As a three-sport athlete, National Honor Society member, and dual-enrolled student at Vassar High School, Kassie Verbeek was always laughing and smiling – the one everyone else turned to for support and motivation. Little did anyone know, Kassie felt sad and alone. Looking back in hindsight after working closely with her HealthSource outpatient therapist, she acknowledges she was “hurting deeply inside.”
Staying busy in school is how she compensated. So in November 2016 when she suffered a concussion playing volleyball and was forced to take a break from all school activities, she didn’t know what to do.
“I began having intense migraines every single day and got dizzy when I moved my head even the slightest,” Kassie remembers. She had expected some recovery time for the concussion, but was overwhelmed with physical, emotional and mental pain made worse by not being to play sports and study, focus, or concentrate in class. She went to physical therapists and saw a multitude of specialists. “But it was just disappointment after disappointment,” she says.
Eventually Kassie was diagnosed with post-concussion syndrome, a condition that can take months to years to heal from. Kassie graduated from high school in 2017 — despite missing lots of school — and headed off to college where she quickly earned an associate’s degree a year later thanks to all her dual-enrolled credits. “I know I should have been extremely proud of myself but I was just so sad,” Kassie says. “I didn’t tell anyone how I was feeling emotionally because I was so tired of going to doctors and was too afraid my parents would think differently of me.”
Drained, empty, and distracted by negative thoughts, Kassie finally opened up to friend who eventually called 911 out of concern for her. After inpatient treatment at HealthSource and another facility, Kassie’s doctors recommended regularly scheduled outpatient therapy. She begrudgingly made an appointment with Dr. Jill – HealthSource therapist Jill Hogenson, LMSW ACSW.
“Weekly therapy started out as something I felt like I was forced to go to, but soon became my favorite thing,” Kassie says. “It makes me feel so much better about my life and I look forward to it.”
As luck would have it, Hogenson’s own daughter had post-concussion syndrome and was able to validate the physical and emotional pain Kassie was experiencing. “Dr. Jill helps me tremendously with everything in my life. She helps me sort through all my thoughts and make sense of things. I now have coping skills. It has been a long process of healing but I can now get through my life and not give up faith in myself.”
Back in college and working, Kassie is motivated to share her experiences in the hopes of helping others. “Around one in five people suffer from a mental illness. I will always advocate for mental health because the negative stigma against it isn’t okay. No one should be labeled crazy just because they suffer from an illness they can’t control. We don’t think twice about physical illnesses, so why is the brain any different? It isn’t!”