Each story I read seems to be along the same line. Some of the similarities are:
- Wanting an answer to how long symptoms will last
- Feeling alone and confused
- Feeling people don't care or understand what someone suffering from a concussion or TBI are going thru. ( Especially family and friends)
- The feeling of WHEN WILL THIS EVER END!
- Migraines, nausea, fatigue, dizziness, cognitive thinking, noise and light sensitivity, blurred vision, sleep patterns, anxiety, mood swings etc...
First off, for those of you reading this I am not a doctor, psychiatrist, or nutritionist. I am just a 20 year old girl who suffered a traumatic brain injury at the age of 16 and am writing this to share my feelings, emotions and experience as well as my personal advice. I just want to share my journey through injury and recovery with you and hopefully help in any way I can. I have made so many mistakes and if I could give anyone any advice or answers on certain questions one might have I hope this helps. I have grown and learned so much over these past five years about concussions and myself and I am happy to share with you!
When you are suffering from a concussion and experiencing the symptoms associated with a concussion, it can be so frustrating! Unless you have suffered a concussion or experienced concussion symptoms, it can be hard for one to have an understanding of how someone is feeling. You cannot “see” a traumatic brain injury. It's not like a broken arm, or broken leg, we don't have a cast so when people look at us they think we are fine as on the outside we look normal but deep down we can be experiencing many symptoms such as migraines, nausea, dizziness, etc....
After my initial accident in august of 2011, I have seen over eight neurologists and they all had something different to say. I remember one neurologist told me to stay out of the ocean and not surf or go to school for a year. Another told me I could surf and go back to living my life after one week. Confusing right? After leaving every appointment I just felt even more alone and confused then when I walked into my appointment. I never got any answers to the questions I had. I was a professional surfer at the time and surfing was my life, it was all I knew. Surfing was my main source of happiness, my escape, the thing that brought me the biggest joy to my life. So of course, every appointment I had with a neurologist my first question was when can I surf again. My next question usually was how long will my symptoms and concussion last for. Of course I left every appointment with the same answer. REST and TIME.
All I wanted was answers to my questions which I never seemed to get. All the doctors I saw just wanted to give me some sort of medication to “treat” my symptoms. I tried over 6 different migraine medicines. I even had botox treatments to help treat my migraines. I was prescribed nausea medication, depression medication, but none of this helped my brain heal it just helped treat my symptoms. Unfortunately, there is no magic pill to treat a concussion and there is no answer on when you will be 100 percent. The only answer is TIME. How frustrating!
I laid in my room for over eight months, no TV, no computer, no phone, no technology! Nothing that would stimulate my brain because this would only prolong my recovery time. Technology can be very over stimulating for the brain and eyes so it is important to limit or get rid of completely all technology till your symptoms reside. I remember reading the same paragraph in my textbook 6 times and not knowing or comprehending what I was reading. My migraines and nausea were so bad I missed my junior and part of senior year of highschool. School actually made me sick and it got to the point where It wasn't worth the suffering so I had to let my brain rest and heal.
THE POSITIVE OUTLOOK:
Our brains are the largest, most complex and important organ in the human body. Our brains receive information from the rest of the body. They interpret information, and then guide the body to respond. The brain interprets odors, light, sounds and pain. The brain also helps perform vital operations such as breathing, maintaining blood pressure, and releasing hormones, (chemical signals that control certain cells and organs). Our minds can be so powerful and it is easy to let our thoughts and emotions affect our daily life in a negative or positive way. The one thing we have the power over is the way we think. There are two ways at viewing your situation.
- You can feel sorry for yourself, and start to feel lonely or depressed.
- You can accept what has happened and make steps in the direction of loving your brain and body, listening to it and helping it heal.
WHAT HELPED ME COPE WITH THESE ISSUES:
Depression is just one symptom that many seem to get after a concussion. Of course when you don't feel your best or not able to do what you want it is normal for one to develop depression especially after a certain period of time. Someone told me to view my depression like this, and this helped me. “ I've learned to embrace the depression if that's what you would call it, I say hello to it, and then let it go with a blessing. My goal is to never let the dark beast win because he can be a bitch.”
Our mind is our greatest enemy. Unfortunately everyday we deal with a fight physically and mentally due to a concussion. Sometimes just being able to just speak your mental dilemmas does help. You may realize that a lot of things you're thinking have no substance or meaning to your life. If you can accept the bad, the dark, and the ugly then the good that comes along will be even sweeter. As cliche as this sounds, with no hardship we would never know what the “good” actually felt like. If you feel yourself focusing on only the negative try to focus on the good that is in your life and really embrace the things that you do have. Realize that maybe your bad day is someone's good day. When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.
Migraine triggers: Sleep, stress, caffeine, hormones, environment, dehydration, computer screens, and food. Here are just a few main things that can trigger a migraine so it is important to take a look at what you can do to help limit these triggers. Daily journals can be helpful!
Stabbing, thumping, pounding, knife jabbing, ugh migraines are the worst!! I would get them for almost 15 days at a time with no relief. I was prescribed painkillers and migraine medicine, but soon after I started getting rebound headaches from the medications and of course all the side effects that come along with these drugs. I realized that I needed to go the holistic route and try other solutions to help get my migraines under control. Acupuncture and my diet played the biggest role in getting my migraines under control. I have an extremely good accupuncturist that was able to get my hormones and migraines under control. Just like in any profession there are some people that are good at what they do and others that aren't. I have seen acupuncturists that didn't help me in any way so I think it's about finding someone that is really experienced and highly referred! Make sure you are getting plenty of rest after suffering a concussion or TBI. Also make sure you are drinking plenty of water, at least three liters a day. Supplement wise, magnesium pills and fish oil pills were beneficial in my health. Like I said this is what worked for me and my experience. I always make sure to get plenty of rest and try limiting my stress levels as much as possible.
I truly believe food is our medicine. You are what you eat! Food that enters your mouth has direct impact on your body, mind, and spirit. I think it is so important to eat healthy. Nutrition is everything and certain foods have been proven to be migraine inducers and inflame the body. I tried consuming as little processed food as possible and staying away from sugar. Also no ALCOHOL!! Alcohol dehydrates us and is a poisoning to our body so if you have a concussion I wouldn't consume any alcohol. It is all about finding what works for your body, I tried being vegan for a year and my body didn't react well to this diet so I incorporated fish, eggs, and greek yogurt back into my life. I still pretty much live off a plant based diet and consume as many healthy fats as possible. I think coconut oil, flaxseed, salmon, avocado are so good for our brains and provide us with healthy omegas 3 and 6 that are so healing for our brains and body. I will be writing a whole other page next week on nutrition for our brains and go more into depth with all of this!
4.) FRIENDS, LOVERS AND FAMILY
Ok so everyone I have been talking with seems to be experiencing the same situation with family, friends, and loved ones. For those of you whose friends have not called to check on you or came to visit you, I completely understand how much it hurts. Honestly, It is actually a blessing in disguise because you get to find out who your real friends are. It is crazy how mean and selfish people can be but in the end it is better to have a few quarters than a bunch of pennies. Keep the good friends you do have close and never let them go! For anyone who thinks you are exaggerating your symptoms or just doesn't understand you, this is just out of your control and you have to try your best to let it go. How can something so simple be so hard to do? Why can letting go be so hard?? I'm still working on it. It doesn't happen overnight, but it is so important to accept some things for what they are and let go. Only you know how you are feeling and what you are experiencing, so try not to listen to what others are saying. I know it's hard when loved ones and the people you are closest to don't understand how you’re feeling, but now is time for you to listen to your body and never let anyone push you to do anything you're not ready to do!
5.) DON’T RETURN BACK TO ACTIVITY TILL ALL SYMPTOMS RESIDE!!!
I am so happy to be able to share this with you because this was the number one mistake I made in the past four years and in my mind I am 100 percent confident telling you that until you are experiencing zero to practically no symptoms at all, after a concussion, DO NOT return back to your sport! During the post concussive syndrome time period, I kept trying to surf. I didn't realize that I was suffering little concussions because I never fully let my brain rest and heal. I started to think, “maybe it is mind over matter,” and I tried getting back into the ocean to surf, not knowing that I was just damaging my brain even more.
NO IT IS NOT MIND OVER MATTER! THE BRAIN IS NOTHING TO MESS WITH. If I had just let my brain rest and heal, without trying to push through, I wouldn't be where I am today. It has been almost five years and I am just now getting over the hump and making my way to full recovery. If I could give any advice to anyone, especially athletes, I need to tell you that I know how hard it is to stay out of the sport you love, but you must love your brain more than that sport and let it heal. It got to the point where I had almost 13 concussions, and I had two ER doctors come in my room to tell me, “Harley, I am not telling you this as your doctor, but as if you were my daughter. You have had too much impact to your brain and the next time you come in here it isn't going to be good. You will probably have a brain bleed, and you might die.”
After this I spent one full year out of the ocean, no school, minimal work, little activity; and finally, because of this, I got over the hump and am eight months strong without any symptoms. I know one more truth: besides allowing for lots of time and rest to heal, no one should ever return back to activity until all symptoms reside!
I hope some of this was helpful to whomever is reading this. If anyone has any questions feel free to email me, and I would be happy to talk to you more.
xx Harley Rose Taich