About a year ago I suffered a concussion. I was playing a sport I totally loved and got hit in the head.
It wasn’t that bad the first day or two, but after a few days of rest, I realized I was feeling much worse. I had headaches, dizzy spells, noise and light sensitivity, weird auras, random numbness in my body, and a general fogginess. I couldn’t focus at work, couldn’t be in loud crowds, and couldn’t work out. I figured that since work and working out were both very difficult for me, at least I had my friends. However, when I would meet up with friends I found myself struggling with being present, and due to being in such a weird physical state with my concussion, I really just wanted to go home. I started feeling that “poor me” vibe as well as “I hate that girl who hit me” vibe (totally not fair to her at all, she was just playing the same sport I loved with the same fervency I play). I started feeling emotional all the time. The doctors told me this can happen after a head injury. I didn’t want to let my friends see me in such a state. I isolated myself from people because I didn’t feel myself, and I didn’t feel myself because I was isolating and not partaking in the things that I loved to do.
Needless to say, I started to feel depressed for the first time in my life. I knew I was feeling bad, and didn’t really want to admit I was starting to feel depressed. However, after months of placing myself in a physically dark room, I realized I was in a dark place. Over time, this chronic bodily pain gnawed at my mental health, heart, and soul. I started reading up on concussions in athletes and how football players with multiple concussions became suicidal, or I read wive’s reports of how their husband had totally changed their personality. Or how about Phineas Gage, the railroad worker who had a rod go through his brain and totally changed his happy relaxed demeanor and personality? There are reports of the earliest treatments for psychosis where a small rod would be placed up the nasal cavity and the brain would be scrambled to try and fix issues going on with mental health. Least to say, when the brain gets jumbled a bit in an accident or a sports related injury, its not that surprising that facets of one’s emotional state or personality might be altered, even if just temporarily based on these previous findings.
As a therapist, after my concussion era began to finally subside and heal, I noticed that I had more empathy for clients who have chronic back pain, diabetes, TMJ, walk with a walker or cane, have stomach and digestion issues, cerebral palsy, MS, cancer, and other nagging issues. Pain and illness, whether mental or physical, really can affect how you feel about yourself, your day, and other people. It can try your patience. It can be debilitating to not be able to accomplish your normal every day tasks. It might make you feel like “man, who could ever love me if I’m like this forever?” If you are born with the issue, then you may be angry at the cards life has handed you. If you developed the pain or illness suddenly or slowly, you may be grieving the loss of what once was good or your “normal”. You may be thinking, “um, okay, what’s the silver lining here? So we are going to be in pain, and life will get worse, and that’s it?”
Well, I got good news and bad news. The bad news is, I don’t know how your pain or illness will turn out? I don’t know if it’s terminal, and if it is, I really am so sorry, and while there are no easy or perfect answers for you, there are people and therapists, who would love to walk with you along the journey. There are stages of grief including: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance. It’s okay to be wherever you are. I truly, sincerely, and genuinely pray that you are able to get to the place of acceptance eventually and find meaning and purpose for your life, however long or short. But for others, the Good news is, and this is most of us, humans are magnificently RESILIENT in both body and mind. Scientific and Godly miracles do happen, and people do heal from really horrible illness, pain, trauma, concussions, addiction, psychosis, and other crappy accidental or purposeful heart-braking stuff. Knowing that hope is awesome, and we should walk alongside science and doctors, as well as friends, family, God, and encouraging strangers (bloggers, articles, TedTalks) in finding steps we can take to make one next positive step in the direction of healing ourselves.
Take one Step. For me it was a lot of rest, and a little more sunlight and noise each day. Making one doctor appointment at a time, A handful of different doctors saw me and tried to give me advice and medicine to help. It was a little more activity each day, trying therapy to process what was going on, a lot of self care, and some reaching out to others when I needed help. Day by Day. It was hard at times, but so worth it and people helped carry me through. Some days I noticed the difference, sometimes I didn’t, but regardless the growth was happening. A lot of people came along side me in encouragement and prayer even when I had little faith and showed me I was not alone. You are not alone. The pain in our bodies sucks, it hurts, it nags, but it rarely lasts forever. Each day let yourself experience a little more joy by taking one step at a time. You got this.