*Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional, all information is based on my own personal experience. Please be sure to consult with your doctor*
Depression — this one thing that I never thought that I would ever have. All my life, I have always been a happy go lucky kind-of-girl. My concussion truly had a life-altering effect on me. I was always happy, optimistic, and active in my sports, academics, and extracurriculars. So, when I obtained a concussion, my life seemed to come to a full stop. Before, I was “go go go”, before I was always doing something, always going somewhere, always putting my best foot forward in all that I did. My concussion crippled me and I began to fall deeper and deeper into a state of sadness.
Things didn’t really get bad for me until I began to notice that I was not healing, in fact, it seemed that I was getting worse. This was after about the third month into my recovery. I had been resting and waiting for so long, that I began to fall behind in school and fall behind my friends. I was making promises that I soon found that I could not keep. I would often tell my friends that I would hang out with them next week or the week after that because by next week I believed that I would SURELY be better. But, I didn’t and I wasn’t. Time passed and the seasons began to change, but I was still the same. My concussion was taking important parts of me and unleashing insecurities within myself that I did not know I had.
My life soon became a perpetual cycle. I would go to school and endure best that I could, come home with an excruciating headache, and immediately go to sleep. If I wasn’t in my bed, then I was at school suffering. Things did not seem to be looking up for me and I became to believe that internally. My brain logically calculated that 1) You are doing everything your doctor is telling you. 2) You are not getting better. This equated to post-concussion syndrome for the rest of my life. I became crushed and lethargic. I read story after story about people who had been suffering from brain injuries for 2 years plus, and lamented for the life that now could be mine.
No one can truly understand the pain that brain injuries bring. I had never experienced pain as severe as that. Being in perpetual pain, day in and day out truly was a living hell and nothing can compare. I had fallen so deep into the depression to the point that I was sure that I would never make a full recovery. Many nights, when I found myself crying in bed, my headaches only seemed to multiply in intensity and severity. The harder I cried, the worse my head pain would become. I soon hypothesized that my emotional state had to somehow be tied to my physical state. I realized that the feelings that I had toward my recovery also had an effect on my healing process. If I believed that I would not recover, I would not. If I was sad and crying all day, I would not recover. With this realization, I decided that I needed to take action. If I continued the path that I was going, I would surely give up on myself and my life.
But change is not as simple as making a decision and all of a sudden your life getting better. I needed to take the proper steps to create the optimal environment for a full recovery. For my physical health, I created a workout and food plan that structured my life in the right way so that I was getting the right foods in my body and doing the right activities to optimize recovery. To keep the right mindset, I physically surrounded myself with words of affirmation, and people who truly supported me in my struggle. This was crucial for me to maintain a positive mindset and attitude. All of this put me in the right place. Because I was doing the work AND constantly renewing my mind to believe in myself and my body, I was now on the right path to making a full recovery.
Battling with depression is not easy, but when taking the proper steps you can overcome it. Always be sure to talk to your doctor about other ways of treating and recognizing depressive symptoms. Changing your mindset and perspective on your injury can be the key to reaching a full recovery.
The thing about brain injuries is that they are far more than what meets the eye–or in reality, they are more than what doesn’t meet the eye. Traumatic brain injuries are called the “invisible” injury for a reason. The physical, emotional, and mental pain, often times, can not be seen with the naked eye. It is for this reason, that people often believe that brain injuries are not that severe when compared to other injuries. No one can truly understand what goes on inside the mind of a person with a brain injury unless they have actually walked in their footsteps. Brain injuries are life-changing. Brain injuries are debilitating. Brain injuries can make you make question your very existence. They are serious and mental health plays a major role in recovery.
It is because of the seriousness of mental health, that I have decided to create this series that focuses specifically on maintaining a positive mindset, while also spreading awareness about what really goes on inside the mind of one with a traumatic brain injury. This is series will be split up in three-parts that will go over the three main mental strains that I experienced during my own recovery: depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts. Following each blog post, will be a podcast of the same topic! You can expect a new topic to be posted every two weeks!
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.
Last October, I was jumping my horse and made a slight mistake. Unfortunately, this mistake resulted in the horse coming to a complete stop in front of a fence, and launching me across to the other side. I ended up hitting the ground head first. I felt okay, proceeded to get back on, and continue my work. The next day, I woke up with a terrible headache, dizziness and nausea. I couldn’t read, speak, or listen to music for more than few second before feeling very sick. It took me a while to figure out that I might have sustained a concussion, but once I did, I immediately went to a local emergency room where I was diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury (TBI).
My neurological symptoms went away very quickly, and I had normal cognitive function back within two weeks; however, I suffered severe chronic headaches that seemed to be unrelated to any triggers for four months. The headaches would come randomly and made life very difficult. After talking with my physician, I began to use a combination of acupuncture, massage, and physical exercise and after starting this program, I noticed a significant difference in the frequency and severity of my headaches. I became completely headache free after two months! I am now totally healed and am taking precautions in my riding to make sure I minimize my risk for more head injuries.
My name is Renee and I am an 18 year old girl from New Zealand. I love running, playing soccer, studying and hanging out with friends. So of course it was the first two that caused my downfall. As you can imagine I felt like a shell of myself, not being able to participate in the activities I love after I sustained the concussions two weeks apart, on 31st May 2017 and 17th June 2017.
I received the first injury running in PE class, where I slipped on wet concrete and fell face first down a hill. I refused to believe I was concussed and continued to study and play sports, despite the migraines that followed me around for the next two weeks. My second concussion occurred in a soccer game. I was a starting player who was generally kept on for the whole game because my team was always short on defensive players. The entire game my head was pounding, I couldn’t see well, had poor reflexes and I just wanted to be subbed off; which I now recognise as common concussion symptoms. The moment came when myself and an opposing girl a lot bigger than I was were sprinting at full force towards the ball. If she reached the ball before I did she would almost definitely score the winning goal. Time almost slowed in those moments and even 20 months later I remember it so clearly. I knew it would be my last play of the game before I likely fainted, but I am the type of player who will quite literally put my body on the line for my team. We collided with each other at full force, and I was thrown backwards, smacking my head on the ground. I lay there for about 5 minutes drifting in and out of consciousness, and remember trying to tell my teammates to stop screaming at the ref but I was so exhausted that no words could form. I was taken to the hospital immediately and diagnosed with a mild concussion, (but hey, at least I managed to get to the ball first!) and even though it was my second knock there was still an expected healing time of around 4 weeks.
The first 2 months were the hardest. Doctors put me on complete bed rest when they noticed I wasn’t healing and I couldn’t do any activities I previously enjoyed. I was meant to be going on a soccer trip to Australia with the First XI at school but had to cancel, which was heartbreaking. Some of the symptoms I experienced were headaches, noise & light sensitivity, fatigue, vision problems, difficulty concentrating, motion sickness and in-coordination. An example that comes to mind was when I wanted to make a salad, so I grabbed some lettuce with one hand, then a cucumber with the other. My hand suddenly relaxed and I dropped the lettuce because my brain was so focused on holding the cucumber. This was a very eye-opening experience because it showed me how much my body was altered by the concussions, and how far I still had to recover. For reference, a baby will usually learn to hold an object in each hand by four-six months old, so my lack of that skill was quite concerning at the time. At this point I became depressed and knew I couldn’t recover on my own so we started a concussion rehabilitation program in effort to get back into my usual activities. This was when I found out I had post concussion syndrome which I was relieved to hear because it meant I wasn’t alone; there were other people going through the exact same thing.
The next 16 months had the exact same focus: getting me back into (and passing) school. I attended appointments with general practitioners, behavioral optometrists, an ophthalmologist, occupational therapists, massages, a health school program, holistic healing, reiki, neuro-physiologist and I’m yet to see a neurologist. Though I managed to complete Year 12, I did eventually hit a plateau in my senior year. Going from pre-concussions A’s to failing was a big blow to my study-loving self. I became sick of the pain from school – all I wanted to focus on was exercise. To me it didn’t make sense that I could recover by sitting in insane symptom stimuli – a busy, loud classroom doing math and sciences (environments NOT easy on the brain). But time and time again my request to change the focus to exercise was declined by the rehabilitation program: I could only settle for 20 minute walks with my heart rate not exceeding 105bpm. The problem was this was because I hadn’t done any exercise at all since before the concussions, my heart rate while walking around my house was reaching 100bpm. So 105bpm was reached pretty quickly. All the while I was googling recovery stories and trying to implement survivors techniques, but it seemed no one had been knocked quite like me.
I became restless and decided to take matters into my own hands to restart my fitness journey through a resistance based workout program (exactly what I had been advised not to do). It was on January 6th that I discovered @concussionbegone on Instagram. This was one day before Nicole launched the blog, which whether coincidence or fate, I was drawn to her journey. The most interesting post I came across was “Exercise to Recovery”. I have always known in my heart that exercise is what my injury needed to heal. The workout program provided is similar to the resistance based program I had already purchased, and three weeks into the program I am already feeling SO much better. I am now able to do 3-4 big things per day (eg: making lunch, shopping, unpacking dishwasher, going out for meals, etc), as opposed to the 0-2 things I have been able to do for the past 20 months. It can still feel impossible at times but taking the time to invest in your health is the most important thing in the world. The hardest part of my concussion is helping people to understand my daily life when they themselves have never experienced a brain injury. My friends and family are extremely supportive, but the support from a community of people, all at different stages, who let me know I’m not alone is the most inspiring part of it all. I am not fully recovered, but I know in my heart there can be a future without symptoms for all of us.
Concussion injuries are one area of study that still has a lot of question marks. Meaning, there is a lot of things that doctors and the people simply just do not know about traumatic brain injuries. This can give rise to many misconceptions about the injury. Let’s look at just 5 misconceptions of traumatic brain injuries that I think are important to discuss and rule out.
“A concussion can’t be caused by whiplash”
Only someone who’s never had a concussion would come up with this. YES, you most definitely can receive a concussion from whiplash or any quick force to the head. You do not have to be struck in the head in order to receive a brain injury, but instead can be caused by any type of violent shaking of the head. Clear this misconception up by reading “What is a Concussion?” here!
“Prolonged concussion pain is psychological”
After a while and my symptoms continued to persist for about 5 months, my mother asked my doctor, “Do you think that Nicole’s pain could be psychological?”. I remember being extremely hurt by her question, how could she question that my pain was all just made up in my head. The pain is real and is not just something you are hallucinating about or making up. I validate you and I believe your pain, prolonged concussion symptoms are not just made up, they are real and your pain is real.
“Post-concussion syndrome will never go away”
I have seen a lot of people say that once you develop post-concussion syndrome, you should just accept the “new normal”. To say that there is no hope and you can not reduce your symptoms or have a normal life again is just not true. For some it may be the case, but is NOT the case for all. Post-concussion syndrome can go away and it can be healed completely, if treated correctly. It is a lie to say that post-concussion can not be resolved once it develops, I and many others stand as a witness. Don’t give up! Read “Exercise to Recovery” for more on one of the ways that I overcame PCS for good!
“You should continue to rest and wait after developing post-concussion syndrome”
This is a very controversial topic at the moment and currently being debated by doctors across the world. Is rest really the answer to curing post-concussion syndrome? Personally, I do not think so, concussion recovery is ACTIVE and not passive, I say this so many times, because I think it is so important. Concussion recovery is going to vestibular therapy, ocular therapy, physical therapy, exercising, eating correctly, meditating, and so so much more. You can not just sit and wait and expect for your post-concussion syndrome to just go away. It is so much more than that. Read “When Post Concussion Syndrome Develops” for more.
“Your concussion is only mild.”
This hits home for me and is the reason why I believe that the classification of brain injuries, though can be important, is a bit misleading. The word mild means gentle in nature and behavior, according to the Merriam-Weber dictionary. Ok, my “mild”, my gentle in nature and behavior concussion lasted eight months, gave me chronic headache, nausea, terrible light sensitivity, and so many more complications. In all honesty, the word “mild” in order to describe brain injuries is misleading. Our brains are important, or brains are… a big deal! Any and every blow to the head is serious! We’re talking about the organ that allows all bodily functions to work! This is serious and its time that doctors and physicaly trainers emphasize this to their patients. Its not just a head injury.
“I am alone” (Did I say 5? I meant 6)
THIS IS THE BIGGEST MISCONCEPTION OF THEM ALL! I think when you are recovering from a brain injury you can become so isolated, which can cause depression and other negative emotions to develop. But, this is simply not true. You are not alone and your symptoms are not unique to only you. There are millions of people going through the same struggles as you, and there’s people right here on ConcussionBeGone going through the same struggles as you too! You are NOT alone and you are being supported and loved by a group of people who know exactly what you are going through. Join one of ConcussionBeGone’s Support Groups right here(;
So in conclusion, yes you can receive a concussion from whiplash, no your pain is not psychological, yes PCS can resolve completely, no your concussion is not just mild, and NO you are NOT alone!
What is post concussion syndrome to me? Post concussion syndrome is a bug that reaks havoc on your brain, setting off bombs of headaches and drops of depression & anxiety on a consistent daily basis. This bug not only tinkers with your brain, but also your eyes and ears, making the slightest sound and softest light piercing to the eye and ear. If post-concussion syndrome were a person it would be ‘Mr. Mayhem’ from the popular AllState commercial, PCS reeks havoc on your life unexpectedly and can disrupt your closest relationships. It attacks you physically, mentally, and spiritually.
Post-Concussion Syndrome is a condition that develops after you have had a concussion for more than the average duration of 1-2 months. If you find yourself with lasting symptoms, you will find yourself in a very dangerous area. You see, when post-concussion syndrome develops it becomes difficult for the brain to return to how it once was prior to the initial injury. As symptoms continue to last you may find yourself in a vicious cycle of progressing and regressing. This is where I found myself to be. For a week or so I’d feel better and then BOOM I’d have a setback and symptoms would arise and force me to my bed. Many articles will say that you should just continue to rest and over time your symptoms will just magically disappear. But this is something that didn’t just happen for me, no matter how much I rested my symptoms would stay with no change. If you find yourself in the same situation, then this post is for you.
Maybe the secret to overcoming post concussion syndrome isn’t solely in resting and waiting, perhaps the secret to recovering is in retraining your body to become reacquainted with normal environments and conditions. The Sports Medicine Clinic at UPCM Pittsburgh utilizes this type of recovery treatment in their patients. It is called “Expose & Recovery”, in which patients are encouraged to expose themselves to uncomfortable situations and environments, to rest, and then try again. This technique allows for the brain to become more familiar with the stimuli, so that over time it is able to handle it with no problem. So, when post-concussion syndrome develops you literally have to retrain your brain to familiarize itself with normal environments and activities again.
I unintentionally started using this technique. After I had had a concussion for about 5 months, school had ended, I had graduated and I needed some cash to help pay for college. At this point I had been completing my ‘Expose to Recovery’ workouts, and could tolerate loud and bright environments to an extent, for maybe 30 minutes or so, before getting a moderate headache. This was a significant improvement from where I was earlier in my recovery. I decided to go back to work. I had been employed for some time at the YMCA as a nursery attendant. I felt nervous and uncomfortable about going back, because I feared overexerting myself. I told my boss of my condition and she put me on the schedule for 3 days per week for 4 hours each day, but assured me if anything became too much that I could go home.
The YMCA is fluorescently lit in every single facility in the building, I worked with kids so especially over the Summer it could become unbelievably loud and hectic at any given moment. I knew that it would be challenging, especially knowing that I would not be able to protect myself with sunglasses or earplugs. Each day varied. Starting out I ended up having unbelievably intense headaches to the point that I couldn’t even finish the shift. I would go home rest and then try again and again. It wasn’t that I was working too much or overexerting myself, my brain was just not used to being under fluorescent lights without protection, so it took some time to adjust. After about the fourth week of doing this, I was attending work with no problems. By the end of the summer I even added a few more shifts. I was conquering fluorescent lights for the first time in my entire concussion recovery.
“Expose and Recovery” is a technique that I really do believe works. The anxienty and fear that you may have towards this is real and I understand. But, it is important that you give your brain the opportunity to retrain and reprogram itself.
SO! In conclusion, we all know post concussion syndrome is a complete jerk, but when fought the right way you CAN overcome it.
One thing that I tried my best to avoid during my entire recovery was medications. I rarely took pain killers when I developed post-concussion syndrome, because I wanted to know exactly when and where my headaches were located, as well as how intense they were; however, after I went into my second month with a concussion, my doctor prescribed me Nortriptyline.
Nortriptyline is an anti-depressant drug that is used to help those with depression, but my doctor prescribed it in order to treat my headaches. Nortriptyline works by restoring the natural chemical balance within the brain. This medication worked the best for me and over time my headaches significantly reduced. But, it seemed to only mask my headaches instead of treating and healing them for good. I took Nortriptyline for a period of three weeks and then stopped the week before my next appointment with my doctor. After I had taken my last dose and the days went on without it, I could literally feel the medication wearing off. The headaches began to return with increasing severity as each day passed without it. For this reason, I did not like this medication. Though it does a great job in reducing head pain temporarily, it does not solve the root issue for good.
The second and last medication that I tried was Gabapentin or Neurontin. Gabapentin is a nerve pain medication and is a anticonvulsant and antiepiletic drug. Once again, my doctor prescribed this to me in order to relieve my chronic headaches. This drug did more harm than it did good. I took the medication right before I went to bed as I was instructed and as soon as I woke up the next morning I knew something was wrong. As I got ready for school I felt more dizzy and weak than usual. Thinking that it possibly had something to do with dehydration and hunger, I ate the huge breakfast my mother had prepared for me–pancakes, bacon, eggs, and grits. I shook it off and went to school. As I waited for my first period class to begin, I remember thinking that the lights in the hallway were more bright than usual, feeling that I might faint I sat down. I decided to look up some reviews on Gabapentin and they were awful. People complained about having intense, nausea, trembling, headaches, difficulty in concentrating, and much more.
This couldn’t have come on a worser day. I was supposed to complete an Algebra test during my first period, but I felt like a complete zombie. I persisted and went to class and hoped that it wouldn’t get any worse. But.. it did. Once the tests were distributed and I took a peak at the problems, everything seemed to come over me–the awful headaches, nausea, dizziness, and trembling. My head began to pound with increasing pain and I was unable to concentrate at all on the test. It took me a significant amount of time to finish it. In the midst of my tears and trembling, I am really amazed that I was able to finish it at all. After class, I remember unable to see clearly, everything was so foggy and I became unbelievably weak. If anyone had touched me, I surely would have fallen.
So, what is my review of this medication? 0 stars. But once again, everyone’s body is different. Mine happened to not take to this medication well at all.
My Overall Feelings
My overall feelings of medication are also somewhat negative. I hoped that by taking medication it would help in the healing process, but it only seemed to discourage me even more. The medications only masked my symptoms without improving them once I was taken off them. I personally wanted to become fully functioning without becoming dependent on a medication. However, if you are looking for something to relieve your headaches temporarily then ask your doctor about Nortriptyline, it relieved my headaches with very minimal side affects.
After four months of battling with a concussion, I quickly became desperate for solutions. I was having chronic headaches every single day and though I had taken a lot of time out of my day to rest and “heal”, I still saw no improvements. Every day began to look the same, I would go to school for half a day, come home with a headache and immediately go to bed, where I would sleep for at least three hours. The increasing amount of time that I spent in my house and shut off from the world began to depress me. So with the extra time on my hands, I began to do extensive research on post-concussion syndrome, as well as people who had and had yet to overcome the condition. I soon came across a particular blog about a man who had recovered from a brain injury caused by a car accident. It took him thirteen months to recover. (Here is the link to his story). It is a really good read and his story is super inspiring! It was here that I learned about the “Expose & Recovery” theory, as well as how he utilized exercise to recover. The idea behind expose and recovery treatment is that you expose yourself to whatever makes you irritated, rest, and then try it again. Over time your brain will adjust and familiarize itself with the stimuli.
It was with this advice that I decided to give this theory a shot, I had nothing to lose. Plus, the workout plan that he completed gave me some form of structure and control that I did not have before. I created a five day workout schedule very similar to that of the man on the blog, but modified it to my liking.
Before we get into what this daily workout routine looked like, I must note:
For this workout routine I utilized little to no workout gear. The only items I used are listed below!
*I am not a doctor, this is all based off of my own personal experience. Please be sure to always talk with your doctor.*
I always started my workouts by taking a walk/jog outside. I think this is the most important part. Why? Well, like I said before the goal is to expose yourself to stimuli that you would be in contact with on a normal day. The outdoors are full of various smells, sights, temperatures, and more. In order to heal, you must let go of the idea that you must stay shut up in your house and away from anything and everything that makes you uncomfortable. The truth is you need to be out in the world to retrain your brain to normalcy. Again, this is for those who have had a concussion for at least 3 months and are battling with post-concussion syndrome.
After I completed my jog, I would come indoors for the remainder of the workout, which included high knee steps, Russian twists, left/right side planks, lunges, squats, and more. (Full workout plan at the bottom) When I first started the workout plan, I felt like absolute crap. I remember during the first week I could barely make it through the workout, my head would pound and I would become dizzy. I questioned if I was truly doing the right thing, but as the blog that I read stated, the first two weeks would be super difficult, but you have to continue. Sure enough, this was true and after about a week and a half I felt significantly better. I was able to complete the full exercise and my headaches began to decrease in severity, it was extremely encouraging.
I began the workout routines in April 2018 and did them consistently for about a month and half, as I started to get better I cut down the number of workouts that I completed to about 2 or 3 a week. Even though I had started the exercise routine, I would still have setbacks and bad days. But the difference was that when I did have a setback or bad day, it would not last as long nor would be as severe. For example, instead of having a super intense setback with booming headaches, nausea, and dizziness, a setback would be more mild and I would get a headache in one area of my head instead of all three. The “new” setbacks that I had also did not last as long, so instead of my setbacks lasting two weeks they would last for day or two and I’d be back to normal the next. I was really amazed with my improvement. The improvements were not only physically, but also mentally and emotionally. Exercising really helped boost my energy levels and helped combat my feelings of isolation, depression, and anxiety. For the first time, I found something that I could actually do. For the first time, I had some control back in my life.
Exercising was not the only thing that I started, I also implemented daily vestibular exercises and diet changes; which also played a huge role in my full recovery.
Here is the exercise routine that I completed daily. I completed the workouts similarly to how you would complete a circuit, doing each one (except the running/walk outside, of course) a total of three times.
Remember, you will feel like absolute crap the first week or two that is normal. Persevere it will get better!!
One thing that I thought would be really beneficial was to include a post where I detailed my entire recovery from start to finish. I hope that my experiences may be helpful and reassuring for those who may feel that they are going through their experiences alone. So, welcome to my 8-month recovery timeline!
January 12, 2018: The Injury
Friday, January 12th, is the night that I got my first concussion. I will never forget that moment, it will always be ingrained into my memory. I received the concussion after falling to the ground and hammering my head into the ground. Read my full story here
January 18th: The First Doctors Appointment
I had my very first doctor’s appointment at Emory Johns Creek Hospital with Dr. Olseun Olufade. This appointment went as any appointment would go, I took a survey that distinguished and highlighted which symptoms I was experiencing as well as the severity of those symptoms. I was advised to focus on resting that week. No school, no basketball, no thinking, just rest. I met him for a follow-up that next week, to check my progress.
January 25th: The Second Appointment
As I was told, I rested and my health improved. I felt better, but I knew that I was not 100% healed. The only thing that I wanted to do was get back on the basketball court for my Senior Night, but my doctor, rightfully so, did not give me the green light. Not only did he not give me the green light to play, but he also advised that I not attend the event at all. (For those who do not know, ‘Senior night’ is a high school event, in which teams celebrate their graduating seniors) This was an event that would be loud, obnoxious, and long, but this was the night that I had waited for my entire basketball career. I had to attend, I just had to…I thought.
January 30th: Senior Night AKA The Setback of all Setbacks
Against my doctors wishes, I attended the senior night. It was loud, it was busy, it was bright, it was everything that my brain did not need in order to heal. I experienced an immense amount of pain that night, it felt like bombs were going off in my head and like my brain was falling apart, literally. If I could go back, I would not have attended. This night, I believe is the reason as to why my concussion lasted for so long.
February: The Month of Setbacks
After the tumultuous Senior Night, I wish that I had said, “Ok, I need to cancel all of my commitments and focus on my recovery from here on out”, but I didn’t, I kept persevering; forcing myself to keep going. I persevered to participate in all of the many clubs, organizations, and events that I was involved in. My logic for keeping my many commitments was that since I was a senior, I would never get to do any of these activities ever again. I always thought my concussion would just go away one day, like it had been for many of the blog posts I had read, but mine did not. It wasn’t until my symptoms did not change that I really started to regret my decisions.
I continued with the doctor visits, every other week and started physical therapy for vestibular and ocular training. My doctor cleared me to attend school for full days and I was allowed to start math again. Though I was happy to be going to school for the whole day again, a part of me questioned if I was ready. I wore sunglasses in school to protect my eyes from the fluorescent lights and I would often take breaks in the dark rooms of the counselor’s office. Though I was at school, by the middle of the day my head would be booming and I would be forced to sit in a dark room. Every day seemed to go the same, I would go to school, participate the best I could and by 5th period I was done. I needed to rest and by the time I got home, I would just go straight to bed. I was not ready to attend school for the whole day, but I figured that over time I would adjust. I did not adjust, day after day, with the same results I became very discouraged. The world seemed to be moving on without me.
I also became very fearful during this time, of lights of sound. I remember one particular Sunday, my mother insisted that I go to church. I was anxious, so very anxious before I even entered the sanctuary doors I was in tears. Not because of the music or loud noise per say, but because I was so scared and anxious. I rushed out of the room and sat outside. I became scared to do anything that would cause a headache or another uproar of symptoms, it would immediately make me nervous and bring me to tears. This was when I realized that I wasn’t just fighting a physical injury, but also a mental one.
At the end of February, my doctor prescribed Nortriptyline to help with my constant headaches. I was excited to try something new.
March: The Illusion of Progress
In the last week of February, I have prescribed Nortriptyline, which is a medication that helps relieve headaches as well as treat them. During this particular doctor’s visit, I told my doctor how I was unable to make it through a complete school day and in addition to that, math began to give me trouble again. I was sent back to attending school for half days and was barred from math once again for two weeks. I was relieved because now, I would for sure begin to heal. And hopefully would be in a better condition for me to compete in the FBLA competition at the end of the month. I was determined to do everything that I could to be in the best of health.
March 10, 2018:
Leading up to the night of March 10th, I had been doing really well. I was getting less and fewer headaches and for the most part, if I did they were bearable, but on this night is when that quickly changed. It was the night before my Poetry Out Loud competition, I had gone to Ross and Walmart with my mother to get some new clothes and groceries. It was normal everything was normal, until I didn’t. After we had left Ross, I started to feel a bit off, but I brushed it off. We entered Walmart and it all came crashing over me. My head began to pound, I became nauseous, and my vision became blurred. My mother rushed me home and I surrendered to my bed. The headache became so bad that I quickly came to tears. It seemed that the the harder I cried, the worse the head pain became. I remember cursing God for allowing this to happen to me, especially on the eve of such an important day. It was by far one of the worst setbacks that I had ever had.
The next day, I surprisingly felt somewhat better. I took some Advil and competed in the Poetry Out Loud competition, when it was over I rushed to my bed once again. I had overexerted myself. The anxiety and stress had caused yet another setback for me. At this point, all I wanted was for all my commitments to be over so the pain would go away and I could actually heal. This was also when I really began to develop anxiety over loud and brightly lit places. It occurred to me that after that setback, anything could
March 20, 2018: The First Test
Following the setback, my health began to improve again. I continued taking my medication and saw some improvements. March 20th was the day that truly led me to believe that I was healed. I went to my nephew’s track meet, it was my first real outing since my last setback and I wanted to go, in order to test whether my symptoms would resurface. The track meet was moderately loud and had super bright overhead lights. To my surprise, I had no complications at all, but I was still on the medication…
March 24, 2018: The Second Test
Not only was the track meet success, but the FBLA competition that I had been anticipating was also a successor so it seemed. I even went to the loudest events held at the competition: the closing ceremony. Not only did I attend, but I was also laughing with my friends. I remember going back to my hotel room calling mother and telling her how I was able to sit through the whole ceremony without any problems. I thought I had reached the light at the end of the tunnel, I thought I was done the fighting, but the fight was only beginning.
March 28, 2018: “And It All Came Tumbling Down”
Dr. Olufade had instructed that I take the Nortriptyline for three weeks straight, then stop taking the medication for one week to see if my headaches had gone away. I took my medication for the last time on Sunday, March 25th. That week I could literally feel the medicine wearing off. By that Wednesday, which happened to be my basketball banquet, my headaches were back and in full swing. I remember sitting at the banquet, flinching at the soft candle-like lighting. And when my teammates asked if I was better, all I could say was “I’m getting there”, because after that night I knew that I was not better, not even close.
April: Fight Time
At this point, I began to see the trends in my recovery. My recovery was like a rollercoaster. For two weeks, I would get better than ‘BAM’, I would have another setback. It never failed, every time that I would start to feel better, I would overexert myself and push my recovery back. It became increasingly difficult and discouraging, especially as the months continued to roll on.
By the time April rolled around, I became desperate for solutions and did extensive research on the post-concussion syndrome. One site that sparked my attention, was by a man who had suffered from a concussion for over a year. What saved him was exercise. He implemented a regular workout routine, which significantly reduced his symptoms. It occurred to me that if he was able to be healed after a year with a concussion than surely I could recover and be healed as well. And I decided to give it a try. I created a daily routine for me to complete each day, which included my exercise plan and some vestibular and ocular exercises I had learned at physical therapy. I knew that by now, my concussion would not go away if I just sat and waited, I had to put the work in, in order to get my life back.
Surprisingly enough, my routine worked. My headaches began to decrease in intensity and duration. I had finally found the key! Even with the setbacks that I experienced during this month, they were not nearly as bad as the ones that I had endured before. So, I continued, determined to eliminate my concussion symptoms once and for all.
May: A Slow Down
By the time that May rolled around I was about 70% better. It was the end of the school year and I would hope by the grace of God be able to attend prom and graduation without any issues. About a week before my prom night, my doctor prescribed to me Gabapentin. I had taken the medication one night before school. When I woke up that next morning, the side effects were almost immediate. I remember the day distinctly because I had a math test that day in my first-period class. Upon receiving the test, I felt the same headaches that I once received when I first received my concussion, I felt everything, the bombs, the piercing knives, everything. I quickly came to tears. Not only did I have a headache, but I was unable to concentrate for more than a few seconds. It took me a significant amount of time to complete the test. Upon leaving class, I remember barely being able to walk, I was so weak that I felt I might fall over.
I went home shortly after and called my doctor. He told me to immediately stop taking the medication and continue my regular routine of resting, but the damage was already done. The medicine caused a major setback, I would not be concussion-free at prom or graduation.
I attended prom with earbuds to help block the sound. For the most part, I was okay and took many breaks in the quiet bathrooms. I was just glad that I wasn’t in torturous pain. Graduation was the same and I wore my sunglasses throughout the entire ceremony. In either of the events, I didn’t experience excruciating headaches, but they did linger. Though I was feeling better, this became discouraging because all I wanted was to be completely done.
June-July: Back to Work
June and July went by so fast that I hardly remember them in full detail. I went back to work during these months, at the YMCA. This was the first time that I actually stayed under fluorescent lights without sunglasses for long periods of time. It was truly a struggle for me at first. Some days I would leave my shift early and go home when my headaches became too severe. I still had a few setbacks, some very very painful, but they wouldn’t last more than a day or two. By the time July rolled around, I really started to adjust. I had fewer headaches and if I did, they would rank low to moderate on the pain scale. I was finally starting to get my life back.
August: Time to Let Go
By the time August rolled around, I would say that I would have around 2-3 headaches a week, and they’d be relatively mild. One thing that I had to let go of during this time was a ‘victims’ mentality. I had grown so accustomed to being in pain and expecting to be in pain, that I would still decline going out with my friends or do anything that was outside of my daily routine: work and home. I had to let this go, in order for me to truly be free from the concussion.
September 8, 2018: The Test: Am I Really Healed?
The final test to test whether I was truly free from the concussion was the One Musicfest concert. It would be loud, hot, and packed with people. My body would be attacked by various stimuli, it was the perfect test to see if I was truly done with the concussion. And well, you guessed it! I was healed, done, finite with the concussion–DONE! I had a blast and getting to see my favorite artists without any complications was the icing on the cake(:
The concussion that I had was a monster and it challenged me mentally, physically, and spiritually, but I am proud to say that it did not win. Out of all of the low moments that I had that I did not mention in this post, I easily could have been gone. You have to decide to fight, in order to overcome your concussion. . It was not the slightest bit easy but because of it, I am a better and stronger person.