It’s OK to get help

Allyson Bailey

Allyson Bailey is a traumatic brain injury survivor — but she does not allow that to define her.

“I’m a whole lot of other things, too,” Allyson said. “At Virginia Tech, I’ve been able to figure out what those other things are.”

Allyson is a senior human nutrition, foods, and exercise major who wants to go into the health care profession to help others. She is an intramural athlete, a living-learning community alumna, and a dean’s list student with an internship at Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute’s Human Neuroimaging Laboratory on her résumé. She is a friend and a fan of Virginia Tech football. She is a Hokie.

Her nominator wrote, “Allyson is resilient, empathetic, and wants to make the most of her experiences. She has a deep understanding of who she is and what she needs to thrive.”

Allyson sustained three traumatic brain injuries her sophomore year — during a varsity basketball game and two car accidents. Each one caused more physical and emotional trauma. She had to relearn how to walk and communicate. She recovered enough to come to college but still lacked energy and struggled with debilitating headaches, anxiety, and depression. Some days, she struggled to walk across the Drillfield to get to class. She considered transferring to a community college in her hometown of Roanoke, Virginia to be closer to home.

Fortunately, her academic advisor became a mentor and convinced her to get help. Allyson uses accommodations through Services for Students with Disabilities, visits Cook Counseling Center, takes well-being seriously by eating regular meals and exercising, and believes “grades are important, but there is more to life than always earning an A.”

Her advisor said, “Allyson is very self-aware. She never expected an easy ride. Sometimes she had to take things slow or change course, but she always worked hard and dealt with her injuries in a manner of acceptance and perseverance.”

Her nominator wrote, “Allyson lives graciously with the effects of her injuries and looks for ways to connect with others. She is honest about the ways in which her thinking has changed and not afraid to take advantages of services that are designed to help students succeed and have the best possible experiences.”

Allyson wants those who are suffering to know that it is okay to get help and those who are not to refrain from judgment and show grace. “I used to think people were just trying to get attention when they talked about dealing with anxiety and depression,” she said. “It sounds horrible and it is. Now I know there is probably a lot more going on in their story.”

Her advice for others who are struggling? “Don’t freak out. Take time for yourself and appreciate the small things. Get the help you need.”