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.