Updated: Feb 10
May 21st, 2017 was the day that forever changed my life. It was a beautiful sunny day, I’d just come back from a work meeting and met a friend. When I talk about my old life, it’s like recalling an old friend, who’s now gone. I am a different person in a lot of ways. I am sure so many other people who have had a concussion can relate to this.
At the beginning, I didn’t realize what was happening and it all just felt temporary. I was “waiting and surviving” until my symptoms would disappear by themselves. But I waited for months, those months became a year and it’s so frustrating to wait without knowing when things will get better, without feeling any improvement. What was I waiting for? Would there be an improvement at all, was I waiting for nothing? I didn’t want to spend my time just waiting. This was all in the lead-up to the one-year anniversary and to be honest, the two-year anniversary wasn’t that much better.
I used to have so much energy. I always stayed at parties or visits to friends until the end, because I didn’t want to go home, and I really enjoyed the company. But now, after my brain injury, I like my quiet moments at home alone; I have become my own best friend. Most of the time I am the first person to leave a social activity, and that’s so not the “old” me! I was never scared of anything in my life, never aware that things could go wrong and I took my health for granted. I went from travelling the whole world alone, to having anger and fear about what could go wrong. I am so much more aware that a life can be changed within just 1 second.
Many people know a brain injury can cause physical problems, but there are personality changes that comes with a concussion as well. For me, the mental part was the hardest, but if you had told me this before my accident I would have not believed it. Now I am so much more empathetic to others who are not doing well in some stage of their lives.
My concussion had such an emotional and physical impact on me that I think about it every day. When things happen or probably with all things I do, I am always thinking: “This never happened before my concussion” or “I would have done this differently without my concussion”. I spiralled into frustration, sadness and a deep longing to be able to erase it all.
The emotional changes are significant. I shy away from activities that once made me the happiest person on earth. I worry about what could happen and I enjoy things less because I experience them differently, it steals my joy. I feel damaged, I can’t do the things that made me happy before my accident. The physical changes stir up my emotions.
I am doing better now, but still dealing with symptoms. I have tried many alternative therapies, looking for relief. Acupuncture, massage therapy, neurofeedback, chiropractic, craniosacral therapy and much more. If there was something that gave hope, I was always ready to try it. Unfortunately, I was disappointed so many times and that held me back from trying new things for a while. It felt like a waste of money and energy. At the moment I am only using essential oils and doing yoga and meditation.
Being upset increases my symptoms, it’s a waste of my energy so every time when I am getting upset, disappointed or sad, I try to think immediately about the things I am grateful for (tip: use a gratitude journal and read it during those times). You can tell your brain things so many times and there becomes a time the brain starts believing it. It’s not easy, it can take time to get used to this new way of thinking, but it’s definitely helping me. When you keep repeating things there will be a time your brain starts to believe it.
It’s a daily struggle. It’s a struggle that nobody can see, and it can be very isolating. Talking to others who are in the same situation is so helpful; they understand exactly where I am going through. I have read that a lot of them are experiencing these differences too.
Our brains are flexible or “moldable” because neurons can do new things by making new, stronger connections with other neurons. For me, this means there is always hope. Even after many years, there will be new things that will help, that I can try. The best thing we can do is sharing what we know with others, giving our tips and supporting each other.
I believe my brain is still recovering. Believing this helps me move forward.
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