If you’ve recently been concussed…
Stop. Just stop.
You need to take this seriously, and guard your brain with your life. A concussion is a brain injury, and while the brain can heal, it needs the chance to do it. You need to understand that you can – and probably will – recover, if you give yourself the chance. But you need to give yourself – and your brain – the help they need.
So, slow down and focus on healing your brain and body.
Now, you may feel like you need to keep going at top speed. In fact, you probably will feel like you should go-go-go. That’s common after concussion.
But your brain has been injured, and you need to not listen to that urge. Your entire system is whacked out by the chemicals in your brain cells (more on that later). You may also feel antsy because your system is on high alert from the injury you just had.
After my concussions, I always felt a sudden jolt of energy – it sometimes felt like I was finally waking up. I felt more alert and alive than ever, even though I was clearly not well.
I ran the wrong way down the soccer field, once, and nearly scored a goal against my own team, but I felt like I was a brilliant athlete who was getting the better of the other team. My brain was addled, and it was sending and receiving all the wrong messages.
I didn’t want to sit on the sidelines, after those football and soccer games when I got my bell rung. Nor did I want to go to the ER, when I fell down the stairs in 2004 and smacked my head.
I didn’t want to stop and exchange details with the drivers I’d collided with, when I had those car accidents.
I just wanted to keep going – to either leave the scene of the accident right away, or jump back in the game and play-play-play.
The thing is, GO-GO-GO-ing is the exact wrong thing to do. This feeling can last for some time after the injury itself. With me, it lasted for several days, when I felt like I was coming out of my skin. The more you feel like you should GO, the more you need to relax and take a time-out. It’s not much fun, and it can make you feel pretty useless, but you MUST take time to rest and recover.
An injury to your brain – a concussion – is serious business, and you need to take a pause and take good care of yourself, so you can come back strong later. You only have one brain, and you need to take good care of it. You need to give it the support it needs to recover and get back to regular functioning.
That means, for the short term:
- Stay off the computer
- Stay off your phone – especially if it’s a smartphone
- No reading or watching television
- Rest your brain as much as you can
Now, people around you may claim you’re “faking it” or you’re just trying to get attention by taking it easy, but that says more about them than you. Friends may miss you. Teammates may want you back. Your employer may expect you to return to work immediately. That’s not realistic – and it’s not right. But the pressure can be intense.
Like I said, most people either don’t understand concussion, or it scares them, so they pretend it doesn’t exist. But if you’ve had a brain injury, you know it exists – for sure. What other people may say or think… that can’t matter to you. If you skimp on recovering from your concussion / brain injury now, you may end up paying for it later. I know from experience what it’s like to pay later, and it’s no fun.
Do yourself – and your brain – a favor, and take a breather.
In the next section, you’ll find out why.