Sharing my concussion story, what life has been like lately with post-concussive syndrome, and my musings on healing and recovery.
These past six weeks have been excruciatingly hard and in some ways they have also been strangely beautiful.
In case you didn’t know, six weeks ago I was in an accident. Steve and I had just finished a dinner date night out (after not being home together for three weeks, we had lots of catching-up to do). After dinner, we decided to walk across the street to another restaurant where our friend recently started a new job – we thought we’d pop over to say a quick hello while he was working. As we crossed the street, my eyes were set on the restaurant where he works and so my gaze was to the right. Little did I know that to my left, a pick-up truck was making a swift left hand turn onto the street where we were crossing. Steve must have been looking at the restaurant too because neither of us saw it coming. And unfortunately, the driver didn’t see us crossing the street either. Steve was just a few steps ahead of me and all the sudden out of the corner of my eye I see the side of this truck just inches away from Steve and my heart started racing and I started to say, “Oh my — but was interrupted by the loud BOOM that followed and the piercing pain in the side of my head. I’d been hit.
As my body moved in space, I caught myself from falling to the ground. The adrenaline rushing through my body propelled me to start frantically waving my hands in the air at the driver and motioning to her to pull over. Steve, meanwhile, was ushering me out of the street and onto the much safer sidewalk. Steve started asking me if I knew where I was and what happened and made me follow his fingers with my eyes. I felt fine. Just in shock. And I couldn’t deter my focus from the vehicle that hit me. She ended up pulling over but she was at least two blocks away from us. By the time I said to Steve you should run over to her and get her information, she pulled away. We never got her plates or anything.
We basically handled the situation all wrong. I can’t say I ever took the “what to do when you get hit by a car crossing a street” class so I was ill-prepared. We both were. It also didn’t help that we were both in states of shock. That kind of clouds any common-sense you might normally have. We went home. It was late. I cried. I laughed hysterically. I felt a little manic. But I was exhausted and went to bed. I slept for almost 12 hours. I woke up and felt extremely depressed. It was Memorial Day Weekend and Steve and I made a bunch of plans since we hadn’t had a weekend at home together in weeks. I didn’t feel like doing anything. None of our plans felt appealing to me. I felt a little numb but the tears also kept falling.
Steve went out to go get bagels for us (as if there was some chance that bagels could cure trauma). They were delicious but I (not surprisingly) still felt depressed afterwards. While he was gone (now this is kind of embarrassing) I literally googled “what to do when you get hit as a pedestrian.” Again because no class on this stuff, and also apparently loss of common sense. It walked through like seven steps or something and we completed one of the seven. Steve ushered me out of the street and onto the sidewalk. We however failed to do everything else: get the driver’s information, call the police, seek medical attention. Whoops. When Steve came back home, I told him I think we should go to the police station to file a report and he said he was thinking the same thing driving home. So we went to the police station and filed a report and they recommended I go to the ER to get evaluated.
Next stop was the ER and they did a complete neuro eval on me but said I seemed fine and they didn’t think it was necessary to do any scanning. The Attending told me that she thought I probably had a mild concussion but that most symptoms only last a few days and I should be good to go back to work next week. What I wish she had said is what every subsequent doctor told me which is that concussions are extremely unpredictable and we can’t predict how long your symptoms will last but you should plan on taking this next week off and to just focus on recovering.
Because what do you think I did? I went right back to work the following week. The doctor told me it was fine and that was all I needed to hear! I went to a sweaty yoga class the following Wednesday and the music felt so loud and so triggering I wanted to scream. I should have just rolled up my mat and left but I didn’t. Afterwards, I had the worst headache and went into brain fog mode. I didn’t feel like myself again. I saw a few clients and decided to take the rest of the week off. The next week looked similar. After resting for four days, I started to feel better and thought I could go back to work on Monday. I did. And I regretted it immediately. Headaches. Eye pain. Brain fog.
And so I took the rest of the week off again. And for the past few weeks have just been trying to work on a modified part-time-ish schedule, taking frequent breaks. I’ve never had a concussion before so this was all new to me. But my symptoms have been sensitivity to light and sound, headaches, eye fatigue/strain, brain fog (or cognitive fatigue), and screen time is a big trigger for my headaches/eye strain.
Here’s what I’ve learned about concussions:
- Treatment feels impossible. The only treatment for concussions is brain rest. BRAIN. REST. Please tell me how to rest one’s brain. Oh, right. You can’t because our brains are always working.
- They are emotionally challenging. It’s an injury you can’t see. In fact, no one can see it. So on the outside you appear to be just fine. No one would no you’re struggling. But on the inside, you want to cry and scream.
- There’s so much we don’t know. From what I’ve gathered from doctors, this is a very new field and there’s not a ton of research on post-concussive syndrome so there’s not a ton they can give you in terms of treatment besides telling you to rest and take it easy.
- There’s no correlation between the severity of the injury and severity or duration of the symptoms. So that ER Attending who told me I probably had a “mild” concussion that should resolve in a few days probably shouldn’t have made that assumption because there’s no way to know. And it totally set me up for unrealistic expectations for how this would all play out.
- You have to be patient (and I’m not). It’s so hard to not have a timeline. To not know when (or even if) your symptoms will disappear and you’ll start to feel like yourself again. This requires so much patience and faith.
Post-Concussive Syndrome Life
At the beginning of this post I said in some ways these past six weeks have also been strangely beautiful. The reason I said that is because by slowing down, I’ve opened up so much more space for other things besides work. Here are a few of my regular activities as of late:
- Walking on the (almost) daily. We’re so lucky to live close to parks and ponds that I find myself gravitating towards them to soak in all the healing powers of nature.
- Taking extra long lunch breaks where I just sit outside in the shade and watch what’s going on around me.
- Baking. I started baking bread and I love having homemade bread on hand now. I have the easiest recipe from Edible Boston that’s very forgiving. It’s a fermented, no knead bread so it is a two-day process but only takes 5 minutes to actually make.
- Float therapy. This float therapy place recently opened up in my neighborhood and I find myself there at least once a week now. It’s basically a sensory deprivation experience where you float in a tank that has a super high concentration of salt. Every time I go I have a different experience, which I chock up to the same thing as sitting down to meditate or getting onto my yoga mat (it’s always different). Some days I float and 60 minutes feels like 30. Some days I feel myself floating in and out of consciousness. Other days, I can’t get out of my head, I feel antsy and 60 minutes feels like 90. But I keep on coming back. Because I always leave feeling extremely relaxed.
- Audiobooks. So typically me resting involves binge watching TV or reading a good book. With a concussion, TV is a trigger and reading can be too so I tried on listening to audiobooks for a change. I never have listened to an audiobook before. I convinced myself that the only way to read was with a physical book in hand, flipping through pages with your fingers. Not. Anymore. I’m such a huge fan of audiobooks now. It’s become my source of entertainment these past several weeks. I’ve “read” Little Fires Everywhere, The Handmaid’s Tale, and The Great Alone. I didn’t love The Handmaid’s Tale but only because I’d already watched the first season on Hulu so there was nothing to be discovered. But I’d highly recommend the other two books. I’m also slowly making my way through Landwhale by Jes Baker but that is an actual physical book so it’s taking me long but I love it – Jes Baker is a brilliant writer – she’s witty, funny, and so real and honest.
- Hitting up the farmer’s Market. Because when you slow down, you have time to walk to the market to buy yourself fresh, local produce. Mind-blowing revelation, I know.
- Bonding with Steve. Without the TV to turn on at night, we’ve been way more present with each other after he gets home from work. It’s been such a gift and one that makes me want to throw our TV out the window so we don’t fall back into old patterns.
- Gentle and restorative yoga. My doctors recommended avoiding any strenuous exercise until my symptoms disappear so I’ve been practicing gentle and restorative forms of yoga more often.
The Struggles of Healing and Recovery
Healing from this concussion has been so mentally and emotionally and physically challenging for me. The hardest part for me to cope with has been the unknown. Not knowing when I’ll start to feel like myself again and the biggest fear of all, what if I never feel like myself again (which is a reality with post-concussive syndrome although pretty rare). What if my symptoms never fully disappear. What if this is my “new normal” – a phrase I came across in some articles people wrote on recovering from a concussion. Side note, I also quickly learned not to read anything about the internet on concussions because it always ended in tears. The not knowing piece is so hard.
Going through my own healing journey, I began to draw parallels to the work I do with clients who are also in their own recovery process. Some of my clients are recovering from and eating disorder and some of my clients are recovering from diet culture. I’ve heard the fear from my clients before – what if I never recover? What if intuitive eating doesn’t work for me? Although I understand that recovering from an injury and an eating disorder are two totally different things, I think there are similarities in any sort of healing or recovery process. And the bottom line is healing and recovery are not linear. It is not a straight line. There is often no roadmap to lead you there. You have to navigate the murky waters. You must learn to sit with the discomfort. You have to try to cultivate patience and faith. You surround yourself with people who understand and who’ve been through it. You search for hope. And you’ll have setbacks. You’ll have days where you just want to throw in the towel and quit. But you pick yourself back up and muster the strength that is inherently in each one of us and you keep pushing through. You recognize the small wins. The minor improvements. Because they provide a glimmer of hope. They show you progress is being made, despite the setbacks. The momentum is upward.
Healing is hard. Recovery is hard. But it’s worth it. YOU are worth it.
Despite feeling pretty hopeless at times throughout my recovery, I’m finally starting to feel like I’m getting better and making improvements. I’m not back to 100% yet but I’m hopeful it’s coming soon. I’m supposed to follow-up with a neurologist at the 6 week mark if I’m still having symptoms so that’s likely my next step. This weekend, I’m going to Buffalo to visit family. Steve’s grandfather is in the hospital and not doing so well so we’re going back to visit him. Please keep him and his family in your prayers.
And I also just want to thank you all for your well wishes and love and support over these past several weeks. It’s hasn’t been an easy road but it warms my heart to know that so many people are thinking of me and sending me healing vibes.
And if you made it to the end of this post, phew, good for you! ;). Thank you for listening. This post has felt like it’s been brewing in my head for the past few weeks and it feels pretty cathartic to get it down on…I was going to say paper but you know that I mean. I hope that this post helps someone who is in their own process of healing, whatever that may look like, to know you are not alone. <3
Would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. xoxo
How are you getting on now?
I have post-concussion syndrome too and have learnt over time to really manage my limitations. Life is very different now but it’s sure given me a new appreciation for it.
I blog about my recovery journey. Would love you to check it out.
I’m so sorry to hear of your accident. You poor thing. Try to take one day at a time. Wishing you a speedy recovery.
Thank you so much, Chloe. xo
Oh my goodness Kara, I’m so sorry you’ve had to go through all of this. Amazing that you are turning things around and really making this a time of healing and nurturing. I wish you a speedy recovery and know you’ve got lots of love and support from lots of people, including me!
Thanks so much, Sara. It means the world knowing that people are thinking of me and rooting for my recovery. Sending you love back! xo
Oh my Kara, so sorry to hear about your accident. Love that you have taken the opportunity to take care of yourself during this recovery.
Thanks so much, Abbey. <3
Oh my gosh! So sorry to hear about your accident, Kara. So glad you are okay! Thank you for sharing. Best wishes towards your continued healing!
Thank you, Emily!! Appreciate the well wishes! <3
WOW. First, I am so sorry that this happened to you, how scary! But you’re right – it’s not like there is a class on what to do! I’m glad that you’ve been able to find positivity among the brain fog and that you’re recovering from it. Thank you for sharing and I hope you are back to 100% soon!
Thanks so much, Becca! Appreciate the well wishes! <3
Wow, this is such an amazing (and scary) story. So glad you’re okay and on the healing path.
Thank you so much, Jodi. <3
Ugh so sorry to hear about this Kara, but love that you shared your experiences. Wishing you nothing but the best!
Thanks so much, Emily! xo
Wow I am so sorry you are dealing with this! Concussions are so scary & I never realized how involved the recovery can be!
Thank you, Erin! <3
It’s wonderful that you took a tough situation and used it to learn or try something new like the audiobooks! All the best to you Kara!
Thanks so much, Rebecca! xo
Thanks for sharing your experience. Have you tried finding out if stores in the area have security cameras so you can track down the person who hit you? That’s horrible that she drove away. Just horrible. But glad you are on the mend.
We’ve tried to follow-up with the detective department who was supposed to investigate the case regarding security cameras but they haven’t returned our calls :(. Thanks, Elaine.
Oh my goodness. How scary this must be for all of you! Writing about it must be a therapy in and of its own. I’m sure your story will go on to help someone else in the same position. Stay strong. We are rooting for you!
Thanks, Amy! It is definitely therapeutic to write about it for sure. xi=o
Hi Kara – so sorry to hear about your concussion but really appreciate you sharing this. My best wishes for you as you continue to get better.
Thanks for the best wishes, Leah! <3
Kara, I am so sorry to hear the news of your accident. This is very brave of you to put out there and share your struggles. Thank you, as I’m sure it will help many who have gone through the same. You bright outlook and positive perspective are truly inspiring. I send you all the best in a quick and full recovery 🙂
Thank you, Whitney. I sure hope it will help others. Thanks for the well wishes! XO
Hi Kara, this is the first I’m hearing of your accident as well. I am so sorry you have had to deal with this. So scary.
My neighbor had a bad concussion earlier this year from surfing and it took him almost two months of no screens and brain rest to recover. He also took CBD, which has neuroprotectant, antioxidant, analgesic, antiinflammatory, and antianxiety properties. He is back 100% now. Take good care of yourself, my friend.
Thank you, Janice. So glad we were able to connect re: CBD oil. <3
Thank you for sharing your story and your struggle, Kara. The fact that you can reflect on the silver lining aside from all the pain is incredible. Sending you hugs and wishes for a speedy recovery!
Thanks for the hugs, Andrea! Right back atcha. <3
What a scary experience. I also have suffered a “mild concussion” and continue to have symptoms recur at times, even three years post concussion. I also have benefited from restorative yoga as well as acupuncture. As strange as it may sound, you also may benefit from occupational or speech therapies. The OT, during her evaluation noted that I have a convergence insufficiency. She referred me to a neuro ophthalmologist, and I was prescribed glasses with prisms, as well as blue blockers to help address the light sensitivity.
This can be a lifelong journey. I encourage you to find skilled practitioners to support you in your healing and recovery.
Thank you for sharing, Ruth! I was just prescribed glasses as well as the trauma exacerbated my vision problems.
I’m so sorry to hear about the accident but thankful you and Steve are ok. Were you too ever able to find out from the driver what happened? I hope you are recovering well and taking it easy. You may or may of not heard of glutathione but it is the body’s master antioxidant. Every cell of the body produces it but people can generally run extremely low on it. Diabetics, folks that are fatigued, stressed out, running low on energy and sick all are running dangerously low on it. It also lowers inflammation and when I read about your having dealt with a concussion from the accident I thought about it. I have a site you are more than welcome to visit which covers glutathione’s role in the body at http://www.npennington.com. I appreciate you taking the time to tell your story, makes you realize how fortunate and blessed we all are to have our health, also how much we take for granted. Obviously, I am sure the driver didn’t do it on purpose and am sure she felt horrible about it. Glad you both are safe and wishing you quick recovery.
Thank you for sharing, Nathan!
Ah so sorry that happened to you! Glad you’re feeling better and also that you chose to share your story. Happy healing!
Thanks so much, Ginger. <3
Kara- sorry to hear you’re going through this recovery process. I too suffered from (two) concussions within a few days of each other about 10 years ago now, while wakeboarding. The first I didn’t realize was a concussion, I thought it was just a bad headache from too much sun so the second time I fell just a few days later was that much worse. I totally understand everything you’ve been going through- I was actually on vacation for another couple weeks and just remember sleeping a lot, feeling super depressed and could barely manage a short walk (my norm would be running 8-10km in the morning) without feeling throbbing pain. It took a good few months to get back to my “normal.” One thing I wanted to mention that helped a TON was acupuncture- I was skeptical but went for a couple sessions and would leave feeling like a different person, headache free. So maybe give it a try 🙂
Thanks so much for sharing, Victoria! I just found a new acupuncturist last week and it helped me to relax and am looking forward to continuing with weekly treatments. Hearing other stories of post-concussive syndrome recovery give me hope that I will return to my normal! <3
love you my friend– you are so brave to just be still and recover. I know it’s so hard not to push yourself to do that next thing and to work, so you are doing a really great thing– giving your body space to heal.
Thanks, friend! <3
What a scary story! I’m sorry to hear about your accident. I’m also sorry to hear about your post- concussive syndrome. When I was a sophomore in high school, I got a concussion playing soccer and tried to go back to school way too soon, because the doctor told me I could after a few days. Like you said, every concussion is unique and unpredictable and mine resulted in post-concussive syndrome as well. It is so frustrating to be limited in so many ways, and to feel overwhelmed by the recovery process. However, after doing really nothing for two months, I finally felt like myself again. I think recovery for both my concussion and my eating disorder are very similar, because both felt overwhelming and at times hopeless. After successfully recovering from both, I think they both reinforced my ability to trust my body and to take care of myself; they also gave me opportunities to identify my values, like my academics and emotional health over soccer.
That was a long comment, but I wanted to say thank you for sharing your story, and that although each recovery is unique in its own heartbreaking way, I hope my story can give you some hope that things will get better.
Thanks for sharing, Maddie! I think it’s beautiful that you made a connection between what you were able to gain from both recovery processes. Your story does give me hope and I so appreciate you sharing it! xo
Kara, I’m so sorry that you were in this accident! I can only imagine the mixture of emotions that you’ve been feeling. I have a family member who also experienced a concussion (A tree branch fell from high above and landed on her head while she was walking home from work). She experienced so much of what you have described in this excellent post – including being unable to work as efficiently as she had prior to the concussion. On a positive note, she feels like herself now, is able to think clearly again, and can complete her tasks efficiently like she had prior to the concussion. I hope that you will experience similar progress as soon as possible. I’m sending good healing thoughts your way, and will keep your husband and his family in my prayers!
Thanks so much, Jill! It’s comforting to hear stories of people who struggled with post concussive syndrome and came out the other side feeling 100% like themselves again! Thanks for sharing that story and for all the healing vibes and well wishes! xo
Kara – I hadn’t heard of your concussion either. How scary! It sounds like you’re doing all you can to give yourself time to heal and recover. I know there isn’t really good concussion-recovery research, but there’s some evidence that high doses of fish oil pills helps (disclosure: I work with an omega-3 member company, GOED. The research is not theirs, nor do they endorse this therapy since the research is so new, but it’s through my work with them that i heard about it.). Dr. Michael Lewis, MD and former military, is the one with the Omega-3 Protocol for concussions. You might want to check it out: http://www.brainhealtheducation.org/omega-3-protocol/. Sending healing thoughts your way!!
Thanks for sharing this research, Elana! I was familiar with some of the scientific literature but not this specific protocol. I’ve been taking high doses of DHA the past few weeks! Thanks for the healing vibes. XO
Thank you for sharing. So sorry to hear that you were involved in an accident and that the driver did not take responsibilty. That leaves one feeling disheartened. I too have struggled for the last six weeks trying to get through and heal from a horrible UC flare. I am happy to say that I am starting to feel like myself again and am so grateful for the family who supported me during that time.
Thanks for sharing, Lane. I’m so happy you’re starting to feel like yourself again. xo
Kara–I somehow missed the news of your accident, so I’m just catching up on this now. I am so sorry to hear about your concussion! The health effects and recovery sound very difficult and painful, and I can only imagine how hard it is to be patient and slow down your brain when you are a busy, creative entrepreneur like yourself. Thank you for sharing your story with all of us. Wishing you all the best for continued healing!
Thank you so much, Sally. Appreciate your well wishes and support. XO