Recovery

Hi! Concussion update: I feel better! But it took quite a bit longer than the 2-3 weeks promised by all my “help I got a concussion” google searches. And by better I mean that I haven’t had a concussion headache for two weeks—I’m still testing things out and increasing my activity so this doesn’t necessarily mean I won’t get another concussion headache if I accidentally hit my limits. We’re currently almost 8 weeks out from concussion, so I had about 5.5 weeks of decreasing but continuing symptoms. I’m putting that out there in case this comes up in anyone else’s panicked googling about what to expect from a concussion. As the weeks went by I worried that I was one of those unlucky folks for whom concussion symptoms last years, and I was making all these calculations about how far to push it. If I get headaches when I run now, is it making the headaches worse if I run through them? Or is this just how running works now and I can run through them as long as I can put up with the pain of having a headache? For the last few weeks, though, I’ve actually felt better and I’m working back up to regular levels of fitness. 15 miles last week is way fewer than I wanted to be running this time of year and this close to a 50k race in May, but it’s the most I’ve run since concussion day on Jan 11th, and I also attended two circuits classes last week. My strength training goal is to hit the gym three times a week—one class and two more run-muscles-focused workouts on my own—so it felt great to make it out to more than one gym day. My message to any concussed people out there is that, if your concussion symptoms are hanging around longer than the expected amount of time, it doesn’t mean you won’t feel better. Rest up, take care of yourself, and give it a few more weeks. Of course I’ll keep this space updated about any lasting effects that have yet to make themselves known!

Blogging about my concussion was pretty helpful while I was having all these brain things going on that I didn’t understand. I did go to work the day after my last post, though, and as soon as I went back to work, work was the only thing I had energy for. Some people advised me to take more time off, and I would have if standing up was still making me queasy, but with my finances the way they are at the moment (I make tips and there is a HUGE difference between summer and winter income) I needed to prioritize working as soon as I was able. I wasn’t at all sure I would make it through the day but I felt pretty safe going into my coffee shop on a sleepy weekday to give it a try. It also helps that my work crew is a good family and I knew 100% that all my coworkers had my back. I needed to do everything very slowly for a few days and I still felt off and weird and headachey but I made it through. God bless my manager for how many times he asked, “How are you feeling, Grace?” that first morning. The answer was always a very tentative, “I think I’m okay.” The HILARIOUS thing is that, while having very few cold symptoms, my voice was getting a little hoarse towards the end of that first day, and I woke up the next day with LARYNGITIS. Nothing hurt, but it sure sounded terrible. My voice was reduced to whispers and occasional squeaks. Once I’d convinced people I wasn’t actually dying and it didn’t hurt to talk as much as it hurt their ears to listen, most people agreed the timing was pretty funny. And thankfully there was enough side work for me to do that I didn’t have to try talking to any customers.

I’ve learned a lot about listening to my body, and getting back to regular activities has been a slow process with several relapses. I received a few sessions of osteopathic treatment from a dear friend who is a DO, and that helped immensely. I’ve also been taking some supplements that are recommended for concussion (arnica, fish oil, homocysteine cardioplex) and I stopped drinking for several weeks after concussion day, right up until my birthday the first week of February. I think not drinking was a really good call, especially when I wasn’t running much. Running helps me maintain my mental health and stay positive during the winter, so I expected my mood to plummet when I wasn’t able to run. I actually felt fairly level and okay (though injured and exhausted) and I think removing alcohol, a depressant, at the same time I removed running helped me stay fairly stable.

Big news in other parts of my life. I purchased an iPad Pro for making digital art, and it is the BEST. Some of you have seen my sketches on Facebook an Instagram. More info and updates on that to come. Oh, and I’ve been working on my gym selfie skills:

Update: It was Definitely a Concussion

…which has made this a very weird week in Grace-land. (See Friday’s Post for context.) Of course I tried going to work on Saturday, the very next day, with a warning to manager and supervisor (both friends) that I was on concussion-watch but I thought I was okay. And I was okay! Until suddenly I wasn’t. The first warning sign is nausea in the back of the throat, at which point I can make it through a few more customers before I get real dizzy and have to go sit down. The first time it settled after a few minutes, and I was able to work a few more hours (a fixed heater and the sudden addition of WARM AIR blasting over the previously-freezing cashier area helped immensely) but then the same thing happened a little over an hour before I was due to leave. I clocked out immediately, but this time it took a while to settle. I had planned to take the bus home, slowly realized that wouldn’t be happening, and then I couldn’t even cope with the concept of ubering for about half an hour. Finally one of the upper managers was leaving and had a car nearby, and offered to swing back by the shop and give me a ride home. Where, thanks to pushing it all day, it took a while for me to feel better. This was probably my lowest moment all week. I had a pretty bad pressure headache, and I was very hungry, and another thing about concussions is you tend to get over emotional (that morning, while nursing a headache on a milk-crate in the hallway leading to the walk-in cooler, my manager asked if I was okay and I gave him a big thumbs-up but also started crying). So I was in my apartment trying to stand up to make some french fries, realized as I was getting the package out of the freezer that I couldn’t stand up to make the french fries, and then started crying because I was really sad and frustrated that I couldn’t stand up to make the french fries.

This is the type of moment where it feels especially hard to be single. It’s embarrassing to be a grown adult who can’t stand up to make french fries, and I wished I had a designated person, someone with a vested interest in my well-being and someone who has seen me in embarrassing situations before, who could make the french fries and assure my rattled brain it was going to be okay. I was seeing someone last spring while under strict orders from my physical therapist to ice my knee after every run, and one night after running and hitting the grocery store we were in the kitchen and suddenly that person was chopping and frying everything for dinner and just handling it, without me having to ask, and it was such a relief to realize I could sit down and ice my knee and not have to worry about it thanks to that other person.

What I did Saturday, though, was swallow my pride and text some nearby friends who had checked in with me after reading my blog post on Friday, one of whom is an EMT. Within an hour they were at my house with tylenol and a few slices of Otto’s (the local gourmet pizza). By then the worst of the headache was clearing up and I felt a lot less alone, but followed my friends’ urging to call out of work the following day. And I hate that, I hate calling out of work, but there are times when you just can’t tough it out despite your best intentions. I still wanted to get home (1 1/4 hrs away) for my mom’s birthday party on Sunday, and was considering driving despite my friends’ instructions not to, but it turned out two other friends were also going to my mom’s party and were able to give me a ride! I though getting a ride was mostly a precaution, but just getting my stuff together to be away for the evening pushed me into the headache zone, and when my friends arrived I had to ask them to come upstairs to help me carry my things and take the compost out. It sucks to already be carsick before getting in the car. But then it was so lovely to be home with family, cake, and home-cooked meals. The next day there was macaroni and cheese, and nothing beats home-cooked macaroni and cheese for comfort food. Of course I am a little nervous about how much I am eating without any of my usual physical activity—but there will be plenty of time when I am feeling better to get back on the road and back to the gym.

My parents gave me a ride home to Portland yesterday (Tuesday). On the way we made a grocery list (my mom wrote it down because once again I was carsick way before actually getting in the car), and…well, it doesn’t feel great to be a grown adult waiting in the car with a headache while your parents do your grocery shopping. But it did feel amazing to get home to my apartment as the headache was lifting and know that I had a bunch of yummy easy-to-make meal options. And my apartment was certainly a bit of a mess, but thanks to all the work I’ve been doing lately to keep on top of things it wasn’t the worst mess it could possibly be, and I felt really peaceful to be back and cozy in my nice space that I like.

Concussions suck! Don’t get one! I’m missing things this week that I don’t want to miss, and I’m getting behind in my training when I’d rather be getting stronger. But having to rely on your village makes you realize how strong your village is, and I am VERY GRATEFUL for friends who looked out for me at work, and brought me food when I needed food, gave me rides and helped me carry things while I was at my most pathetic, for parents looking after me and feeding me, and for everyone else who texted or messaged or commented to wish me well or ask how I was doing. Y’all are the best and I’m very very lucky to have you in my life. I am definitely improving and hope to resume some of my normal activities within the next day or two or three, so see you soon. 🙂