Mar 30, 2015, 07:17AM

The School of Hard Knocks

Living with a concussion.

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I could tell people a really cool story about what happened to me last week, like doing a 180 off the half pipe on my snowboard. However, I was just plain clumsy, paddling around the dark at night, missing a step and doing a perfect face plant into the wall resulting in a concussion. Millions of people, particularly athletes, sustain brain injuries each year, many of which are never treated medically, resulting in irreversible brain damage. I was lucky to get help right away.

Unlike other biological systems, the brain is connected to that other remarkable component: the mind. The mind represents the flow of all those things—behaviors, sensation, thoughts, reasoning, emotions and communications that reflect what the brain is doing. During a concussion, your brain is spun around, impacting each side of the skull and essentially paralyzing the neurological system. Everyone’s injuries are unique.

The day after my fall, I left the doctor’s office with instructions for “brain rest.” This meant no stimulation to the brain. No TV, computer, reading, writing, texting, noise, no nothing. I went home, lay prone on my bed with my Victoria’s Secret sleep mask over my eyes. Doing nothing but thinking for a week isn’t easy.

I find that contemplating life for too long can be a tedious and boring endeavor. Toward the end of the week, my anxiety started to wane and I settled into a more positive state, letting go of the “Why did this happen to me?” for the “I’m so lucky it wasn’t worse” attitude. My vision was blurry, I often strained to remember common words and names and felt like my head had been pressure-filled, pumped up like a balloon. My trauma resulted in abnormal vestibular system functioning, which means my brain was receiving abnormal signals regarding the position and movement of my head in space. Affecting both vision and hearing, I’d struggle to stay focused on what people were saying to me and was only able to keep my eyes looking forward, not side to side. Doing these things would result in my brain firing off pings of painful confusion and then tearful sadness. My only recourse was to go back to bed and shut it down.

This week, I’m doing a bit better. I can still only focus for short periods of time and it’s taken me four days to write this all down. I can’t drive, exercise or stay upright very long but think my body is mounting a repair campaign to patch up the bruise and return the chemical balance. I can’t do anything at this point but believe in the restorative powers of the human brain. My doctor sent me a sweet email that said, “It’s a slow healing process, but it will heal.”


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