Monday, 14 March 2016

Concussion: Isolation, its benefits and drawbacks

The blossom of the pohutakawa trees which grow along the length of the beach.
Concussion can be very isolating. Others cannot see the hidden struggles that you have with some of the most basic activities of life for example; answering the phone; having a short 'how do you do' type conversation with someone who arrives unexpectedly; driving the car; doing the supermarket shopping. It feels lonely because most people find it hard to understand what you are experiencing. I think I only realised how lonely I had felt during my recovery period when I joined a Facebook Page for concussion affected people and felt the camaraderie of fellow sufferers. 

My herbs and tomato plants in my kitchen
garden just outside the back door.
Throughout my 16 months of recovering from concussion it has often been suggested that I move nearer to town. I live 50 minutes from work and the specialist centres that I have had to get to for assessment and therapies. I have insisted that I don't want to move and looking back, I think that was a good choice to have made. I live tucked away in the subtropical rainforest of the Waitakere Ranges in the Auckland region. I have wonderful neighbours so I am not without help if I need it but I have benefitted from the peace and quiet. The tranquillity of my surroundings has played a large part in my recovery.      

Looking out the kitchen door.
I have often wondered how people cope when they have children. I feel that I have been lucky to feel free to be alone and not have to socialise or care for anyone else. All I had to do was wait calmly for my brain to heal. Having said that, I am not someone who likes to wait and watch the world go by so I have felt frustrated at times. Activities that have enriched my life during this time of enforced isolation included gardening, baking and writing. I have grown herbs, tomatoes and courgettes near the house and potatoes in raised beds. Initially I could only work in the garden for 15-30 minutes at a time before my brain energy started to drain. Then I would need to lie down and rest. 

Baking was a challenge at first. I couldn't hold anything in my head long enough to act on it so following a recipe was hard work. I would read an ingredient, go to weigh it out and by that time I would have forgotten what the recipe said. I had some disastrous results which were totally inedible and ended up in the bin but this didn't seem to upset me too much so I just kept trying week after week until my brain was able to cope. I made some super scrummy cakes and started to look like a pudding myself but I'll save that story for another blog! Putting on weight is apparently normal when you are dealing with concussion symptoms.

The front deck of my house.
Writing was something I could do at my own pace, in my own time. I joined a writers group. The people were lovely but the challenge of getting to know new people and enforced deadlines for work was hard. Since starting back at work I have stopped going to the writers group. I have to accept that I cannot do everything. Writing this blog is satisfying my desire to write. I hope it is interesting and useful to some who are reading it.

So, I feel very fortunate to have a lovely place to come home to, near the beach, in the forest, surrounded by caring neighbours and beautiful birds in the trees. I have learned the value of being quiet and calm in the midst of a life turned upside down by concussion. I have also learned how the brain does all it can to heal itself. The main thing I have done to get better is I have followed the advice of my specialists and balanced rest and activity so that I haven't overdone it. 

I feel very thankful for my recovery. Everyone's experience of concussion is different and I know I have been lucky to have wonderful expert care and to have come this far in my journey.


  1. The power of nature and time to heal cannot be underestimated. Glad you have a bit more virtual support tho.

  2. I was trying to read this earlier when u posted it on fb but didnt have the chance... I feel really sorry for what you have been through but in my point of view everything happens for a reason... You appricate life more now and even the smallest things which didnt matter before matters alot now..what you have written tached my heart and soal and i said to myself that we should all do what we love and involve ourselves in more in life and live it to the max.... Love Anita Yanni

  3. I love reading tie post and seeing your pictures, Julia. I've been recovering for 16 mth from a concussion and have felt isolated, misunderstood and have overdone it a lot of times, unfortunately. I do have a child who is ten and I'm a single mom. So, in retrospect I should have gotten some live-in help in the beginning. Hindsight is crystal clay, though right?

  4. Yes, Shari, hindsight is crystal clear! Often with concussion you are just trying things to see if they work, extending yourself bit by bit to see what you can do/tolerate. Your situation as a single Mum with a young child is different with its own set of demands. You are doing such an important job caring for your chid. The job of mothering is so often underappreciated.


It would be great to know what you think. Please leave a comment.