Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Life with Post-Concussion Syndrome

As I was saying in my previous post, I got a concussion after hitting a rock with my face while whitewater rafting. The morning when my brain quit on me, I agonized through a meeting that I was leading, but that I simply did not have the brain power to lead. I could not figure out what the topics of discussions were and was unable to answer simple questions. My headache was unbearable, it was making me nauseated. Also, everyone was talking way too fast, what was wrong with them and why were they asking me to know what the meeting was all about? I barely made it through the meeting without either bursting into tears or killing someone. At some point during that meeting I knew that I was in trouble. I called the health line from my desk and the nurse strongly advised that I see a doctor that day.

I went to a walk-in clinic in Ottawa and saw an awesome doctor. She listened to me and asked a lot of questions. She allowed me time to think and respond. She checked my eyes, the bruises on my face and my balance, of which I had none. It was like I was drunk: my brain was so foggy and I could not stand straight. She told me I had a concussion, gave me a doctor's note so that I take a week off to rest and gave me a one-pager with information on concussions and what to do/what not to do. It didn't say much, only to rest and have someone check over us.

And so, I went home and rested. I was so tired, I don't know if I have ever been this tired in my life. My mood was all over the place during that first week: one minute I was laughing, the next I was very agressive and then I was mellow. On the morning of day 7 after my concussion, I spoke on the phone with my friend. All was good, until about 20 minutes after I hung up. It hit me like a ton of bricks: the suicidal thoughts. They were insanely real: I knew that I would take all the pills in my house and just end my life right there and then. I thought that maybe I didn't have enough pills in the house to finish the job, so I thought I would go to the pharmacy later to get more. I didn't feel any emotions while I was having those thoughts. I was planning my suicide like I would plan a bike ride. Eventually, I started to freak out and called another friend. We met up not long after and that's when I cried for the first time since the concussion. It would take another 2 months until I cried again. The suicidal thoughts left as suddenly as they appeared, but I remained terrified that they would come back.

The second week after the concussion, the symptoms were worsening instead of improving. The fatigue was getting worse, the headaches wouldn't let up, I was foggier than ever and very agressive. I got scared that this was the new normal for me and somehow convinced myself that I would have to grieve the person I had become in the past year. I loved that version of me. For the first time in my life, I allowed myself to be me. I stopped caring so much about people's opinions of me and started to live my life according to my needs and desires. I discovered the person that, deep down, I knew I was, but hid from the world: an adventurous spirit, eager to connect with people and to try new things, with a strong desire to push outside of her comfort zone to experience the world in a whole new way. I had only been 'me' for a few short months and now it was back to square one. The thought depressed me more than any other thought I have had in my life. I knew I should fight back, but I didn't know how and I didn't have the energy to do so.

My time off work was extended. All in all, I wouldn't go back to work before 3 weeks post-concussion. When I went back, I found myself overwhelmed by the noise, the lights, the people and all the action at work. Working on the computer was extremely hard, but I pushed myself to do it because I felt I didn't have any other choice. My director gave me permission to use my sick leave to work shorter days, which I was thankful I could do. The first two weeks, I worked 4.5-6 hour days. On my third week back, I decided it was time to work full-time, but I knew I was pushing it as my symptoms were getting worse by the day. The headaches were unbearable, my eyes did not want to stay open when I was on the computer, I could barely follow conversations, let alone participate in them and I would crash on the couch as soon as I made it home each day. I was becoming more and more depressed at the same time as my aggressiveness was reaching an all-time high. I was particularly aggressive towards the people who were trying to be nice to me. For some reason, they were the ones that got on my nerves the most. Every day was torture.

Thankfully, I had a week of vacation coming the week after, so this was helping me hold on. I rented a cottage close to Quebec City, where I would get silence, peace and solitude. That week was wonderful: I rested a lot, both physically and mentally and I started on my vestibular rehabilitation exercises. These exercises brought on dizziness and headaches, as well as stupidity (my brain could not count from 1 to 15 if I was doing something else at the same time, like moving my eyes between two "x" on the wall).

When I went back to work the week after, I crashed. I couldn't stand to be working on the computer, could not stand conversations with colleagues, the surrounding noise was unbearable. One morning, we had an early morning teleconference, which I took from home. The call went on for hours and I cried my way through it (thank God for mute). Once I hung up, I called my manager and advised that I would not be going back to work until I saw my sports doctor the next Wednesday. I finally admitted to myself that this was a serious injury and that I had to treat it like a serious injury. This was 2 months post-concussion.

When I saw my doctor, he took a look at my imPACT test results and said "you can't be able to work with those types of results" and he put me on sick leave for the next 6 weeks. I was shocked and relieved at the same time. Shocked because it confirmed that this was serious. The thought made me quite depressed for a minute, until relief at not having to go back to the office to stare at a computer all day spread over me.

Tomorrow will be 4 months post-concussion. I am still off work and will be for at least another 5.5 weeks. More on my treatment later, I'm getting very tired now.

1 comment:

Ian Timshel said...

Much love to you. I wish I was closer, Big hugs.