Background (2021)

In 2011, I just kind of disappeared from the social & music scenes due to a life-altering concussion. Given how involved I was in the scenes, I've missed the community & networking a lot.

I recorded 6 one-minute videos about my story in 2018 right before I suffered a big setback, which I share below. I also recorded a 2-minute 2021 update.

My post-concussion syndrome (PCS) symptoms make it challenging to to be a parent, socialize, listen to music, network, play sports, travel, watch TV, read books, etc. I haven't watched a movie in a decade.

I'm fortunate that i'm still a bright guy. But PCS has limited me in many ways. My cognitive batteries get drained quickly.

I thought my music days were over, but here I am, a decade later, excited to be working on new stuff, even if it's way more challenging and slow. I have to stop & rest/meditate a lot.

Some of my most prominent current symptoms are:

  • Exhaustion / Cognitive Fatigue
  • Inability to multitask
  • Brain feels inflamed / pressurized
  • Memory issues: I write a lot of notes
  • Over-stimulation: I avoid TV, games, crowds, loud places, music, etc
  • Low stress tolerance
  • Irritability
  • Overreactive autonomic nervous system = Sensitivity to new things: foods (restricted diet), scents, medications
  • Guilt
  • Anxiety
  • Motion sickness: Trains, planes, buses, cars
  • Heat sensitivity
  • There are more...

I'm the type where I like to put my head down, work hard and not make excuses. I struggle with asking for help & sharing my struggles. I don't want to bring others down. Nor am I looking for sympathy.

But still I thought I'd share. Awareness is good, right? I know many struggle to understand.

I work hard to stay positive. I am thankful for the friends, family and health professionals who have stuck by and supported me.

2021 Update Part 1

2021 Update Part 2

2018 Story Part 1: Before the concussion

2018 Story Part 2: My concussion

2018 Story Part 3: You may not know you have concussion

2018 Story Part 4: Post-concussion symptoms (2018)

2018 Story Part 5: How I manage

2018 Story Part 6: Rewiring

2021 Concussion Update

2021 Update Part 1

Hey everyone. Thanks to those who checked out my previous videos for brain injury awareness month (June). Those were recorded in 2018 right before a couple concussions set me back. So I thought I'd give a 2021 update.

A lot of people, including myself, struggle to understand my situation. It's easy for others to judge. I've heard the comments like "that's normal", "youre just getting old", "i think I must have a concussion", "it's all in your head", etc. I used to think maybe I'm just crazy - this can't all be due to a concussion.

Since 2018, I have a much better team of support professionals who reassure me that all my symptoms are typical of post-concussion syndrome. And I'm not crazy.

I've joined support group and realized there are many of us out there. Unfortunately many of us just fade into the background - struggling to keep up with life. Socializing is hard or impossible. We aren't nearly as fun anymore either. I'm very thankful for those who have stuck by me.

My support team have been pushing me to work on music again, which I've missed. That's exciting, but drains me quickly. And it's challenging to jump back into things after a decade away.

2021 Update Part 2

Since the setback in 2018, I've struggled with cognitive fatigue and my days now include "planning & pacing", where I stop & rest 3-4 times per day for around 2-3 hours total. It makes outings with my young family challenging.

I also struggle with multi-tasking. I used to listen to music all the time and now I can't even listen to it while driving.

I struggle with head pressure, systemic inflammation, vibrations, loud environments, motion, stomach issues, guilt, irritability and more. I've tried dozens of treatments over the years and I'm a bit tired of it all.

I work hard to stay positive though. The stationary bike is great! I'm better supported & understood now that I've ever been.

I am fortunate to have 2 wonderful & healthy young kids and a supportive & understanding wife, family & a few friends. We are making it work and we have a lot for which to be thankful.

2018: My concussion story

My story Part 1: Before the concussion

So back to my story.

Before my concussion, my life was busy and alive. I graduated at the top of my class and did a masters on an NSERC scholarship.

I was pursuing music and put out a few albums, some videos and toured Canada. I was even fortunate to win an east coast music award.

I loved networking, meeting new people, making connections and running a side business. I ran marketing & promo campaigns for artists like Classified, Skratch Bastid and Eternia. I judged several music awards including the Junos.

I was very social - with 3-4 social events every week. Movies, dinners, partying, traveling and lots of sports.

My story Part 2: My concussion

Looking back, I now realize I suffered a series of small concussions from 2007 until 2011, which I naively ignored.

I first noticed issues in 2009, but didn't attribute them to small concussions until later.

Then in 2011, I suffered my big concussion. I was playing softball and collided with another outfielder - he was 240 lbs and pure muscle. I was sliding on my knees trying to make a diving catch and his lowered shoulder plowed into my head.

I remember the collision, but not much afterward. I've been told I continued to play the game, but I don't remember it.

I even went to work for 3 days. I've read the emails I sent in those 3 days and they seem coherent, which is the scary part.

On day 3, I went to the doctor with nausea, where I was diagnosed with a concussion.

My story Part 3: You may not know you have concussion

I suffered my big concussion back in 2011 playing the violent sport of softball.

Before I get into my details, if there's one thing I'd like for you take from today, it's this...

When someone suffers a concussion, they may not know they have a concussion.

Of if they do know, they may not know how severe it is.

When you stop and you think about it, when your brain gets injured, who does it tell that it's injured? It tells itself. And if your brain's injured, and not working properly, it's not going to be able to recognize it's own deficits.

It's really kind of messed up.

After my big concussion, it took me awhile to realize that because I'd injured my brain that I couldn't trust it.

Sports cards example:

While I was recovering, I started sorting through the boxes and binders of sports cards I'd collected as a kid.

Sorting and organizing them was a good non-computer brain activity.

I felt good about my sorting and ordering - confident I'd ordered them properly.

But when I would double-check them later, I realized that there were mistakes in my sorting. That's when I realized I couldn't trust my brain... or that maybe someone was messing with me :)

My story Part 4: Post-concussion symptoms (2018)

It took me 3 years to return to fulltime work.

I slept 16 hours per day for the first 6 months.

I had migraines for a year.

There many more symptoms that I'll leave for another day.

Now it's 7 years later and I'd say the most predominant symptoms are noise sensitivity and over-stimulation. There are other symptoms, but those are the most prominent.

Edit: The above was written in 2018 before I suffered a setback. I struggle with more symptoms now.

I started a family in 2015 and having kids has been more challenging than I expected and I've had some setbacks.

I've had to trade in the music scene for silence and relaxation music. Blah! I miss music a great deal, but it's what I have to do to get by.

Movies and TV are too stimulating. Back in 2012, I bought the Seinfeld DVD series and in the age of binge-watching TV, I'm now on season 5 :) Even a good book can be too much.

In a room with multiple conversations, my brain processes it all the sounds at the same time and I can't parse out the conversation in front of me. So I avoid parties, restaurants and such.

My story Part 5: How I manage

On the positive side, the concussion has made me slow down. It's allowed me to gain perspective.

What works best for me is quiet down time, low grade exercise, doing yoga or going for a walk.

I miss seeing friends for lunch or dinner, but it's just what I need to do to get by.

On the weekend, my wife gets the kids out of the house so I have silent time.

One of the challenges of post-concussion syndrome is having to say 'no' to things you would love to do.

There's a constant internal debate between what I want to do versus what I think would be best for me. Whereas before the concussion, I was always up for anything.

With all that being said, I'm still a pretty bright guy.

Friends & family sometimes say I have a great memory for someone with a concussion.

That just highlights that your brain has many functions beyond memory. And a concussion can impact people in many different and subtle ways. It's an invisible injury.

My story Part 6: Rewiring

Finally, I'm a strong believer that after a concussion, your brain will rewire quite strongly to the initial activities during recovery.

That's why I believe a balanced approach to recovery is very important and should include all aspects of your pre-concussion life, including hobbies, socializing and family.

Sports cards example:

While I was off, in the dead of winter, I needed motivation to go for walks. Every step sent painful vibrations through my head, but I knew fresh air and exercise was good for me.

So I would walk to the corner store every day and buy a pack of hockey cards. The walk brought feel-good endorphins with it, which I associated with the hockey cards.

Consequently, for a few years, I got really into hockey cards despite not really even enjoying them. My wife said it was a weird love-hate relationship. I've managed to kick the card habit, but I still have a constant strong urge to go out and buy a pack.

That's just one of several rewirings I'm hoping to improve.

Thanks for your time.

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