By Ian Hebeisen
Traumatic Brain Injuries can occur in an instant. For some, it strikes at home from a fall, while others sustain a TBI from a sporting related accident. For Melissa Meszaros, it happened on the way to a Judas Priest concert.
A tenured entertainment industry publicist, creator of the comic book publicity firm Don’t Hide PR, and founder of Grrrl Front PDX Music Festival, Meszaros paves the way for the modern nomadic. In April of 2018, Meszaros got clipped by an impatient driver’s car while crossing traffic at a crosswalk. She sustained a traumatic brain injury, but as a self-proclaimed grunge aficionado, she insisted on going to her Judas Priest concert. “The only thing I wanted to do was go see Judas Priest,” said Meszaros.
In the end, an ambulance came and whisked Meszaros away. Unsure of how long she spent in the hospital, her recovery took even longer – clocking in at about two years total, with room remaining to grow and heal. “I’m still only about 95 percent recovered,” said Meszaros.
“People jumped in to help, and it was the comics community. I think that spoke volumes to not only the industry that I work in, but the character of people that I choose to surround myself with,” said Meszaros. “But it has created somewhat of a rift because a lot of people don’t understand.”
Following the accident, Meszaros struggled with daily tasks. Grinding coffee beans, putting on shoes, and even standing proved to be quite a challenge. “I actually didn’t recognize my own reflection for a good chunk of my recovery,” said Meszaros. She ran out of energy much quicker post-injury, often taking multiple hours to prepare for the day – a task that previously took a few minutes.
Interestingly enough, she could do her normal job just fine. The smaller tasks ended up being the more taxing part of her day. Even looking down for an extended period of time could set her off. “I couldn’t keep my head down, I would get vertigo really badly.”
Recovery started with an amalgamation of different therapists. “My eyes were misaligned; I had to go to cognition therapy,” said Meszaros. “I had to go to physical therapy, I had to go to psychotherapy… I had to see a holistic therapist for I can’t even remember what it was.” Through her therapy, Meszaros began journaling.
This practice aided in Meszaros’ recovery by helping her sort out memories, many of which resurfaced from music. Whenever a song triggered a memory – perhaps a song at the grocery store or the soundtrack of a movie – she would record the newfound nugget of her past in her notebook. “I would park and I would write about it. I was like, searching my way back to find myself,” said Meszaros. “So that became a practice. I had so many notes as I was healing that it actually was pretty cohesive.”
With pages of progress and personal discoveries, Meszaros took her journals to an editor with the intention of making a memoir. After editing and reorganizing the nonlinear narrative, she finally published her book Heavy Metal Headbang. “All the stories tie together very well. The crazy thing was, I basically had to go through all my trauma again – anything that happened in my life that was upsetting.” At the end of a long process, Meszaros came full circle with her identity, with a memoir to show for it.
Along with her book, Meszaros hopes to spread a message of empowered patience. “Recovery will happen so slowly, you won’t even notice it,” said Meszaros. “But you have to trust the process.”
You can find Heavy Metal Headbang at Barnes & Noble, on Amazon, and in other bookstores. To listen to the whole conversation, listen to the “Voices of TBI” Podcast on Apple Podcasts or wherever you find your podcasts.
Ian Hebeisen is a writer based in the Twin Cities. Graduating in 2020 with a degree in Literature with a Writing Emphasis, Ian spends his time writing for The Brain Health Magazine and JUVEN Press. He also writes comics, zines, short stories, and poetry. He lives with his partner and two cats, and enjoys playing board games and reading.