The first stage of concussion recovery involves almost total rest. This stage lasts from a couple hours (in the case of an extremely mild concussion) to several weeks; a very rough average for this stage is about one week. I was in this stage for nearly three months.
When it comes to a concussion, resting is an altogether different beast; when you have to rest because you’re sick you sleep, watch TV, read, mess around on your phone, and can usually still get some work done. “Rest” for a concussion means no/very little screens, no reading, no working—basically your only option from the original list is sleeping. And though you definitely need a lot more sleep when you have a concussion, you can’t sleep all the time. And sitting in a dark, quiet room thinking about how miserable you are really isn’t a very fun way to spend your waking hours.
One of the things I struggled with most at the start of my concussion journey is that all of my usual coping tools were ripped away from me. I was in a lot of physical and emotional pain: my head and face throbbed, the slightest touch or facial expression sent a hot jolt of pain through my face, I was constantly dizzy and nauseated, I was always exhausted, I was depressed, frustrated, and incredibly stressed about falling behind in school. My usual coping tools include reading, writing, watching TV, coloring, exercising and playing the piano: I couldn’t do any of that! I couldn’t even do what I most wanted to do, which was read everything I could about concussions.
So I had to figure it out as I went along. Here are the things I found worked for me—it’s different for everyone. The trick is, you have to focus on what you CAN do, even if that list is minuscule at the start.
The first month or so after my concussion these were the things I could do:
- I could listen to audiobooks without earbuds or headphones (so just on a speaker)
- I could knit on my knitting board for small amounts of time
- I could go for very short walks (always with another person)—planning my route so that there were places to sit down when I felt too dizzy and needed a break
- I could listen to familiar TV shows (no looking at the screen though!)
During months two and three I could:
- Listen to audiobooks with headphones (still no earbuds)
- Knit on my knitting board for longer periods of time
- Go for gradually longer walks with shorter breaks
- Watch small amounts of TV
- Color in my coloring book—at first for only very short periods, but gradually building up to longer periods of time
- Color or knit while listening to an audiobook
The most important of these coping tools for me was AUDIOBOOKS. I couldn’t have gotten through the months of not being able to read without them.
A lot of audiobook services have free trials, which came in handy since audiobooks are pricey. I took advantage of free trials from Audible, Scribd, and Tales2Go. Scribd and Tales2Go allow you to access a library of audiobooks—you just can’t download them (that I’m aware of) and Scribd puts a limit on the number of books you can listen to. Tales2Go is mostly for children and teens, but it has a good number of classic and popular novels such as The Hunger Games and All Quiet on the Western Front. Audible allows you to download and keep two audiobooks of your choice as part of your free trial; it doesn’t matter how much the book normally costs (so I recommend going with long ones—the Sherlock collection I got is about 60 hours long).
So enjoy audiobooks, be patient and listen to your body. A concussion might mean an interruption in life for now, but sooner or later you’ll get through it! Next time I’ll share some things that I found helped my brain heal and recalibrate.
For those of you who’ve dealt with concussions – what helped you cope?