Friday, October 7, 2016

Injuries That Make You Dumb: a Concussion Experience

Let's talk about concussions.

Concussions are also known as a traumatic brain injuries, happen when you strike or jolt your head, and are currently fucking up my life. When you're diagnosed many doctors say you're "suffering" from a concussion; take that word literally. Take it as literally as you are able to, because it encapsulates the rough experience that is recovering from a head injury. 

While rugby has contributed to the many incredible parts of myself and my life, the one area it's not done such a great job is in maintaining the mint condition of my grey matter. I've had two concussions so far; one last year which was comprised of multiple face-to-ground collisions ("multiple" because I'm an idiot and decided to play through the first impact) and one that occurred last week (this time back-of-the-head-to-ground collision, which thankfully saved the integrity of my eyebrows).

While there are several typical indicators and symptoms of concussions, one of the parts that makes them so much fun is everyone reacts and heals differently. One person can even have different reactions to different concussions. For instance my first one was marked by some lovely emotional issues that culminated in a few trips to a shrink's office (side note: always seek help for depression. There's body doctors for body issues and head doctors for head issues. Use them). This time I've managed to escape the darker mental side effects and instead feel consistently nauseous and dizzy when required to do physical and mental labor. Imagine the joy I feel every time I have to attend a class designed to make me think critically and can't exert myself mentally. It's not an ideal situation, though infinitely better than having no feelings or interests throughout the day. I will always prefer the struggle to concentrate over the struggle to find energy enough to smile. 

We tend to put a lot of emphasis on concussions in sports, but the more I talk about my experience the more I realize how many people are with me in this club I once thought was exclusive. We're a group of people who, whether it was done by hurtling towards another person and getting thrown to the ground or by straightening up to be intercepted by a rogue cabinet door, know exactly what I mean when I say the most simple tasks have now turned into a hot mess of horrors. This is important, because one of the most damaging parts of my bout of impact induced depression was my feeling of being completely alone. No one understood. No one could relate to me. No one knew how to help because I alone was stuck in this dark place. 

Except so many people understood. 

So many people are aware of the frustration that comes when I know the word I'm looking for but it won't come to my head. So many people know exactly how it feels to excuse yourself in order to cry in a bathroom stall because of trivial inconveniences. So many people are aware of how embarrassing it is to reach for a handle and instead slam your hand into the door. Do all these things suck? Yup. There's a reason the number of fuck-bombs dropped increases exponentially with a head injury. But does it also suck less because I have the support of other people who have and are going through the exact same thing?
Yup, that too. 

My point is concussions blow. They're hard to deal with and hard to heal. This is an injury that literally makes a person stupid and I'd highly recommend avoiding them. If you can't follow that advice, know that there's always support for you somewhere and that I totally understand how fucking terrible that test is where they make you count backwards by seven. Fuck that test.

Keep your brains safe friends,