14th August, 2016. It was one of those epic ski days, those days where I actually wanted to pinch myself. I was skiing with a group of great friends and my kids were off in their lessons. I was officially living the Treble Cone ski dream for the next hour.
I stood, looking out at the breathtaking view and deciding on my next ski line to take down the hill. I was waiting on my friends to catch up. The sun was belting down and there wasn't a cloud in the sky. Then, suddenly from behind my right shoulder I heard a wee squeal of excitement, then the haunting noise of my friends worried scream, then ... well, I don't remember.
At some point I then opened my eyes and I was on my side. I felt like I was being chocked to death, I needed my helmet OFF, but I couldn't get my words together to ask for it. Everyone was saying my name and asking if I was okay, but I still couldn't respond. I wanted to, but I couldn't. All I could see was the view I had been looking at, but sideways.
I was waiting for my body to tell me what was broken or hurt, but I was numb, and I was confused. So confused. I couldn't seem to make my brain work the way it used to! Someone finally took my helmet off and I mustered a smile and asked my friend if she was okay (she was lying on the other side of me, underneath one of my legs. I couldn't understand how she had ended up there with no sliced face from my ski, but thankfully she was okay!)
By now a wee posse of friends skiing the same route had arrived and everyone was asking me random questions, that I really couldn't answer! After convincing them I didn't need ski patrol and that nothing was broken I stayed sitting in the snow for 15 minutes, still body scanning myself and trying to work out what had happened.
I skied down to the base (as I felt reasonably okay...apart from a 'weird' headache, a dazed state, a very sore collar bone, sore back and an aching shoulder) I do believe, I thought I was invincible.
So after a couple more runs (!!!!) and a trip back down the hill (thank goodness I did not drive) I decided I would take some Panadol (this is big for me as I am not a painkiller taker, boy was that about to change!) The head pain and eye sight was becoming worse, and I was desperate to watch my friend who had been on TV 'The Block NZ' for weeks, as she took her house to auction...but I couldn't even watch the screen for 1 minute without agonising pain in my eyes.
I was scared, so confused and in disbelief that anything serious was wrong. I also didn't let on to my husband how bad things were, as I didn't want to frighten him or the kids. I trotted off to bed and spent the night in sweats having nightmares.
Next morning I popped some more pain relief, headed to my usual 6.15am gym class, in a severe dazed state with a bad headache. I was playing 'fake it till you make it' apparently! Friends said I was' not on the planet' at the gym and very out of it. Still I drove home, then drove my children to school, then took my 'Girls on the Run' running group. This beautiful bunch of mothers and carers told me to get myself straight to the doctor...as I was losing balance a lot, and I think I was finally accepting that things weren't right.
The doctor told me I should be right in 3 days and that I had a mild concussion, a bruised collar bone and my shoulder would need physio. I had severe whiplash (due to the extreme speed of the accident) and I had been winded. No more driving, and to go home and rest with pain killers. No screens, no noise, no light, no exercise...just sleep...SERIOUSLY...did this woman know me at all?!!
I did however do that, I couldn't actually physically manage anything else. The adrenalin had clearly worn off, and I felt like I had literally been hit by a bus.
I slept for 2 weeks.
The silent bitch that was concussion, was about to take over my life.
I couldn't do a thing. Just getting to the bathroom was enough for one day. I had nightmares (the neuropsychologist I was to see down the line explained why this was happening...a friend had hit me from behind! I was now in a state of constant stress and fear of anything or anyone taking me out unaware at any given moment) I couldn't spend time with my friends, I couldn't even walk with them, as my subconscious was frightened that they would hit me! (that and the fact I was good for about a 5 minute walk only)
I couldn't look after my children, only 5 minutes a day after school and 5 minutes before they went to bed, I couldn't run, jump..let alone walk! I couldn't make myself food, let alone my family. I was bed ridden and useless. There was no Netflix and social media scrolling as it caused agonising pain just to look at the screen. I also couldn't talk to anyone for longer than 4 minutes as the act of having to watch their facial expressions, gave me nausea and a headache, and made me unbelievably tired...let alone listening to, and remembering, and responding to their actual story!
Back to another doctor, after 2 weeks (so much for 3 days and she'll be right) and this doctor was unbelievably helpful, she tested me on a few things and explained I had a severe concussion and said rest was my only option and that this would take a lot of TIME. She sent me to a concussion clinic...and my new world became appointments with Physios, an Osteopath, a Chiropractor, a Neuro-psychologist, a Neurologist, Doctors, an Optometrist and an Occupational Therapists, IT WAS ACTUALLY INSANE!.
My poor husband had to do everything for all of us. That guy deserves the worlds biggest medal, he's a champion.
I WAS LIVING IN MY OWN WEE HELL.
NO WORK (YOU ALL KNOW HOW MUCH I LOVE MY CLIENTS, AND BUSINESS!)
NO SOCIAL LIFE (I MISSED SO MANY DEAR FRIENDS SPECIAL EVENTS)
NO BEING A MUM OR A WIFE OR AN ANYTHING!
I LITERALLY WENT INTO A WORLD OF DEPRESSION AND ANXIETY.
IT WAS COMPLETELY HORRIFIC.
I hid the extent of my world to most people, I was just in a lonely hell. I looked normal on the outside (it's not like you can wear a cast on your broken brain) I would appear normal, however, on the inside my head was filled with fog, I was using all of my energy just to create words and sentences, to stand up straight and to do things like smile. I would see someone I knew on the street as I headed to an appointment, I would talk to them, get back to my car and have to sleep before driving home. The brain is AMAZING...it fuels EVERYTHING! When it is broken, it can't do jack!
My poor Mum had Phone calls of despair from me, I'd do things like phone her up from the supermarket car park (when I wasn't even going to the supermarket) and just cry to her because it felt like my whole life was gone. (Sorry Mum!!) I would try to see a friend, or go to a school event and have to leave early, go home, crawl into bed and cry.
It was hard, as my friend who had crashed into me felt horrific, it was so hard for her, I tried to hide my symptoms, but as she is such a good friend, I often crumbled and moaned I use this platform to remind her that not once have I EVER blamed her, it was a complete freak accident. She has been amazing throughout my entire recovery.
I learned to walk with my dog again, my complete best furry friend, I couldn't have done it without his motivating expressions to get out and chase the bunnies. Prior to the accident, I was running a good 40km minimum a week, and the rest of it (gym, dance class, yoga, coaching girls on the run, trampoline action with kids, handstand practice...I was active!) So to simply whittle down to managing 2 x 10 minute dog walks a day...things were dull.
I then managed to get myself back to my gym and find a small amount of happiness from being able to hit some form of a routine again. Sure I was doing what felt like the worlds lamest exercises, but I was still surrounded by that familiar setting, at a familiar early bird time of day. I wasn't sleeping at night, I was sleeping a lot during the day, so it didn't really matter what time I did things. I was in my own world of recovery. Hubby was sole charge of the children. It was a weird machine, but we did it.
I was left with lingering debilitating fatigue, it's like a brick wall that slams you in the face, when your 'life bucket' is full. It doesn't take much to fill that bucket, and when it's full, it bursts, and the fatigue is scary and humiliating. I suffered anxiety attacks before the simplest of events like going to the supermarket, going to a child's pantomime, heading to an appointment. The anxiety would set in as I feared if I could make it through the 'mission', before the fatigue cloud came in at rapid speed and I had to lye down and close my eyes instantly.
I learned a lot about myself, and about my relationships with people. My support crew were unbelievable. Constant phone calls, even though they knew I was too tired to talk, they would just leave chirpy, cheerful voice messages for me to hear when I was up to it. They would message me, and offer help to the hubby. They never gave up on me, which was heart breaking, as many times I gave up on myself....I couldn't even check my fucking emails, it hurt so much. It hurt my head, my eyes and it exhausted me beyond belief.
If you are reading this and you are suffering from a Concussion or those who have hit Post Concussion Syndrome please realise what you are going through is normal and you are not alone! For those with a loved one suffering...
Just be there for them, never stop letting them know...it is so lonely on 'planet concussion' and just knowing there are people still there for you when you come out of the hideous fog literally makes a world of difference.
If you are concuss, or were and are still in the 'fog of hell', be patient (trust me, I am the most impatient person ever...well, I was!) REST, REST, REST...it;'s your best friend. No alcohol, no stimulants, no caffeine, fresh real food, some sort of a routine around meal times, or just tiny things like a shower each day. Keep presenting to your doctor if you don't feel like yourself, and accept the help you are offered. That was another massive thing for me - letting go of trying to control everything. ACCEPT that you have this 'traumatic brain injury' and put yourself first. Focus on getting better.
I was determined to dance again. It was the highlight of my week. I had to take 8 weeks off, but then I made it back to class, and sure, it meant sleeping all day just to make it to a one hour dance class, then having to sit and watch half of the routines...but being surrounded by my tribe was pure heaven, and I am certain it aided my mind and mood in recovery.
I also learned how to meditate, YUP...I slowed down so much that I meditated up to 3 times a day. Only for a simple 10-15 minutes at a time, but I believe it changed my world. I still meditate as often as I can each day. I personally use the app 'headspace', however there are many other options out there. I will never stop this practice. It slows me down entirely. I am refreshed, grateful, calm, and so insanely less 'highly strung' than ever before. I am now able to cope with the drama on such a different playing field.
Meditation helped me connect with the present moment by finding wellbeing in the NOW before anything happened. I became happy and satisfied by simply the sensation of breathing. We are always 'butting in' to our 'now' with more thoughts, more of 'what's next' or 'what else do I need to do right now' or of course our cell phones 'bing' at us with the next notification. It's so nice to just stop, and appreciate what is right in front of you right then and there! Cortisol levels dropped when I started meditating, stress levels dissipated as the constant high frequency happening all around me dissolved through me focussing on only one thing (meditation).
I am a firm believer of the idea that things happen for a reason. As much as it was horrible to think about, yes, maybe it was true. Prior to the accident I was running around like a blue-ass fly, helping and training my clients, and doing that thing that Mums do ;-) then this happened and I completely re-prioritised my life. I now hear the birdsong (I even just told my children to open the window as a bird was singing really loudly in the garden! I was writing this as I heard it...in the past I wouldn't have heard it)
I re-connected with the people and things who matter. Work does not need to consume me. I also learned to let other help me, to ask for help, and to let my children deal with the fact that someone else was going to help them, other than me, and that they would be just fine!!
I also learned that exercise is 100% an aid for depression. I know I have posted about this before, but I feel even more strongly about this now. It took the hideous pressure headaches out of my head, it made me appreciate that I could still move (sure I wasn't moving like I used to) but I was moving! and that was awesome! I have always been an exercise addict, but this is a new level of appreciation. Get moving team, get the kids moving, the Grant parents moving, soothe your brain, re-build your brain with fresh blood and oxygen. It is a fact. MOVE.
So, from the girl who couldn't put her head down to vacuum, wipe a bench, do her shoe laces up, make a school lunch. Couldn't co-ordinate her eyes and mouth to read her son a bedtime story, Couldn't catch up on the school newsletter, or read emails from her children's teachers. Couldn't go to the school gate because it was too busy for her broken brain. Couldn't be a Mother (horrifically heart breaking), Couldn't be a wife, cried to her parents most days down the phone line, couldn't be there for her friends if they were struggling, couldn't remember things, concentrate, read, watch, participate or laugh. I am so excited to say that I am nearly there!
Those who are also suffering, you will be too! I can now run again without needing to sleep all day, I dance again, I made it to a Coldplay concert (with ear plugs and no alcohol), I can be an actual Mum, Wife, Friend and Human being again. I can offer hope, promise and motivation to anyone out there who is also suffering from post concussion syndrome and living in the 'concussion fog of life'.
You will get through it, you will be yourself again. Sure, it's apparently going to take me a complete year to two years to be right back to myself again (able to work a full days work/look at a screen without a special eye protector/ avoid neon lighting/ not take naps/ not suffer headaches/ not crumble into pieces when I get home from a small social gathering or simple coffee with a friend/ and the rest of it!) but I don't mind! I am so freaking excited to be alive, be able to walk/run/jump and bounce. I have managed to loose the anxiety and compulsion to be always doing something. I appreciate the most tiny things in life. We are so lucky to be alive!
If anyone needs to talk about their concussion, or someone else who has a head injury, I come to the table with first hand experience and a mass amount of research and ideas on holistic recovery. It was my only project for 5 months! Please reach out, and please remember, you WILL get better, you will 'dance' again!
Most importantly, I am back and ready to tackle your struggles head on. My coaching programs are tweaked and even better than ever and I am excited to work with you again! It's time to pull all of that endless chatter out of your mind and make some healthy real life choices, so you can be your best selves too.
Last but not least, thank you all to my faithful followers and square one supporters, you have been out of this world.
I am motivated and ready to rock..after I have a wee nap ;-)
2017 has a plethora of new ideas, products and goodness coming your way. WATCH THIS SPACE.
BREATHE AND SMILE.
Written by Jess Eastwood