Finding Dory & My Minor Concussion

Pardon any mistakes this piece may have; I don’t know how long I can actually look at this screen. A little over a week ago, at my weekly basketball game, I took an elbow to the head from a man twice my size and then the very next play suffered whiplash when I — most likely unable to accurately judge depth — made unexpected contact with the gymnasium wall. (this last part is actually pretty fuzzy to me in that I don’t really remember how I ended up slamming into the wall)

I didn’t black out or forget where I was; I remembered my teammates’ names, though I don’t think I used them that much; and I kept playing.. becuase I’m stubborn and we didn’t have any substitution players that night.

I shouldn’t have kept playing, but somehow I convinced myself for the remaining 10ish (felt like way more) minutes of the game that I was okay enough to finish what I’d started (hero complex, much?). And now, for the first time in a week and half, I can finally look at a computer screen for more than a minute without feeling the intense need to vomit (the closest experiences I can attribute this sensation to would be sea sickness or the spins), so here I am writing about the thing that I’ve been recovering from since that night.

I suffered a minor brain contusion from the elbow I took and a minor concussion from a combination of the elbow and the wall whiplash. And it has been awful. The first 24 hours was most definitely the worst. All the symptoms you can quickly search are all true. I couldn’t concentrate on anything, my processing and responses were delayed, my speech slowed, as well as my body movements, and I couldn’t remember anything short-term. Conversations had to be repeated and not only because I couldn’t remember information I’d received from other people but because I also couldn’t remember what information I’d given other people. Additionally, those who are concussed are prone to emotional outbursts, so I’d like to take a minute to formally apologize to my Mom who I’m sure bore the brunt of that. I know I’ve apologized, but it’s not easy on a mother when her baby is nearly 3000 miles away and bursting into tears of frustration and getting anxious and irritable out of nowhere. Not that there wasn’t reason to be anxious or frustrated — I’d just suffered a brain injury, and although I wasn’t my usual cognitively-operational self, I was aware that I was slow and delayed and not able to process and communicate at my usual speed. Talk about my own personal Hell — ignorance would have truly been bliss.

I made a joke recently about my concussion (because comedy is often my own source of therapy), and immediately after I’d made it, I realized how helpful it was to make the joke. Essentially the joke was about how I really felt like I related to the fictitious Pixar character Dory (of Finding Nemo and Finding Dory fame) more now as a real character because she and I both understood the frustration and confusion of short-term memory loss. Immediately after I made the joke, however, I burst into tears. Luckily it had been sent as a text so the person who received it didn’t know I started crying (reminder: concussions make it really hard to control emotion; but side note: I also cried back in July when I saw the movie beause it’s amazing). I think I started crying, though, because it’s beautiful that Pixar was able to create a character like Dory for people to see. Everyone laughed at Dory in Finding Nemo because she was the endearing, forgetful sidekick. Those I’m closest to have laughed at me on occasion in the past week and a half when I’ve forgotten and repeated things multiple times. But during Finding Dory I didn’t laugh as much because the audience was given more of a glance into Dory’s struggle. And that’s how this concussion has felt. After the initial humor of the forgetfulness and repetition, there’s the realization that I injured my brain… and that’s a big deal. After I didn’t make an amazing comeback in the first 72 hours, the reality of the situation really started to sink in for my family and friends. Now, a week and a half later, I’m starting to feel slowly more like myself. I still have headaches, though they’re duller now. The nausea has stopped — thanks to a strict regimen of Zofran the first week. And although I still feel a little delayed and have a hard time multitasking (usually a multitasking pro by the way), I’m having a better time remembering things. The concussion symptoms come and go in waves (I’ll refrain from making a joke about Dory and the ocean here), but I have no doubt I’ll be back to my usual self soon enough. Because after all, like Dory said, I have to just keep swimming.

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***Also, I just wonder, as a complete sidebar conversation, since it is football season… if I had these awful symptoms from a minor brain contusion and minor concussion and had a strict recovery plan of mostly rest for the better part of (going on) 2 weeks, how do we expect NFL players to take a hard hit and show up on the field to play the next week? There is more and more conversation surrounding concussions than there was even 10 years ago, but now that I’ve experienced one first-hand, I can’t believe the conditions in which we make other human beings perform for our own entertainment. My symptoms will subside, but those who experience multiple concussions or even those that are more severe, could end up with long-term ramifications to their health.