Three years post-concussion

Feb 5, 2021 | Newsletter, Writing

Today is February 5th, which I guess means it’s time for my annual post-concussion update. It has now been 3130 days since this journey began with concussion number one, and 1096 days, or three years, since concussion number three.

Overall, there have definitely been some major improvements over the past year, thanks especially to a very sheltered, quiet quarantine lifestyle. Headaches and light-sensitivity were the two areas that saw the biggest improvement, which has allowed me to work on my computer a lot more and I’m incredibly grateful for that. Thanks to this (and a lot of extra time off), I’m finally making progress on side projects and other creative and entrepreneurial things which feels like I’m moving forward in these areas for the first time instead of just spinning my wheels.

While the isolated lifestyle helped improve a number of areas, it prevented exposure to loud, busy, stimuli-filled environments which is something that is actually an important part of the recovery process. In order for your brain to get back to normal, it needs to gradually be exposed to situations and environments that trigger your symptoms. Over time, your brain adapts and your symptoms lessen, and, in an ideal world, disappear altogether. While this past year has left me with no idea of how I’m doing in this area, for the first time in this journey I have a baseline reference of what life feels like when external things aren’t triggering my symptoms which is very helpful.

If I were to give a theme to year one of these reflections, it would be survival mode. The theme of year two would be progress. And if I were to give a theme to this past year, I’d call it the plateau.

That first year was incredibly difficult to say the least, and required taking care of myself perfectly in order to even have a chance at an okay day. It was hard to stay disciplined, but it was the only option I had if I wanted to get better, so it was definitely worth trying. Year two saw major progress and hope for the first time which was extremely encouraging and motivating. I wrote that it felt like five years’ worth of progress in one. While it’s been absolutely amazing to start to get my life back, the progress this past year has plateaued quite a bit which has been a difficulty that I hadn’t anticipated. It makes sense that when you first get off of a downward spiral and onto an upward one that things are going to get a lot better a lot quicker, but I’d never stopped to think that that rate of progress would slow down. The plateau is great in that it represents how far I’ve come, but it can be difficult to deal with when that last 10-20% seems so close yet so unattainable. The motivation is certainly not what it was when I had no choice or was constantly improving so I’ve been finding it harder to stay disciplined since being back in the stage of not seeing the results of the work I’m putting in. It’s much easier to make progress when you can see the progress or at least know that it’s coming. Because of how far I’ve come, I can get away with letting things slide here and there, so I sometimes do. I’m by no means in dangerous territory, but I do need to be careful to keep my health my top priority, especially as the monotony of an entire year spent at home slowly grows.

Aside from the physical symptoms, the depression is completely gone now, and the bad days are much less frequent and less severe than they used to be. Every now and then there are days where I feel completely like my old self which is absolutely amazing. The problem though, is that I tend to get swept up in that bliss and start to think that I’ve made it and that everything’s back to normal which is not the case. It seems natural that I would progress to feeling normal and that that would be my new baseline but one of the most difficult parts of this journey has been the cyclical ups and downs and lack of control I have with messed up hormones and emotional regulation issues. The window of time I have to be myself still feels so small and I get weary from being pulled back and forth all of the time. I think I’m finally starting to internalize and accept the current rate of progress though, which will help prevent me from getting blindsided when each new out-of-control cycle hits.

I’ve focused a lot on the difficulties of the past year because I wanted to share the realities of those aspects, but I am so incredibly grateful for where I’m at right now. If this was my permanent reality and things never improved beyond where they are today, I would be okay with that. Being able to cope with life makes a world of difference. I can’t put into words how much of a gift it is to have days where I feel like myself and am fully in control of my thoughts and emotions. It’s been such a blessing to be able to get back into my hobbies, to be able to feel enjoyment for things, and to be in a state of mind where I can plan ahead and set goals. I now have non-concussion-related things I’m working towards, and I’m starting to feel like my life might just have a purpose which would be pretty game-changing.

Thank you to all of you who have been a part of this journey, no matter how small. Here’s to another year of progress!

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