It has been three months since my concussion.
A month ago, I thought it might just be another week or two until I was back to normal. This wasn’t the case. Despite multiple doctors’ opinions to the contrary, the recovery has taken another two months, and it seems likely to be another month before I’m able to handle everything I once could. All in all, I was out of work completely for 2 entire weeks, and on half-time for another 11. Work has treated me very well during this time.
I’ve seen two different nurses and two different doctors at HUHS, including my PCP. I have not seen a specialist because everyone I saw uniformly recommended against seeing a specialist. One of them, Dr. Kenneth Gold, was also an incompetent moron and I recommend that anyone with a concussion avoid him. If you have an appointment and it turns out to be with him, walk out of the room and ask for your co-pay back.
I’ve been struggling with depression since week 3. Thankfully I started looking for a therapist right away, and there was an opening earlier than they expected, so I have had mental health support from about week 6. Without that I would have had a much harder time.
The most painful part of this was not the headaches, it was feeling like I wasn’t myself. In the worst days, I couldn’t do anything but sit in the dark. Ten minutes in bad lighting could turn even my best day into a bad day. That meant walking into and then right back out of restaurants, sometimes five restaurants in a row, trying to find a place where my partner and I could eat dinner, all the while slowly becoming more hungry and less able to function. It meant saying “Let’s go for a walk” and then needing to go back inside and sit in the dark instead. It was incredibly frustrating, and I’m sure it was frustrating to others as well.
(You know how Edison bulbs have become popular again in the past 2-3 years? Those aren’t actually Edison bulbs. They’re shaped LEDs rather than incandescents, so they use a lot less power and every cafe loves them. Remembering this helped me avoid a lot of bad lighting.)
While the past two weeks have been mostly good, I’m still gun-shy, waiting for a bad day to come by again. A day when I’m unable to handle any sort of light, or when I’m light-headed for hours, unable to find a comfortable place even in my own house.
I remember the day I was able to read again. I never wanted to stop. I ended up overextending myself more than once because I couldn’t bring myself to walk away from the text. There were days when I used the computer until it started to hurt, then stopped… then read until that started to hurt, then wrote a little and that didn’t work, then listened to a podcast and that started to hurt too, and then I lay down in bed and that wasn’t enough either, so I just lay there with a cloth over my eyes. My yearning to be me again was painful and damaging, and that in and of itself was also hard to deal with.
My symptoms continue to change every 5-6 days. You might remember me saying that I had become hyper-sensitive to chemical effect on my brain (like salt, sugar, caffeine, etc.), and learned to distinguish the different headaches that came from a deficit of each one. That ability disappeared in another two weeks. The sensitivity was still there – I still got headaches – I just couldn’t tell why any more.
Thankfully this has currently been replaced by an over-sensitivity to sugar in particular. It’s easier to handle. My hope is that this will change too, but until it does, I have to take my coffee without sugar and save ice cream for rare occasions in small amounts. Being hungry also puts me immediately at risk. I need to eat small meals or snacks every three hours. Executive functioning is the first thing to go when my brain crashes. Strangely, cane sugar and fruit sugar seem to act differently, with cane sugar hitting me much worse.
I have no explanation for my symptoms, and no ability to predict what changes are coming. I can only watch and try to adapt.
My sensitivity to screens has diminished substantially (I was able to write this all in one sitting). Overhead LED light can still be a problem. Fluorescents can be ok, but if they’re flickering, it’s a nightmare. (I’m looking at you, Defenders.) All of this is dependent on my blood sugar level. Light that I can handle on a full stomach becomes intolerable if I haven’t eaten.
This might all sound like it’s pretty bad, but I’ve genuinely seen a huge improvement. Right now I’m able to handle 4 hours of work almost every day, and to do other things afterward. I still can’t drive, but I can read normal books and play some video games. Comic books are still difficult, but I can read them too some days. (Current theory: they require a lot of mental interpolation for scene changes.)
I have a doctor’s appointment at the end of this week that will hopefully let me go back up to 8 hours of work on the days when I can handle it. We’ll see how it goes.