It’s a tough road. No doubt. Your life changes in an instant. You can’t do the things you used to. It may be temporary. It may stretch out for months. For years, even. However long or whatever path it takes, there are a few ideas to keep in mind that may perhaps help a bit along the way. Give them a look, and think about sharing some of your own.
Take the time you need to recover
If you’re lucky, your concussion will resolve quickly. If not, hunker down and take whatever time you need to recover – or as much as possible. Concussion is different for each person. Yours may resolve inches at a time. Mine did.
While you’ll undoubtedly hear that concussions resolve quickly, yours may not. That’s particularly true if you’re dealing with post-concussion syndrome. If you’ve found this page because you’re searching for information on PCS, then you know that they can take a long while to resolve. Take whatever time you need to recover, or it’ll just be worse in the long run, IMO. And don’t believe or be discouraged by those that say you should be cured by some particular point, yet your symptoms linger.
Adjust your expectations
Before this concussion, I was very active and participated in triathlons, went skiing – all sorts of activities. I wasn’t able to do any of that, really, for some time afterward. I missed events terribly. So, in the second or third year of my recovery (I don’t recall exactly offhand) I decided to volunteer at the triathlon I normally participated in, but wouldn’t be able to – again. In this way, I was able to participate after all. Not the way I would have liked, but I was able to be a part of it. So think of that sometimes. Maybe there are ways that you can still be part of something you’re missing out on. Eventually, I was able to complete the triathlon, but it wasn’t for a few years. Volunteering helped get me there. It kept me in the game. In my life. For me, it was also nice to just be around all that energy again.
It’s not necessarily all-or-nothing. Recovery from long-term concussion is gradual. Get back to your life in any way you can, inches at a time. Ease back into it and do what you can, when you can, as much as you’re able. At something like a race, there are many ways to volunteer. Can’t stand long due to fatigue? Help out at a registration desk, where you can sit. Adjust your expectations a bit, and find a way to get back to your life a little sooner.
I know it can be difficult some days. If you’re dealing with headaches, or vision issues, or balance, or any of the many symptoms day in and day out, or the reality that your life has changed – it gets old. Quick. It would be easy, I imagine, to let everything slip and focus on the negative. But that never helps. It only makes things worse.
I made a decision to focus on anything positive that happened in any day. Even the smallest success, the smallest change. Anything. After a while, they build up and you may find yourself having more good days than bad.
Of course, vent once in a while, but keep it upbeat otherwise. The clincher for me was always this: I’d think of some way it could be worse. For there were (and are) many that are worse off than I was, or am. Way worse. Thinking of my complaints then made me feel like a whining crybaby. Ouch. Embarrassing –
On really bad days when I couldn’t find anything to focus on, I’d always think about my family and friends and everyone that I knew were supportive of me. That also helped me stay more positive.
So there you go. Keep looking forward and thinking positive. And if you have a particularly bad day, know that I’m out here rootin’ for ya. You’ll get through it.
Conduct your own research
Luckily for everyone, there is an enormous amount of research being conducted now. So keep up with your research. Bring information you find and questions to your doctors.
Many physicians don’t know much about concussion. They want to help, but even with all the current research and focus, there isn’t much known about it. Even if your doctor is familiar with some aspect of it, it never hurts to find additional information. There are so many parts to concussion. The more information you have, the better.
Accept offers of help or ask for help if you need it
This may be one of the most difficult aspects of concussion. You may end up losing some of your independence. Perhaps you can’t drive anymore, at least for the time being. You may need to rely on others to transport you to doctor’s appointments, school – whatever. You may need assistance on the home front, or with school. Whatever it is, ask and accept it. It can be difficult. But it may be temporary.
Use walking sticks and other devices that help
For a fairly long time, I had to use a walking stick to get around. Soon after my accident, I pulled an old broom handle out of the garage and was using it for support. My neighbor saw me and loaned me her walking stick. I bought my own promptly; it worked great.
My walking stick enabled me to get out walking sooner, on my own. It also proved invaluable when I was able to start taking buses everywhere to get around again. On my own. I needed it to lean on while standing, while waiting, and for support when walking. So don’t be averse to using such devices to help you along, whatever there might be. Your goal is to recover as soon as possible. That’s what matters.
Be thankful for the work of disability advocates
When I was finally able to start taking buses to get around (it was over a year before I could drive again and perhaps longer), I became acutely aware of the hard work and accomplishments of disability and accessibility advocates.
Why? Because buses kneel. That’s right. They can drop to curb height so you don’t have to step up to get on a bus. For someone who had balance issues from a concussion, this was great. I didn’t have to worry about losing my balance and falling and perhaps hitting my head.
In any case, I realized that it took a tremendous amount of work to have recognized the need for such a thing, to have come up with the idea, to have it designed and incorporated into buses, and to have it included in city bus systems. I can’t even imagine how much work that was. In the course of your recovery, you may take a bus sometime. Or do something else that makes use of some sort of accessibility or disability feature. When you do, think about all the work it took to implement it.
Just that one little thing, kneeling buses, opened my eyes significantly. There are little things everywhere that can help with accessibility or disability. Even something you may think is small could help someone immensely, in ways you never imagined.
It’s a fine line with concussion. You want to move forward, but you have to be very careful in doing so. Because you don’t want to overdo it. To exacerbate your symptoms. To step backward. How, then, do you make progress?
Baby steps. Listening to what your body says. Pushing just hard enough to make progress, but not too much.
It’s a fine line and I can’t tell you how to find that place, that line. As I used to say, “I’ve become one with my concussion.” Which means, I guess I figured out how much I could do at any time given the day and how it was going. Attempts at pushing days or weeks before, and the results. And just continually pushing. As much as my head could handle. It took a long time. But I never gave up. Neither should you.
So what are your thoughts? If you’ve been through this, or are going through it, do you have any tips for others?