COMMUNITY STORIES | 6.27.18 | By Jacqueline Cochran
One minute I am considered a "normal" 20-something year old female and then, in a split second, I am a 20-something year old female with a concussion. Now, I am a 20-something year old female almost four years post concussion, now labeled with a "mild" traumatic brain injury. Living with the long term effects of a mild, moderate or severe traumatic brain injury isn't easy. Nothing, absolutely nothing, about facing this invisible injury is easy. It is a carousel that just keeps going around and around – non stop. But, giving up and throwing in the towel is not an option for me.
It was a Saturday afternoon in June when my life changed in only a few minutes. A car ran a stop sign, hitting my car on the passenger side, flipping my car over onto its roof at the top of a hill. My car slide halfway down the hill before it came to a complete stop. I have zero memory of the accident from the impact. I hit my head on the window, leaving me unconscious from what I was told. My friends and I were able to crawl out of the car before emergency medical services arrived on scene. I was walking and talking, displaying no immediate medical injuries. Everyone said I was calm and my emotions were well-controlled. I had no signs of pain, dizziness or any other visible injuries. My car got towed, my parents arrived on scene and I went home to rest. Little did I or anyone else know, the invisible injury was brewing. Later my parents had to call 911 because my head felt it was going to explode. I was taken to the emergency room and after hours of being in the ER, I was diagnosed with a severe concussion.
My recovery has been a long, windy, bumpy road. My recovery has been a daily struggle, but it has its rewards. My family, friends, boyfriend, co-workers, and doctors have been there for me every single step of the way, and without them, I wouldn’t be where I am today.
I have learned that there is no cookie cutter way to "cure" the symptoms. I have felt like I am in a constant tug of war between life and my symptoms. Sometimes I am winning, other times I feel like my symptoms are dragging me down the street with a rope tied around my ankle - a rope that just won't break. Sometimes I feel like my thoughts are as clear as day and an hour or two go by, and my brain can feel like the fogged rolled in and nothing can be really seen or visible – it just won’t work. My brain just sometimes does not work.
I have started to call the tug of war the rubik's cube frustration. I have felt determined to get all the colors on the correct side. I am a type A person. I want everything perfectly in place. It is like dealing with concussion symptoms. I can think I have the right set of therapies and medications, all the colors at the in the correct spot of the rubik's cube but then -BAM - there is a green square smack in the middle of all of the blues. I obviously want to throw the rubik's cube across the room. Another symptom pops up and once again and I feel like I can't find the correct combination to deal with your symptoms. What I have learned - just breath and take a step back. Getting mad and upset is only going to cause me to get a headache (a symptom of post-concussion syndrome). But do I listen to my own advice? Sometimes. Do I just breath and stay calm; sometimes. Do I cry, get angry and I get a huge headache; of course.
The kicker is – I work in healthcare. I am an Occupational Therapist. I treat patients on a daily basis who have had their lives changed. I believe I have a very powerful and unique perspective because of what I went through. To be honest, it took me three and half years to realize this. The trials and tribulations I have had and still have to overcome on a daily basis provides me a unique and exclusive way of treating and mentoring. I understand when a patient tells me they are in pain and they worry or feel like it won’t go away. I understand when they say their brain isn’t working the same. I understand when a patient says they are having a very hard time coping and adjusting with their new situation. This is all because I have been through it and still going through it. I can promote and preach hard work, following through with continued therapies, pays off.
Yoga has been a huge part of my recovery. Before my accident, I never did yoga. After my accident, one of my doctors recommended yoga and practicing mindfulness to help with my symptoms - to clear my mind – get rid of the fog that kept rolling into and clouding my thought process - to help with my emotional and psycho-social adjustment. Yoga has offered me gentle exercises with a therapeutic benefit – a way of staying in shape without causing a headache. Yoga has also been a huge part of my cognitive recovery – learning and remembering the movements through repetition- as well as my emotional recovery – assisting me to gain my confidence back, bring me to peace and have a positive attitude. Through yoga, I was able to jump off the carousel of going in circles with my never-ending symptoms. I jumped off, landed on my own two feet and I am proud that I am doing everything I can to better myself.