Amber from the Tea & Tonic team shares her experience with dealing with a recent concussion.
At the end of lock down in 2020 I got enthusiastic about the chance of finally meeting a lovely man I long had my eye on and I decided to deep clean my house for his first visit.
Two lockdowns had meant I couldn’t leave town and pursue my romantic hopes and I was growling at COVID for interfering with my love life, particularly at the height of summer when I feeling fit, healthy and glowing.
As I was congratulating myself on finding such a great spot for my bike under the house rather than it taking up the hallway I stepped back and whacked my head on the raw end of a very large exposed beam. It hadn’t helped that I was wearing a hat so I didn’t have my peripheral vision to alert me to surrounding dangers.
The effect was immediate. I wanted to vomit but I stopped myself and held my head, resisting the urge to cry. I lived on a shared property and I’d already created a scene stripping to my underwear and screaming out when I stumbled upon a wasp nest and got stung five times on my butt. Instead I suppressed all my responses, stumbled around for a bit holding the lump that instantly appeared and ended up on the couch for three hours with a pack of frozen peas on my head. My good friend Jonathan announced I was indeed a pea brain.
That night I went to bed with a headache across the front band of my head and woke feeling just as terrible.
Taking a head injury is disorienting and fear inducing. That first week I felt like I was getting the flu and I didn’t want to move my head or put my head down. I had trouble making food as everything was an enormous effort and I genuinely could only cope with sitting still. I couldn’t get words right and I was writing things in mixed sentences. I tried finding the word for anaesthetic but I could not get my brain to locate it… it gave me alternatives but it took about a week to remember what I had been grasping for. One of the strangest sensations was feeling like my whole head was compressed.
The second week the tears came and triggered grief that I had folded away in all my corners. I cried every day at everything and the headache remained.
The third week the overwhelm kicked in. Anything difficult would escalate into a sense of being beyond my capacity and I felt impatient and irritable at everyone and everything. The head injury would throb at the slightest stress and I got shooting pains in my head and neck.
I worried if I would ever get my words back, would I be able to do yoga, hike or feel normal? I wondered would I be damaged for life? I constantly beat myself up for stepping back and hitting my head… "How could you be so stupid to do that?".
My mantra to everyone else was “Don’t ever get concussion” whilst I silently berated myself.
I heard stories from those who had had concussion and got mixed advice on what to do: rest and be still, keep being active, have a massage, move your head, don’t move your head...
I’d love to share what I did do and what helped and what didn’t. Two and half months on I was still feeling fatigued and overwhelmed but at the very last, I was ready to date.
Now, two years on I still feel the effects but I believe if you take the right care you can really mitigate any long term consequences. I’ve noticed I’ve lost a bit of social confidence as I can get my words mixed up and I don’t feel as articulate. One day I was trying to say the letter “D” and the word “day” popped out of my mouth. I second guess when I introduce someone and worry if I’m saying the correct name. I don’t like being up high on a ladder and I feel my balance isn’t as stable and I still find it hard at times to locate words. In general I feel that I am not so resilient, I feel more rattled often and easily and can get mentally obsessed about small details. A couple of deep soothing and calming breaths, prioritising my needs and self care and saying no sometimes usually means I can find a balance.
In my experience, I absolutely recommend:
- Icing the injury for as long as you need. I felt the urge to ice over the week following and it offered immediate relief.
- Take arnica 30 c, and or Traumeel.
- Get cranio osteopathy. ACC covers it and it helps so much.
- Get acupuncture, this really helped relieve the compressed tight egg shape feeling of my head.
- Take high doses of evening primrose oil and vitamin c along with recommended doses of zinc and a multi-vitamin to reduce inflammation.
- Seek nutritional support from Gary Moller and eat a wholefoods diet with lots of good oils, fish, fruit, nuts and seeds. Avoid anything inflammatory.
- You may want to seek concussion advice from Concussion Care to ensure you receive the best resources to make a full and lasting recovery.
- Rest when you feel like it, cry as much as you need to, set your boundaries and minimise any stress.
- Minimise screen time, bright lights and movement.
- Take rescue remedy.
- Consider you may have whip lash and treat this with gentle head movements and cranio and possibly massage when you are ready (possibly after a couple of weeks).
- Only go for slow gentle walks for no more than twenty minutes.
- Explain to people you have concussion and what this means you need from them. As you won’t look injured people may forget, jostle you around, place expectations and demands on you that you just can’t meet. Explain to them that you’re healing and not able to be the most active engaging character right now. One of my friends kept forgetting I had concussion and commented I needed to wear a sign as I otherwise looked healthy. So be your own best friend and back what you need.
- If you are having trouble with words, remembering names or meeting past expectations of who you are just explain you’ve had a head injury and own your process. You can say “this is really embarrassing but I can’t recall your name. Please this isn’t personal as I’ve had a head injury, can you remind me?” You don’t need to be ashamed of your symptoms and most people can relate to a time of stress, illness or having an accident when they too struggled.
- Remember your body is designed to heal and be healthy and therefore you just need to let this occur.
So whilst something's worked, there were other's that didn't. Don’t:
- Try and keep your life going. Don’t pretend you don’t have a head injury, say yes to projects, keep up your exercise routine, plan a marathon or adventure holiday.
- Don’t over do it and think “concussion is not going to get the better of me”.
- Try and release any judgement or blame about how you got concussion and why. The fact is you’re injured and the fastest way to recover is kindness, rest, the right care and resources. Critical thinking, over doing it, proving yourself or harming yourself isn’t medicine.
- Don’t let anyone move or manipulate your neck unless they are deeply attuned and sensitive to your feedback. I saw a physio who encouraged my neck to go to places it wasn’t ready for. There is no need for anyone to push you ahead of your body wisdom’s pace.
- Don’t make major decisions about whether to break up your with partner, quit your work or move to the country whilst you are in the full trauma of the concussion. It’s possible it will trigger clarity but it’s also possible you may be feeling overwhelmed and best to make choices when you are in a healthful state of being.
- Don’t wear hats when you are going under the house or into new dark spaces as it stops your peripheral vision and you miss cues like I did.
- Try and not over do it so you get to the point of having a melt down. I hit this place several times and it was from trying to please others, going to bed too late and stepping over my own personal needs.
- Don’t spend too much time on screens or rest by being busy. Rest by lying in the sun, reading romantic fiction or doing something easy and nice.
- Take your time returning to work and screens and keep expressing your needs and seeking new resources.
Remember you will get through this and your body intelligence is designed to offer healing. Take the time now to give yourself the chance for an optimal recovery.