I’m not me

Okay, so last week was one thing. I described it as topsy turvy. This week was just hard to handle.

I’ll start off by reiterating that concussions suck. Also that I am the worst at taking time off. Like, officially the worst.

When I wrote last week it was pretty close to when I started noticing initial symptoms of a concussion. Loss of concentration, sleeping more than usual, fatigue, headaches, etc etc. I had been to a doctor, who gave me not much instruction or useful advice. He suggested I maybe take some time off and then re-assess. Standard procedure for a concussive event is to take at least 7 days off (no work, no school, no exercise, nothing. Off off.). I know this. So my brilliant self decided to sort of take the weekend off (I saw the doctor on Thursday night) and then try and do half-work days throughout the week, as well as classes and practical exams. I managed to keep myself away from the barn, though, so high five for me? No. No high fives. Throughout the week, I noticed many new symptoms. The most predominant being going from sleeping WAY more than usual to not sleeping at all. 18hrs down to 3hrs. Not okay. Mood swings. Oh my goodness mood swings. Losing my patience with everything much more quickly then regular me would. Feeling sad. Feeling anxious. Feeling great. Feeling awful- in a time frame of under an hour. My concentration and focus has yet to return.

Trying to work was the worst idea, as my job is all computer focused and requires a high-degree of concentration. I can’t read for more than 5 minutes without getting distracted, dizzy, or having to look away. Class is the other thing that was an awful idea this week. Tuesday was the worst, coming back after missing the previous lecture. I absorbed approximately nothing from Tuesday’s class. I sat there in a fog for the entire time, and skipped the lab because I just couldn’t handle being there any longer. Physically and emotionally. Thursday’s class was better. My focus still wasn’t good, but the class was a little more engaging and less reading focused. Thursday I was also required to do two practical exams (one make-up and one new), both which required me to understand, teach, and guide a “client” through two different types of workouts while being video-taped. Anyone want to wager a guess at how well those went? Understanding what I was teaching wasn’t there, and I couldn’t concentrate long enough to really remember what I was doing through the tests. So not expecting good things on those reviews. Friday I saw another doctor. A much better doctor this time. One who has a concussion specialization, not one who was working a walk-in. I knew she was good, because she gave me news I didn’t want to hear- even if I knew it was coming. At least another 7 days off of my life. Serves me right, I guess, didn’t reeeeaaaaally take the first 7 days off.

I know, guys, it’ll end up being 14 days. Why am I getting all weird about it? Who wouldn’t want a break?

If you’ve had a concussion, or know someone who has- you know how important it is to rest. You’ll also know how hard that can be sometimes. With other injuries there is usually a physical, visible disability that comes a long with it. It’s quite obvious why you are taking time off. To you, and to those around you. This is a very invisible and mysterious injury. You can’t see it. You can’t predict it’s healing process. You can’t push it.

The perspective of taking time off now, so you don’t have lingering symptoms for months down the line that interfere with your life further, makes a lot of sense. So what is it that makes it so hard?

Part of it, I think, is that this sort of injury tricks you into viewing yourself as fine, and thinking others will view you as fine too- and by taking time off when you’re “fine” people might think you’re just being lazy. This isn’t true, of course, but it’s really hard not to see it that way. Concussions come with messed up self-perceptions. Those who know me know that I would never just take time off unless it was well-deserved. I like to be busy. I take on as much as I can because I love to. When time off is necessary, I try every trick in the book to convince myself that I don’t need time off. I know, ridiculous. I know other athletes to this too. That attitude towards life is what makes what we do possible. Never stop. But when it comes to flipping that determination around to successful recovery.. sometimes we get a little mixed up.

I’m blessed with being surrounded by people that constantly remind me to slow down when I’m doing too much. Rather then support my irrational decisions to push myself harder when I need to be taking pressure off the gas they constantly put things into perspective for me, or attempt to anyway. Do I listen all the time? No. Should I? Probably, yes. Do I try to? Yes. Always. There is no way that I would be as far and as successful in my endeavours if I hadn’t listened to the advice and wisdom coming from these people at least most of the time. When I have thoughts like “people will think less of me if I don’t do this…” or “my life is falling apart because I can’t do all this at once..” (that one was an exaggeration.. I don’t ever think that… do I??)- I am only met with acceptance of who I am, and reassurance that I am doing just fine. Usually I am given exactly what I need for that moment. What more could you as for in friends and family? 

Another difficult side to this, that I’m noticing, is that I don’t feel like myself. Partially because I’m not able to do many of the things that make up who I am. My normal motivation for everything is feeling a little tired (that is probably a good thing- a little easier to take a break with this mentality) and my frustration levels are much higher then they normally are (probably not a good thing). Also because the symptoms of this concussion like to play around with my emotions, making it hard to handle things I would normally not even blink at. It’s comforting to know that these are just symptoms, and they will pass. However, it’s also scary to not have control over my own head- and not knowing what is coming next a lot of the time. This feeds into the challenge of being able to perceive how those around me are viewing me. It’s a little confidence shaking.

On the plus side, I have a fantastic excuse for pretty much any stupid thing I say– Nobody can argue “concussion” as reason for not knowing something or those everyday face-palm moments!

What are your concussion experiences (personal, or someone you know)? How did you handle them?

I am hoping that next time I write I’ll be a little more “me” and a little less “concussion”! Until then, wish me luck at not concentrating (hopefully the only time I’ll be asking for luck in this) and “staying zen”.

 

 

That familiar-unfamiliar feeling

What a week! Classes are done finally and now it’s just wading through the 5 exams this month until I can shift my focus completely to work and riding (and my spring course..)!

Today I dotted the i’s and crossed the t’s on my new summer job. This job will keep me in the city for the summer. While there is a certain amount of excitement about the job itself, and the experience it will give me, there is also a feeling quite similar to one I had frequently while overseas. The being outside of your comfort zone and growing up type feeling. Something new, something exciting, something maybe a little bit scary? It seems ridiculous to compare the two- staying in the city for the summer, somewhere already pretty familiar to travelling across the world, alone. But, is the first summer I will spend away (away is dramatic- its only an hour) from home. It seems to be eliciting some homesickness-like vibes.

So much of this past year has been about putting myself outside of my comfort zone- taking on the unfamiliar and the scary- and finding out where it takes me. That unfamiliarity is almost normal. Its starting to seem that just when I get used to one thing, I find a new challenge to take on. That’s what pursuing higher education is about though, right? Sometimes its not even an unfamiliar challenge that pops up- it quite often is something familiar to me, a challenge I have dealt with and worked through already, but presented in a new way. Demanding that I re-look at how I faced it before and develop a new game plan for how to deal with it now.

Those who know me best know that I love taking on a challenge. Which is why, although the unfamiliarity of stepping outside of that comfort zone is usually terrifying, I have been consciously making the effort to do it more and more. I can’t lie, it is completely exhausting, deflating, and runs me down some of the time. However, the changes I have noticed in myself as a student, friend, athlete, young professional, etc etc, show what that effort is providing me with. I am able to set goals and work towards them with confidence, even if the road along the way isn’t one I’ve travelled before.

Everyday is a new adventure, yadda yadda.

That got deep fast.

Apparently there are lots of things floating around in my head right now.

To summarize, summer job= staying in the city= mixed feelings.

I’ve had two rides on the grey beast since moving him to McMullans for some spring butt kicking. He has been exceptional both times. Tonight consisted of about 45 minutes of bending, and transition. His transitions are so so nice (miraculously) even now after the winter off- that is- until about the 30 minute mark when the energy levels start to dwindle. When we started our hack today he was floating around the ring in great balance, bending around my leg like nobody’s business. But as we continued to work- the whole floating thing went down the spectrum a bit, and he relied a little bit more my hands instead of carrying himself. It was good to spend a bit longer with him tonight, to see where we are at in terms of lateral work and general flat work. Fitness wise, he is way above my expectations. The biggest thing for the next little while is going to be reminding him how to balance himself, and getting some fluidity/impulsion back into his trot. And of course reminding my body what it is like to be in the saddle on a regular basis!