*Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional, all information is based on my own personal experience. Please be sure to consult with your doctor*
Never in my life did I think that I would become afraid to go to school, the store, or any fluorescently lit or loud room. Never in my life did I think that I would become afraid of the world, but this what my life soon became with a brain injury. This fear quickly developed into anxiety, for which I dealt with on a daily basis.
At the beginning of my concussion recovery, I didn’t understand the impact or severity of brain injuries. Most of the people that I knew who had obtained concussions healed within a week and/or showed no signs of struggle or pain. With them as an example, I thought that my injury would be the same. I thought I would be healed within a few weeks and I certainly never imagined I would endure the physical, mental, and emotional pain that I endured. Early in my recovery, on good days I would go out to the store or to school without ever thinking about the consequences that these environments could have on my brain. It wasn’t until I had setback after setback after setback that I began to become nervous about leaving my house. The thought of going to school, work, or just the store made me unbelievably nervous.
I didn’t realize how severe my anxiety was until one Sunday morning my mother asked that I try to attend church. I told her no, but she insisted that I “at least try”. Thus far in my recovery, I believed that anything and everything that was not ‘rest’ would set my head off and cause me to regress. I had begun a routine of school, rest and more rest and I was committed to sticking to it. I believed that this was what would lead to a full recovery and anything outside of it would impede my recovery. That was how I saw everything, so when my mother suggested I attend church, I quickly made up in my mind that this would inevitably hurt my recovery.
I do believe that this mindset did have an effect on the outcome of my trip to church. I did in fact setback, but I think my anxiety heightened its severity. Before I had even entered the church sanctuary, I immediately came to tears. The increasing sound of the music and lights as I approached the room caused me to hyperventilate. I did not even enter the room, because I was completely overcome by fear. I ended up sitting outside to deal with the painful headache that had overtaken me. It was here that I knew I had an anxiety problem.
My anxiety was something that I never disclosed to my doctor, which I certainly do wish I had. By keeping my feelings and emotions from my doctor and even my family, I became more and more isolated. I figured that my anxiety and depression was something that I had and should deal with on my own and so, I found a few things that seemed to help me remain calm even in the most hectic of situations.
The first tip that I have for you all is meditation. For me, it wasn’t as much meditation as it was a method for controlling my breathing. Whenever I would feel myself becoming overwhelmed either by lights, sound, or people, I would go to a bathroom and breath–in through the nose and out through my mouth. I would do this at times when I would become overwhelmed and also throughout the day in general. This allowed me to remain calm in the majority of situations that I found myself in. The second tip that I have for you all is to stay focused on one object when in crowded places. For me, I would become especially anxious in crowded areas. My physical therapist recommended that when I am in crowded places like the hallways of my school, to fix my eyes on one object that is in the direction of my destination. This will cause your mind to remain focused and not turn to the things or thoughts around you.
One thing that I made sure to never do was isolate myself completely from the world, I learned that this only added to my levels of anxiety. The more I exposed myself to the world and the things that made me uncomfortable, I slowly began to readjust to them. For example, the first time that I went to church I couldn’t even sit a minute within the service, the next time I tried 15-30 minutes and worked my way up to sitting in full service. Once I realized what I could handle, I was not as anxious anymore.
Remember, recovering is slow progress; therefore, it is all about celebrating the little victories along the way. These are just a few tips that helped me, but be sure to ALWAYS talk to your doctor on ways to reduce your levels of anxiety.
Happy healing everybody(: