Five years post-concussion

Feb 5, 2023 | Writing

Another February 5 has arrived, which means I’m now officially five years concussion-free! That’s 1825 days in a journey that spans 3860 days, or 10.58 years, but who’s counting? In each of my previous yearly reflections, there’s been an overarching theme (1: survival, 2: progress, 3: plateau, 4: discipline), but this year has seemed to encompass all of them—a microcosm of my journey thus far.

Picking up from where I left off last February, finishing up my one-year job with my health not any worse off than when I started was my main focus, so absolute discipline continued to be essential. Things were tested in March with the addition of another very part-time seasonal job, but despite it being one of the most demanding months of my life, I made it through relatively unscathed. It wasn’t without its challenges, but I was extremely encouraged that it didn’t result in a major setback.

There were a few minor setbacks with sports which I’ve come to expect, but there was also a trip to a trampoline park that caught me by surprise. I hadn’t planned to participate because I wanted to play it safe, so all I did was take a couple of light bounces to test things out and I cannot believe how much that undid me. My spatial/vestibular issues came flooding back in an instant—a testament to how retraining your brain is incredibly specific to the environment and activity. At least in my experience, general progress doesn’t seem to translate.

The daily walks that began last year continue to play a major role in work and life being sustainable, and that remains a non-negotiable part of my everyday. In addition, this year saw my reading habits skyrocket thanks to audiobooks and a long commute, which levelled up my mental game and increased my desire to improve in all aspects of my life. Learning and self-improvement are passions that were forced into dormancy throughout this journey, so it’s been a tremendous blessing to be able to come alive through those avenues again! Of the topics I dabbled in, nutrition was a primary focus, and through reading, learning, and experimenting with my diet, I was able to take great strides with my eating habits. That’s been the most significant change this year, and while there’s always room for improvement, I’m steadily moving towards getting that piece of the puzzle permanently in place. I even decided to swear off desserts for the rest of my life! Nutrition plays such an integral role in short-term and long-term health, so I’m grateful to have truly internalized its importance this past year, and to add to the list of positive lifestyle changes that have come as a result of this journey.

In the summer, as my schedule began to lighten, I finally started to see some overall improvement and was on pace to finish my year of work in even better shape than when I started! Unfortunately, that pace came to a crashing halt with a major setback in July. Work was incredibly busy for me leading up to our church’s Day Camp which is when things started to fall apart. Extra work and being in charge of a number of things for the week would’ve been more than enough to handle, but that in combination with an echoey building of 200 sometimes-screaming kids was too much. I hadn’t been in an environment like that since the previous Day Camp, which due to the pandemic was three years prior—much too long ago for my brain to be prepared.

I was hoping a trip to the chiropractor would help, but that made things much worse and cranked the setback up a few notches. Since moving, it’s been a lot more complicated to get to my chiropractor’s, so I haven’t been going nearly as often. Chiro always benefits me long-term but oftentimes at the expense of the short-term, and because I wanted to hold onto my improving quality of life, I could never bring myself to make an appointment and risk interrupting things.

Prior to Day Camp, I had been doing so well that I hadn’t anticipated a setback at all, so I was extremely caught off guard by how much things unraveled. I became demoralized and fearful as thoughts of all my progress being thrown out the window began to creep in. Old ways of thinking are still always there under the surface, ready for any opportunity to sneak back in…

My life is just a cruel joke. I’m constantly being flung back and forth, never able to get my footing. Every time I start to get my quality of life back, something comes up and rips it out from under me. Every time I get my hopes up, I get blindsided. I’ll never make a full recovery. It’ll always be two steps forward, two steps back. Work will never be sustainable. Life will never be meaningful. I’ll never get to be fully me again. My days will always be filled with pain and suffering. Things will never get better. Circumstances will always be too much to handle. Maybe I should quit trying…

Thankfully, I’ve made enough progress and been at this game long enough to know that when these thoughts show up they’re temporary, based on my current state, and don’t accurately reflect the whole picture. Despite what I’m feeling, and however long setbacks last, I know that the work I’ve put in has made a difference. My progress is much more akin to two steps forward, one step back than it is to two steps forward, two steps back. The fact that I can even have objective thoughts in the middle of a downward spiral is remarkable and is immense proof of how far I’ve come. Words cannot express how much of a gift it is to have my mind back.

That setback lasted about two months; pushing through to finish up my job in August, and taking a breather from life in September. Another job I’d been working also fell through at that time, which led me to the decision of burning through savings to take time off and once again try to get my health and life back on track—ideally for good this time!

In September I began seeing an osteopath, and while we’ve so far spent the majority of time on my hips (they’ve always been awful), I’m hoping treatments will be part of a permanent solution for my lingering head/neck issues.

Fast forward to today, and the decision to take time off has been life-changing. Not only have I been able to get my health to possibly the best state it’s ever been, but the extra time has allowed for a mental breather that has resulted in immense personal understanding and growth. Among other things, for the first time ever I have a sense of direction in life, and an idea of who I want to become and what I want to do. This is something that I’ve let weigh me down for most of my life, so to say I’m excited is an understatement. My days now aren’t just manageable, they’re enjoyable. I’m thriving and coming alive and get to feel fully like myself more often than not. I get to be me again!!

While this lifestyle is far from being financially sustainable and I’m unsure of what’s next and when, it’s been an incredible blessing to have been able to recover, recharge, and regear for whatever lies ahead.

Looking back over this journey, I marvel at how God has transformed my life. The person I am today is astonishingly different from the person I was, and I cannot believe how far He has brought me. From constant pain and suffering to embracing the challenge of taking care of my health. From years of hopelessness, genuinely thinking things would never get better, to tangible progress and change. From eight years of depression to reclaiming my optimistic nature. From a compromised mind to mental clarity and freedom. From feeling worthless to feeling like I might just have something to offer the world. From just trying to make it through the day to dreaming about my future. From truly wanting to die to truly wanting to live.

I have my mind back, my health back, and myself back, and while some issues still linger, I’ve never been more excited about life or more at peace with however things unfold.

To God be the glory!

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