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How My Daughter's Concussion Taught Me How to Rest

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When I hear the word “concussion” I think of football. There’s been a push to focus on these injuries in sports, and I am certainly on my teen to “protect his noggin” when he longboards. But I never paired migraine and concussion. The intense, extra-ordinary pain that can literally knock your feet out from under you, leaving you sprawled flat. I never realized until my daughter called me from the emergency room.

Migraines have been a part of life my entire life. When I was a child, my mother used to get what everyone referred to as “sick-headaches,” disappearing into her room for several days, only to emerge drawn, pale and seeking a cup of tea. Migraine wasn’t in our vocabulary.

Years later, I learned about migraines when my teenage daughter was diagnosed. And I learned that trying to identify what caused them, and the best treatment was like nailing Jello to a wall. Impossible to do, and messy to boot as you engage in endless trial and error.

Ask someone with migraine what could possibly be worse than that immediate pain, and they can’t imagine. I’ve only ever had two myself but I can remember laying on the floor, unable to move, clutching a bucket.  Now add the concussion.

It wasn’t diagnosed that morning in the emergency room. Pupils looked fine, blood work was good. Two days later, the pounding head, nausea and vomiting had her back at her primary, diagnosed and sent for a CT scan.

Following a concussion diagnosis, you’re told to let your brain “rest.” No stress, no television, no reading, no homework, no tests, no puzzles, no “active engagement.” It’s easy to comply with some on that list.  The “no stress” one is the killer. My daughter is a college student in a science program. Her classes make my non-migraine, no concussion head hurt. Midterms are just around the corner. Labs are waiting to be done, and she’s like a coiled spring.

I don’t tell her to relax. Foolish advice that increases the stress level. Instead, we focus on the mundane, revel in it. I’ve rented a house for a few days, away from the campus. We look at the city skyline, sipping tea. We walk the .2 miles to the market and choose the best looking apples we can find. We eat breakfast for dinner at a local diner and walk back “home” through the falling snow. We reminisce about when she was small and family vacations and I make her favorite scones from scratch in our rental kitchen. We shared buttered scones and milky tea and it’s comfortably quiet. We hear the whistle of a passing train and she remarks that it sounds like home.

Migraines aren’t “just a headache.” There are consequences. Every day, I learn something new. This week, it was that you shouldn’t just ignore a “bump on the head.” Concussions aren’t just in sports, they can occur in the middle of the night, when you aren’t doing anything in particular.

Like many migraines, concussions don’t have a “silver bullet” to put everything back to normal. It’s a process that takes time, requiring attention, but not laser-like focus.

There are times when you have to listen to your gut, and give your brain a free pass. Realize that even with diagnosis in hand, you can’t shut your brain off. The key is giving it something else to do. While this may not seem earth-shattering, it was a revelation for a person like me that wants to get in there, find a solution and move forward.

This week I learned that was best accomplished with a trip to market, a cup of tea and a walk around the block.

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Thinkstock image provided by: szefei

Originally published: February 21, 2017
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