May 5th is my 10 months concussion anniversary. If you had told me the day that I hit my head that I would still be talking about this now I would have thought you were crazy. What initially seemed like simply “getting my bell rung” has turned into one of the most difficult things that I have ever gone through.
In many ways I would say that I was physically better in August than I am now. But looking back to last summer the symptoms were there but after not the greatest advice from doctors I was in denial, not in touch with how I felt and thinking that it was all in my head (pun intended). In many aspects, modern medicine is in the dark when it comes to concussions.
I’m really not sure how to answer when people ask me how I am feeling. It can change from one minute to the next and I get weird looks when I go into any detail so I mostly just answer “better”. Most people are just being polite asking and don’t really want to know. A concussion being an invisible injury, sympathy and understanding don’t always come easy from others. I don’t blame them. Before this I am not sure I would have been very sympathetic either.
I am seeing some improvements, but nothing linear. Even if I check-off a symptom from my list today, it can very well be added again tomorrow or next week. I never really had any of the common symptoms like headaches, trouble sleeping, noise sensitivity and nausea. One of my big issues is with my balance that is still off and I feel more uncoordinated than before. I have a hard time focusing, especially in open areas. My focus is pretty good in an enclosed area, but everything seems a bit more fuzzy when I’m outside. It’s like the vastness surrounding me makes everything seem surreal and not 100% clear. Aside from focus, my biggest issue really is with movement. Usually walking is OK (speed is low) but sometimes it can make me feel off especially when I am tired. Slow biking is OK, but I can’t handle riding too fast. My brain can’t deal with the constant change of scenery. In a car, because I am enclosed inside the vehicle, it doesn’t cause symptoms as much but it is worse if I drive for too long or after dark. Oh, and I drive like a paranoid old man now – very, very cautiously and super slow.
I have seen a neurologist in February and he told me that I will make a full recovery, but that he cannot tell me how long it will take. He also told me that brain injuries are cumulative so that I am more at risk for another concussion and if I were to whack my head again before this one fully heals that it would certainly prolong my recovery and / or worsen my symptoms. For this reason, I am very, very paranoid of hitting my head again. It is basically always on my mind and makes me very anxious at times especially when I’m feeling symptoms.
To all my friends who have reached out and invited me to go for a ride with them I really appreciate the offer, but right now it really takes a whole lot of concentration to just ride and I’m worried that adding conversation to the mix too soon could be dangerous. Again, it really makes me anxious, so I will wait until I feel ready. Riding on the road also makes me nervous right now. Cars add a very scary aspect to a riding environment and I always need to feel that I am fully aware of everything around me when riding. I don’t really feel that right now so I’m staying off the roads for a while longer. Sorry if I come off as an anti-social snob when I refuse to ride with you. It’s not about that at all. It’s about listening to what my body and head need right now and honoring that.
I need at least 8 hours sleep per night. Without this minimum, I feel my symptoms get worse. Stress will completely wipe me out. I just can’t handle it. Last week, we were losing at the Type 1 game and it certainly wasn’t helping with my concussion recovery. Type 1 Diabetes and puberty don’t get along very well and in our case has been causing huge and unpredictable variations in blood sugar levels. For this reason I wasn’t feeling so well last weekend.
I am still working full-time. I get tired way more easily now and on most days I can pretty much only handle my day of work. All that I can do in the evenings on those days is taking the dog for a walk. I have been doing Yoga once per week and doing a Yoga Nidra Sonic Sound Healing class once per month. I have done Physiotherapy, Osteopathy, Bowen therapy, Homeopathy and massage. I have also been seeing a psychologist (3rd one in the past 2 years). I am seeing progress and on the days where I can be comfortable with the rate of my progression I am good. Some days I do get impatient though and that usually makes me feel physically worse. The only thing that I have not tried yet is medication. No meds exist to accelerate recovery. They would only help with the symptoms. So far the only pills that I have been popping are supplements. Some days I’m not sure if that is a good or a bad thing?
But it’s not all complaining and being negative. I feel very grateful that I get a second chance. It could certainly be much worse. I just need to continue working on a newer, softer, more sustainable version of myself. Life isn’t meant to be raced through and living slower is something that should be savoured. When I’m in a good place mentally I can embrace the lack of speed. But other days my mind tends to get back into its old habits and I feel like I should be doing more.
This past Sunday I was sitting alone on a bench along the riverfront trail when a few people rode by on bikes. They were just riding at a slow pace enjoying the sunny day. They looked like “normal” people, not super fit, not obese, just “normal”. They looked happy. As they rode away, a thought came up. Why is it so difficult for me to say goodbye to Mike the bike racer? Why isn’t “normal” enough? As these thoughts came, I also noticed a flock of geese flying by and skillfully landing on the lake in front of me. They carried themselves with such grace. Their bodies just knew what to do to land safely and float peacefully. Just like my body knows that my symptoms need to persist for a while longer to keep me safe from myself. Maybe our wisdom is not in our mind. Maybe we are not what we think of ourselves to be. Maybe we are so much more.