How My Concussion Changed Me

May 25th, 2015 was a day that forever changed my life. It was a beautiful sunny Monday until I took a blow to the head. It’s a day that now causes me a great deal of anxiety, which in all honesty, I begin experiencing at the start of the month. I didn’t realize how powerful the anxiety was until the intensity of my headaches significantly diminished as soon as the date had passed. That was leading up to the one year anniversary date. The two year anniversary was less anxiety filled, but still quite notable.

My concussion had such an emotional and physical impact on me that I think about it almost every day. Things happen and I think to myself, “this never happened before my concussion” and then I spiral into a pit of sadness accompanied by a deep longing to be able to erase it all.

The emotional changes are significant. I shy away from activities I once readily participated in. I worry perpetually about what may happen. I enjoy things less because I experience them differently and that signature phrase runs through my mind and steals my joy. I feel damaged. The physical changes stir up my emotions and then intensify with the added stress.

Presently, I deal with headaches, sensitivity to light (all my screens are dimmed), changes in my scanning ability (I can’t watch repetitive movements in fast motion anymore, not in person or on video), minor word finding challenges, and some memory changes. For the first year or so following the concussion, I also experienced visual-perceptual disturbances (aura-like). The headaches are the most significant. I almost never experienced headaches before the injury. Now I get them on a weekly, sometimes daily basis. If it rains: headache. If there are bright overhead lights: headache. If I’m laughing and having a good time, but move my head too quickly: headache. If it’s sunny outside: headache. If I’m tired or stressed: headache. If I’m riding as a passenger in a car: headache. Headaches all the time.

Following my concussion, I tried many alternative therapies. I was desperate for relief. Acupuncture, massage therapy, chiropractic care  — if there was something that had even a remote chance of helping, I was ready to try it. Unfortunately, while enjoyable, I didn’t find any of it to be particularly helpful at remediating my symptoms. I have found some relief in using essential oils, which is a newer avenue of exploration that I hope to continue gaining knowledge with. I recognize that being upset increases my symptoms, so I try as best I can to tell myself I’m the same, and that my brain is not different, but it’s hard. It’s a daily struggle. It’s a struggle that nobody can see, so it’s often very isolating. Talking to others with personal experience, while hard, is helpful because they understand. Many of them experience these differences, too. They recount stories of their loved ones and friends assuring them that what they are experiencing is normal and happens to everyone and is not due to their concussion. As people who had concussions, we know different. It is hard to pinpoint some of the changes, but they are present and we feel them. We live them.

I believe my brain is still recovering. Believing this helps me move forward. As I continue to heal emotionally and physically, I am slowly opening myself to sharing what I know with others by relaying my experiences, advocating for treatment (physical therapy was hugely helpful for me), and focusing my professional growth in this area.

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