Sometimes it takes a hard blow to the back of the head to come to terms with yourself. And I mean this literally. Being in my Junior year of high school (and being as high strung as I am) I was a tensely wound ball of emotions that December, in danger of being unraveled at the slightest touch. On top of the academic pressure of my AP’s, competition season for my Varsity Cheer team was fast approaching, and I was in a constant battle with my hyper extended knees. We were in the middle of learning our competition routine, however my mind was elsewhere. I was starting to succumb to the stress. My mind was darting off in a million different places and none of them had to do with the task at hand: being the flyer I was supposed to be. Stress is funny that way; how it causes you to think of everything except that present moment and how you are missing it. As my bases lifted me into the air, my coach yelled out “Twist Cradle!”. Well that was the reality check I needed. I had no idea whatsoever how to do a twist cradle. I am not one to give up. I said nothing. The bases tossed. I closed my eyes. I tried to twist and float down as gracefully as possible. And I felt graceful, until my back hit the ground in tandem with the loud grunts from my stunt group. I had failed, and, quite literally, fallen. And as I sat in the athletic trainer’s office nursing my sore neck and trying not to fall over from dizziness, the reality dawned upon me that I had a concussion. Thus began my unraveling. I could not have a concussion. No way. Not Helen. Helen was the one who always had it together. She was ambitious and driven. She was going to ace this year. A concussion meant school missed, an end to her competition season, and let’s not forget about pain! I went home in tears, and not because of the throbbing, but the disappointment in myself for not only becoming injured, but injuring my chances of having a perfect junior year. However, something happened in the few weeks that followed my fall. My doctor informed me that I could not do anything. Seriously, anything. I was to sit in a dark room and wait. Through this inadvertent psychotherapy, I began to accept my condition. I released all stress. There was nothing I had control over and my classwork was put on hold for me to resume when healthy. I was also forced to put my health first, for the first time in my life, and analyze myself. I had not been a happy girl. I had walked around wearing a scowl, internalizing all of my faults and pushing people away in my single-mindedness. Here was my opportunity to change. I could choose to be happy. I could choose to release the stress that had held me hostage these last two and a half years. And I did. My friends light up at the sight of my carefree attitude and sunny disposition. My family smiled at the lifting of the dark cloud that had surrounded me. My seeming punishment was in reality a blessing. I eventually made up the work and finished my junior year just as strong as I had hoped. Even more, I improved who I was as a person. I learned how to conquer my stress. I took control of my happiness. Do I still feel overwhelmed or sad from time to time? Of course. To be moody is to be a teenager. However, I do not let my stress define me anymore. Only I will define me.