Thursday, 28 July 2016

Concussion - a journey of ups and downs.

Some of my friends have noticed that it has been a long time since I last wrote a blog post. It may have seemed that this hobby was one of those that I had a go at and discarded when the going got tough. The going has been tough but I am still a blogger! My last 3 blogs have been reblogs of other people's work which I have found helpful and hoped may be of use to others. 

However, to write something original takes time and concentration and, above all, energy which I have not had. This has been due to the intensity and pace of my job.

I have looked back over my first few blog posts which now seem such a long time ago. It makes me smile to read this in my first blog 'My brain is healed now and I am starting to make plans and dream again'. I felt confident that I was now ready to face the world with energy and imagination. It has not been quite as simple as that...

The pace of work on my hospital ward has been increasing with changes in ways that the ward functions and reduced staffing levels. This increased cognitive demand has left me so drained that my days off have not been enough to restore my energy levels before I am back at work again. This has resulted in increased PCS (Post Concussion Syndrome) symptoms such as very loud tinnitus which makes it difficult to hear shift handovers without intense concentration, headaches on most of my days off, including the occasional fierce migraine, nausea, tearfulness.
Sunrise over the Hauraki Gulf seen from my ward staff room
So this is why it has been impossible to write on my days off. The washing up has piled up, the dust is thick enough to write your name in and sometimes it has just been too exhausting to get in the shower or get dressed. So writing a blog has been out of the question.

But, you may be asking, where have I found the energy to write today?

My secret is running!
This would appear to be something that uses energy but in my case it generates it, enabling me to do more on my days off and feel more connected with the life that the rest of the world seems to be living. I wrote in a previous blog about the isolating effect of concussion which is an ongoing problem because it is so difficult to maintain relationships when energy levels are so low that social interaction is out of the question.

I will write another time about running and the important place exercise has in my post concussion life but what I want to say here is that recovery from concussion is a journey of ups and downs. I feel, since a few weeks after my return to work in March, that I have had a time of 'downs'. The discovery that I can work in such a demanding environment has been amazing but the utter, utter exhaustion has been depressing and stolen my sense of having any kind of satisfying future to look forward to.

I have realised that the road to recovery is long and unpredictable. Plans are difficult to make because I don't know what I will be capable of in 6 months or a years time so it is often a matter of bringing life back to it's simplest state. Just putting one foot in front of the other until things start to make sense. I have not been frustrated. It has been more of a feeling of despair. Frustration has a certain strange energy to it. Despair is a sinking feeling of no control, no future, no end to this thing called PCS. 

I am starting to surface after this dark night of the soul and exercise has been the key for me. Your key may be different but whatever it is it will be something that feeds your soul in spite of the way life is making you feel.

I am starting to feel optimistic now. I have some energy, not a lot but enough, to tackle the mound of washing up (the dusting is another matter!). I am aware of small changes, improvements, in my performance at work and my staying power - I can endure cognitively demanding situations for longer. I have to remember when I first went back into the workplace, just to build tolerance to being there, I struggled to be in the staff room for 1 hour. This left me so wiped out I had to go home in a taxi and lie down for the rest of the day. Now I work four 8hour shifts, often leaving work an hour late. I have regular early starts which mean I have to get up at 5am so I often start work having only had 5 hours sleep. 

When we are struggling it helps to look back at how far we have come and to remember this is a journey of ups and downs which none of us know the end of as we put one foot in front of the other. It also helps to share this journey with others who understand which is why the Facebook Post Concussion Group page has been so helpful to me.


  1. Well done for another great blog piece. Am especially pleased that actually running is helping build energy levels as counter intuitive as that can feel. Working in the role you do I am amazed you have managed that as well as you have especially when it is so demanding. No wonder the washing and dusting have had to wait.

  2. Thank you Lisa for your lovely encouragement and taking the time to comment. Yes it is counter intuitive but if I can get myself out of bed then I am halfway there. x


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