Today’s guest blog is written by Madeline Uretsky, a BIA-MA Ambassador Speaker, who is still recovering from a concussion she had in 2011. Today she shares her tips for navigating concussion recovery.
When I began my day on October 13, 2011, I was a happy-go-lucky sophomore in high school looking forward to my afternoon soccer game. When I finished my day, I was a high school student who had suffered a life-changing concussion that would keep me out of school for a year. I have learned many things about myself and about my brain during this time, so I have decided to share some of my experiences of what has helped me to navigate my way through this. Although I am still suffering from many symptoms 24/7, I can say that there are some things that can help along the way.
1. Brain Rest – I was put on complete brain rest for the first three months of my concussion. I did not watch TV, read, use my computer, exercise, or use my cell phone. In fact, I did absolutely nothing but lie in bed and sleep. I know that this sounds almost impossible to do, but when you have a concussion, you really don’t feel well enough to do those things anyway, so for me, it was not as hard as it seems. I can say that the brain rest did provide me with a good foundation for my recovery, and to this day, when my symptoms become a bit too much for me, I take some time to rest and recharge my brain.
2. Eating habits – Another recovery tool that was very helpful in clearing the fogginess that I had been feeling was to change my eating habits. When I was able to start reading, I asked my mom to buy me a book called “The Lean,” by Kathy Freston. I read a chapter each day, because I would become more symptomatic as I read, but I decided to change one eating habit daily, and before I knew it, I was eating things like broccoli, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, nuts and seeds, tofu, salmon and beans. I cut out all sugar, processed and fried foods, meat and poultry. In addition, I started to drink a lot of water each day. I noticed that after about a month, not only had I lost some weight, but my general fogginess had cleared by about 90%. I also just felt so much better, so I continue to eat this way.
3. Find a hobby – Once I had finished my three months of brain rest, I was anxious to do something – anything that I could do without exacerbating my symptoms. Since I still was suffering terribly from all of my symptoms, finding something that I actually could do was quite a challenge. Again, I asked my mom if I could help her in the kitchen. I really was not a fan of cooking, but there wasn’t much else I could do that didn’t require too much of me physically or mentally. So, that became my new hobby – helping my mom cook dinner every night. While I’m still not a fan of cooking, I did feel proud when each meal was done. I recommend finding some sort of hobby to fill the time and give a sense of accomplishment.
4. Find support – Finding other teenagers who were also recovering from severe concussions was another useful tool for me. It was not an easy task, but I managed to find several others like me, who had missed a good amount of school and were still at home recovering. We were able to commiserate with each other about how we were feeling, things we would do to pass the time, and how no one could possibly understand what we were going through unless they were going through it themselves. I am happy to say that I have made some very good friends in the US and Canada, and we continue to provide each other with friendship and support.
5. Education – My last recovery tool that I found very important was education. I was so confused about all the different things that I was feeling – headaches, sharp shooting pains all over my head, fogginess, ringing in my ears, light and noise sensitivity, balance problems, memory loss and so many other things – that I had to learn about what was happening to me. When I was up to it, I would read whatever I could, and talk to whomever I could, about what a brain injury was all about, and what recovery from brain injury would entail, so that I could give myself the best chance for recovery.
Recovery from a brain injury is a long and difficult process, but if you arm yourself with some helpful tools, and explore various treatment options, you will find that although extremely slow, there can be some relief.