[Editor’s Note: For episode 56 of Crosshairs Radio we welcomed back Ben Frederick. Ben wanted to talk about new developments with his BeyondCX+Ascent Bicycle Studio team but also about how his recovery from a traumatic brain injury (TBI) he suffered four months ago. During our conversation we talk about the slowlife photo essay Ben put together during his recovery. We’ve compiled all of the entries in that series into a single post and it is presented in its entirety below.]
TBI Part 1: #slowlife
For those who don’t know, I’m recovering from and dealing with a TBI as the result of a seemingly benign crash while training over 10 weeks ago. It is easily, hands down, the most difficult thing I’ve gone through and the road is still long. While I’m apt to have thing be sunshine and roses, this shit is heavy and a very real part of my daily life. It’s taken almost everything I have been working for, dreaming about, my passion, just about everything. TBI’s are tough to explain to people because there is no visible signs, no scars, nothing that shows why reading is impossible, why being in a public place is completely overwhelming and why you get broken down to having to be in a dark room for weeks. The upcoming photo series is an attempt to show people what it’s like. Or at least a taste of what my experience is and was. No hold barred, real shit. Welcome to the Slow Life.
TBI Part 2. #slowlife
It’s just a cup of coffee
This shouldn’t be hard.
Water and beans.
Everyone has coffee.
This is impossible
The grinder is too loud!!
How many grams?
I can’t remember.
I can’t remember!? It’s just coffee!
I want to be normal…
TBI Life: Part 3 #slowlife
5 weeks of darkness
The light too blinding
Trapped in a broken brain.
Don’t do anything,
Thoughts spiral out of control
But “don’t think”
TBI Life: Part 4 #slowlife
Perspective a bitch.
Yes I can walk
Yeah, I didn’t break my neck.
Sure, eventually it will get better.
But the world is reduced to the bed, the kitchen, the bathroom and a broken brain.
Outside the safety of the bedroom is the noises, light, standing. Too much but necessary, because it’s just making food. Right?
Feeling so small in a small space. Loathing the safety it provides.
Scared to leave,
Forced to stay.
TBI Life: Part 5 #slowlife
My body is a product of what I do.
I thrashed it
Responding and sculpting to what was demanded.
Hours and hours of work, suffering, pain.
Sacrifices too many to count.
A visual representation of all I’ve gained.
My body is a product of what I do
The brain cannibalizes the hard earned muscle,
A shadow of itself.
A visual representation of what’s been lost.
TBI Life: Part 6 #slowlife
In the snap of fingers
A dream stopped dead,
Like my head hitting the soft earth.
5 years of momentum leading into the decision to move everything to a new place.
A summers momentum, bigger power numbers than ever and the skills to back them up.
Momentum of new sponsors, new bikes, new kits.
The momentum of 20 mph in the woods.
Stopped dead. No bounce, no slide. Head dug in and stopped.
In a tenth of a second, everything changed. What I found direction and love and passion in is now a weighty risk v reward.
Another concussion is only going to be worse.
Could I do this again?
Could I survive the darkness?
Is it worth my permanent independence?
Do I have to say goodbye?
TBI Life: Part 7 #slowlife
Going to the specialist
2 hours away.
Shaken in the car,
Body going to shock
To learn to think again.
Can’t remember 4 numbers
Forgot the word, cat.
Pushed to see the damage,
Barely had to, to find it.
TBI Life: Part 8 #slowlife
Frames arrived in the middle of the fog.
The effort of opening the boxes too much.
Now, holding MY future in my hands.
Metal tubes that represent so much more.
A life sacrificed and worked for.
Painted just for me
To show the world what I can do.
They invested in me
I showed promise,
Asked them to invest more.
I’ll show you
Holding A future in my hands.
I don’t know if it’s mine.
TBI Life: Final installment #slowlife
Pain Rage Sorrow Agony Loss
Grasping my jersey
Torn between embracing and ripping it apart.
Dreams and goals condensed and made tangible into a
Fabric dyed and colored by sacrifice, sweat, blood,
Cut to fit the body etched by hours of suffering, work, joy, happiness, peace, flying, challenge, perseverance and Pain.
My heart, soul, passion on my sleeve.
The skin underneath, left pale and colorless without it.
A dream gone,
The dreamer, broken
Trapped by the dark
No escape, outlet, relief.
No more flying. Not now,
Maybe not ever.
TBI Life: Post Script #slowlife
I hope you’ve “enjoyed” the TBI Life project. I really appreciate the notes through the series.
I want to let you guys know that I am not in the same place I was when I took those pictures. My eyes are getting brighter, my head isn’t blurry, and I’m even able to leave the house for walks to the bakery so I can buy bread.
Not out of the woods yet, and walking towards a “better” that I don’t know the landing of, but I’m getting there.
I have, am, and will continue to celebrate the small wins everyday. I am going to kick ass at whatever the next chapter holds. Right now I seriously kick ass at walking to the bakery for bread and I’m pretty stoked on that.
In the meantime, I’m going to keep on this photography kick! Thanks so so much for reading. I hope you were able to get a glimpse into what so many people experience with a TBI or concussion.
5 thoughts on “The Big Picture: Slowlife”
you have incredible courage to share this. best wishes for you.
Thank you for this, Ben. I am a fellow bike crash TBI traveler, although like you said on the podcast, snowflakes. I’m rooting for you.
I broke my left trochanter on a trail ride. Not even comparable to your experience. Thanks for sharing and a million hugs to you.
Best wishes Ben.
I’m 32 months into my recovery from tbi. Over the bars of my ‘cross bike into hard grass. I think I can still feel that impact. It gets better….but so slowly. There’s grief and loss but also determination and hope. There’s always hope. All the best to you.