There are two major things I’ve learned from having a concussion:
1) It’s more common than you think.
2) No concussion is the same.
I’ve been struggling to write this blog for a while now. But I wanted to share my story to be transparent and hopefully connect with others dealing with their own concussion.
I had mine on January 20th. I’m at a point where I have more good days than bad days and symptoms don’t arise as frequently. In comparison, my concussion was not that bad – I know people who can barely get out of bed for months, and still suffer years later.
Sooooo how did I get the most frustrating injury I’ve had in my life?
Eight weeks ago I went downhill skiing for the first time with two people I trust. On the last run on the last hill of the day, I confidently “bombed it” down the hill. From what I remember, I hit a patch of ice and fell face first into the ground and tumbled the rest of the way. I laid face first in the snow and scanned my body to see where the pain was – it was all in my face and head. I thought I had broken my nose as it was bleeding, and my face burned from skidding across the snow. At the moment my only worry was aesthetic damage and not the fact that my brain had just rattled inside of my head.
Symptoms started to arise as the day went on. The headache and pressure got worse, I was dizzy and confused, and REALLY wanted to fall asleep. By midnight I was seeing a doctor at the emergency room who said I definitely had my ‘bell rung’, and would know if I had a concussion over the next few days. Despite the actual pain, the most worrisome moment was forgetting my dad’s first name (it was the security word at the hospital on my account).
Since then, here are the symptoms I have gone through…
Headaches: For the first month I always had a headache at varying degrees. Now they are less frequent.
Pressure: Predominently behind my eyes and in my forehead.
Feeling “drunk”: This is a combination of symptoms but the only way to describe it. You know the part of the night after a few too many when your eyes don’t match up with your head? Like that.
Dizziness: This was only a problem at the beginning but I also get it on occasion while exercising.
Sensitivity to light/sound/smell: Yes, even smell. Walking by people smoking or with strong perfumes has given me headaches.
Emotional: It’s like PMS’ing 24/7. I cried the other day because I dropped an egg on the floor.
Clumsiness: If you know me at all, being clumsy is part of who I am, BUT it has been 10x worse since the concussion.
Memory: I asked my boyfriend 5 times in 2 hours the other day when he’s going to Costco. Also I forgot where I was at the mall the other day.
Inability to read/write: This only happened for a couple weeks thank god. I would mix up letters and put words in the wrong order.
Ringing in my ears: I hear ringing in my ears almost every night when I lay down to go to sleep.
Luckily I’ve progressed thanks to the support of family and friends, plus the small village of health professionals who have helped me. I know about SIX people who also have concussions right now, and have become our own little emotional support group. Without them, I wouldn’t have seen my physiotherapist who specializes in concussions or taken as much time to rest.
The BIGGEST factor that has been stressing me out? I’m supposed to go to Nepal on April 27th to hike Everest Base Camp with the Dream Mountains team. Other than not being able to work out for six weeks, I’ve had moments where I didn’t think I would be able to go at all. When you sink half a year into fundraising for an awesome charity, saving money to pay for the actual trip, and attaching your ego to an adventure of a lifetime, it’s crushing to think that this concussion could hinder that.
At this point I’m positive I will be better in time (so is my physiotherapist). I’ve been cleared for exercise and have slowly been working my way back to normal activity and finding my threshold without symptoms. Every day I wake up and move on with my day depending how I feel. This morning I woke up with a headache, so I evaluated what could have CAUSED it and how to avoid it in the future. I’m in full ‘self-aware’ mode at all times.
A few triggers of mine include:
- Social activities with more than one person. The stimulation of turning your head and following conversations is exhausting with a concussion.
- Doing too much in one day.
- Staring at screens for too long.
- Being caught in a downward spiral of negative thoughts and anxiety.
Things that help:
- Nature/fresh air/movement. I feel normal and my absolute best when I’m going for a hike or cross country skiing (while watching my heart rate). I’ve always believed that nature is healing.
- Sleeping 9-10 hours a night.
- Drinking LOTS of water and eating right.
If there’s anything I can leave you with, it’s TAKE CARE OF YOUR BRAIN. If you have a concussion, please be patient and kind with yourself. If someone close to you has a concussion, understand that some days are worse than others and recovery time is necessary.
Lots of hiking love,