7 Things I Never Knew About Concussions Until My Head Injury

I had absolutely zero idea how a simple bump on the head could be life-changing until it happened to me. Here are seven things I’ve learned about concussions through my experience:

1. A concussion can change your vision.

I had no idea that your vision could get messed up after a hit to the head. My eyes had considerable trouble tracking things, which made it very difficult to read, watch TV or drive. For the first month after my concussion, I couldn’t read more than a paragraph at a time without a considerable headache, dizziness and the need to lie down to recover.

2. There is no timeline for concussion recovery.

Although most people recover within a few weeks, not everyone follows the same pattern. There is also no way of knowing how long it will take for an individual to recover. Generally, people who have had several concussions, women and those with a history of headaches are more likely to have longer recoveries.

3. Concussion symptoms don’t always show up right after the head injury.

After my injury, I initially didn’t feel anything more than a dull headache. About a week later, the dizzy spells, panic attacks and insomnia set in.

4. Concussions can lead to excessive fatigue and depression.

It’s hard to describe the idea of “fatigue” to someone who hasn’t experienced chronic fatigue before. Fatigue is being exhausted after you take a shower. It’s having to take several breaks while trying to clean your bathroom. And being tired all the time is depressing. When all you want is a dark room to lie down in, the darkness tends to spread to everything else. It’s hard to get through months where your progress is measured by how many minutes you can survive in a grocery store or how many pages you can read before you need a break.

5. There is a stigma associated with post-concussion syndrome.

I remember telling people I was having problems from a concussion two months after my accident and they would give me weird looks. So you can imagine how people respond if I say I’m still having problems 10 months after my accident.  And it’s not just people – there are many doctors who have no idea that concussions can lead to chronic problems. Then there’s self-stigma. Because everything is so hard, it becomes easy to question your own worth. Sometimes it feels like you are reduced to nothing more than symptoms, especially if you’re having a bad day.

6. Concussions can cause balance issues.

Running into walls, struggling to stay upright in an environment with a lot of moving things, and becoming dizzy when turning your head is par for the course for someone with post-concussive dizziness. Balance problems can also lead to considerable anxiety. It’s terrifying to feel like you are floating around when in fact you are totally still.

7. Recovering from post-concussion syndrome is hard work.

Recovery is not a passive process. You have to work hard to expose yourself to situations that are difficult for your brain. And it’s painful. So painful. So if you know someone struggling with a concussion, give them a hug. Because it’s hard, and people with post-concussion syndrome need hugs.

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Thinkstock photo via SIphotography.

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