwhelming stress. I got great support from my teachers and family, but I wasn’t able to do my assignments because of my brain processing issues, and during the summer of 2017, I spent a couple weeks in the Psychiatric Care for Children and Adolescents unit at Sacred Heart.”
Students at Enlightium connect with teachers and other students via online platforms, and are able to complete assignments at the Enlightium physical site or anywhere with an internet connection. Because she missed so much school, Yohe had to take a heavier-than-usual load, but she thrived in that environment as she continued to recover from her injuries.
“When I went back to Ferris junior year, I wanted to try to be as normal as possible,” she said, “but eventually I decided I wasn’t going to worry anymore what people thought of me, I just needed to take care of myself.”
And that’s her advice for other teens suffering from depression and anxiety, no matter the source.
“First of all, don’t rely on other kids for your mental health, but seek out adults who have the strength and experience to help you,” she said. “Think about yourself, not in an ‘It’s all about me’ way, but doing what’s good for you. If something’s hard, take a break and tackle it later.
“For me, time was part of the answer. I believed for a long time that I wasn’t ever going to get better. I hated who I was, how I looked and sounded. But I learned eventually that I could do things I didn’t think I could, even something simple like make people laugh. Basically, I had to retrain my brain.”
Yohe, who competed with the Riverside High School track team, plans to enroll this fall in the Northwest Leadership College branch of Southeastern (Florida) University, where she’ll have a combination of online and direct instruction as well as internship opportunities. After two years, she hopes to transfer to Seattle Pacific University to study nursing, specializing in pediatric oncology.
She was inspired by a nurse she encountered while at Sacred Heart, whom she described as “one of the best people I’ve ever known,” and remembers a St. Jude’s Hospital television commercial long ago that pointed her in the direction of a health care career.
“In some ways,” she concluded, “I see beauty and feel gratitude in a way that I didn’t always before my injury. Right now, I feel the best I’ve felt since then.”
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