My name is Robert Weese and the following is a little bit about me.
After having surgery for a heart condition called super ventricular tachycardia - SVT for short -which I was diagnosed with at 16, I was ready to resume my junior tennis career in the summer of 2008. Going through heart surgery was not easy, especially when it came smack in the middle of being a top ranked U16 player in Ontario, Canada and while I was waiting to be scouted by US schools, but with the help of my family and friends I overcame this obstacle. I can remember being so ecstatic coming home from Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto after the surgery telling my parents, “at least I won’t have to be rushed to the hospital, unconscious with my heart beating at 250 beats per minute in an abnormal arrhythmia anymore to have the doctors give me a drug that literally stops your heart briefly only to restart it in what hopefully is a normal rhythm!” I resumed high school and normal training at the high performance tennis academy that fall. Although I had a few physical limitations that I hadn’t had before I thought I would more than make up for it with the newfound strength and perspective you gain from going through something like that. I felt that I was ready to take on life’s challenges, and excited for the future.
It has been eight years since my surgery and I am now a 25 year old student returning this semester to Western University in London, Ontario, Canada. I sustained a traumatic brain injury in an accident six years ago and have been living with the effects of that injury ever since. In this accident I suffered multiple skull fractures, brain hemorrhage, fractured neck, punctured lung and multiple facial fractures. I was in a coma, I had multiple surgeries and had to learn how to walk again over the course of 15 months. At the time of my accident, I was a top ranked junior tennis player with many scholarship offers and in university. The number of hours involved in my physical recovery was extensive and I have had several other physical setbacks related to this accident which has made it very difficult to carry on with my life, to complete school or to hold a job.
Above all else - all the physical illness, suffering, pain and trauma I have been through in my life so far - probably the most debilitating symptoms have been related to my PTSD and anxiety stemming from my TBI. It took me a long time to accept and to be comfortable opening up about these mental health issues. I was afraid to be judged for them and since opening up about them and beginning neuro-psychotherapy, among other therapies, I have lived with the consequences of negative stigma. I have been told I “did not belong here,” that “people like you are not really what we are about,” that “you are crazy, why do you keep pacing,” that “you are going to make yourself weak if you share your story and what you are going through,” among many other things. To anyone who has ever felt judged for their disability, gender, sexuality, race or anything else- you can relate to this and how it feels…
I am motivated to create a society where we all accept each other and work to eliminate any barriers we may have (since in my opinion, we ALL have them). I wish to try to do my part by sharing my story with others, and hopefully motivating them to seek the treatment and therapy they so desperately need - the treatment I pushed away for years. I hope to try to get the conversation started by generating traffic on social media, by helping with fundraising, and by sharing tips to my followers on how to better manage their mental health. I want people to know that no matter WHAT they are going through or obstacles they face - they are not alone and that what they are going through DOES NOT DEFINE who they are. I suffered for so long in silence and felt very alone in what I was going through physically and mentally. Looking back, I realize how much better off I would have been to have known even one person I could relate to in my struggle. To know that other people were right there “in the trenches” with me. I don’t want others to suffer like I did, and this is a motivating factor for me to begin these initiatives.
Just remember- I am RIGHT THERE with you in your journey. You are not alone. Keep fighting.