posttraumatic growth

Firstborn Sophia Is Gone by Sophia Chang

Note: I write all my articles to angsty music. Gonna try soundtracking for y'all - this Soundcloud player is not an ad! It's for you to play your emo heart out:


Firstborn Sophia is Gone

I'm playing frogger right now.

That's what my girl Deborah calls it. I'm in between housing, hopping from pad to pad, at the mercy of friends and church community, until I finally land on the other side.

With that one reframe, I was out of worry and back into adventure. "Just a change of underwear in my backpack. Let's go," I told her, and we belly laughed.

It's like #nomad2015, when I had my iconic mini-shark bag strapped to my 5'2" frame and a heart full of freedom that carried me around the world for 13 months.

This TBI has kept me bound in one place for longer than I would have ever chosen (or thought I could survive), and traveling is a far away dream, belonging to the old Sophia who I've finally realized is dead and gone.

Firstborn Sophia

My cranial-sacral therapist has been recommending Jill Bolte Taylor's Stroke of Insight since the day she laid her hands on my head. Last week Taylor was on Oprah's Super Soul Conversations. This is not a coincidence. Nothing to do with my healing, my journey, or my posttraumatic growth is. 

I took notes and tried not to cry too loudly on the plastic lawn chair on the cow country porch I frog leapt onto last week.

Taylor's stroke was in her left hemisphere, which erased much of her past, dropped her blessedly into her wise and subtle right brain, and pushed the reset button on her life.

What came was tremendous growth.

She mourned the Firstborn Jill - the Harvard neuroanatomist with annals of knowledge wiped in one morning. She didn't try to go back to her "old self" and, instead, set about developing a new one. This time, she had a keen awareness of how much choice she had in what kind of neuro-circuitry to run.

And at the end of the interview, she said if she could go back to that morning, she would choose to have the stroke all over again.


Am I there yet? 

Would I choose to have a TBI, exactly the way it happened, all over again?

Morbidly, I'm envious that her brain trauma wiped the slate clean. I wish I could Eternal Sunshine my life away. But I remember.


I think about all the bad choices I spent my first three decades regretting

I think about the years spiraling down the drain wasted on men who didn't love me.

I think about how ugly I let people make me feel, when today I'm astonished at how stunning I was. 

I think about how effortlessly, insanely thin I was in Hollywood while I spent every day worrying about getting old and fat.

I think about the crushing hatred I had for myself. 

How I sought every one else's expertise first.

The hours I fretted about what people who couldn't care less thought of me.

If you feel disgusted reading this that's the right reaction. I feel ill to my stomach when I see in plain writing the sickness wrapping my life. The waste.

I'm glad that that Sophia is dead.

How to Mourn

I'm asking you to honor the passing of Firstborn Sophia by heeding her lessons.

Don't spend so much of your most precious resource looking outward. All the important things you need start inside.

You want freedom?

I do.

I want it so badly, I gave up paths that would have brought me wealth and fame. Twice I walked away from men who bought me cars and would have bought me houses. Had I stayed, I wouldn't be playing frogger right now, wondering where I'll lay my head every 4 days.

Was I an idiot? Oh definitely. 

I didn't set out to value freedom to this extent. But it's clear in the choices I made that led me farther and farther from the Harvard-InvestmentBanking-Private Jet life my father wanted so badly for me.

I made choices that never took me up any ladder to any penthouse, but they did take me to the royal gardens of Copenhagen, where a man from the Faroe Islands urged me in his silly accent to sneak over the fence in the witching hours of night. (He ended up getting me to climb every structure in Denmark we passed...good thing liberal countries could give a damn what you do with your body and their monuments.)

I took another path and it took me here. To sitting on a tractor tire outside a barn in Cataluña with kids from Barcelona who kissed my cheeks and told off-color jokes. To doing such extreme dancing that I have bone spurs in my spine and a traumatic brain injury that prevents me from getting on an airplane.

I see there were seeds of joy in Firstborn Sophia. I'll keep those circuitries. I'll let the pain and fear go.

Firstborn Sophia is dead. Thank you for everything. Thank you for setting me free.  

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