I’ve trained in martial arts almost my whole life. I also compete in Olympic style Taekwondo. Unfortunately, in the spring of 2018 after an intense training schedule for national level competitions, I started having horrible headaches, severe fatigue, speech/memory problems, sound/light sensitivity, irritability, anxiety, vision disturbances, difficulties making decisions, tinnitus, and vertigo symptoms. After being misdiagnosed with Vertigo twice at the ER, I was finally diagnosed with PCS and admitted in the hospital for 3 days for monitoring. I was then released to struggle with a new reality. I had never heard of post concussion syndrome before, but it’s the most difficult thing I’ve ever experienced. The sudden shift from being a national level athlete to needing to be walked to the bathroom so I didn’t fall was a huge and scary transition. It caused me to have depression and constant anxiety because it was extremely difficult for me to be at such a low activity level after being such an outgoing person.
For the first 3 months I slept in a dark room 16 hours a day because of my migraines, brain fog, and fatigue. Day by day I would set a huge goal for myself like sitting outside for 10 minutes or walking to the end of my street and back. I slowly worked my way from no walking or physical activity whatsoever to being able to go on longer walks each day. Eventually I could do light resistance exercises and an hour long walk. It has been a crazy roller coaster of progress. One day I’d be the best I’d been since the concussion, then the next couple days would be intensely painful and I had to rest. It’s been a long process of exposing myself to a difficult activity then completely resting when I had symptoms.
I wish there was more awareness about concussions and brain injuries in the sports and medical communities. I felt so alone as an athlete in the beginning until I found a PCS support group on Facebook. It’s scary to go through the pain of PCS and not have very many clear answers about treatments or recovery. Through my neurologist I was finally referred to try something besides strict rest. I was referred to start physical, vestibular, and cognitive therapy. I started physical therapy to try dry needling for my shoulders and neck. It helped reduce the frequency of my migraines, but I still had many symptoms. Vestibular therapy has been very helpful. Even though it was extremely difficult at first, vestibular therapy has helped me improve my balance, vision disturbances, and even helped my fatigue since I’m re-training my nervous system. Cognitive therapy is helping me with my memory, problem solving, and attention deficits due to the concussion. To be able to work with people who not only acknowledges your symptoms, but understands how to treat them has been such a blessing. Find someone who understands this condition. Each injury is different and the therapies and time needed to heal are different for everyone. There are people out there who can help you get your life back, you just have to be strong and advocate for yourself and keep pushing until you find the right team to treat you. I am currently 10 months into PCS, but after a long journey with lots of patience, determination, and therapies, I’m starting to see the light at the end of the dark tunnel that is PCS.