Though I don’t remember much about the actual event, I do remember the day clearly. It was February 19, a Wednesday, the day after my husband’s 34th birthday. I had plans to go out for dinner with friends – an event aptly entitled “Strangers and Friends” because, well, it involved strangers and friends – a dinner that I eventually had to miss. These details are important to me because they are among the few things that I remember from that day. The last thing that I remember is that I was running away from my dog, a weak attempt to get her to chase me. The next thing I remember is waking up with my face flat on the concrete floor with my dog sniffing me and gently licking the blood from my forehead. I knew immediately that I had hit my head and that I had hit my head hard. I had all the tell tale symptoms of a concussion. I woke up dizzy, nauseous and very mentally foggy. I suffered a grade 3 concussion and have been recovering ever since.
One of the most difficult things for me about recovering from my concussion is that I have had to change the way that I think about myself. I am, what some people might call, a type A personality or, what I would prefer to call, a type C personality – a type A personality without all the negatives typically associated with being type A and with an extra dash of hope and optimism! I am a go getter. This applies to my academic work as a professor of philosophy and it applies to other areas of my life such as running. After the concussion, everything about me was slower. My thinking was slower. My physical movements were slower. Everything I did led to debilitating migraines. I watched an hour of tv, I got a migraine. I wrote part of a paper, I got a migraine. I talked with people, I got a migraine. I played with my daughter, I got a migraine. I went for a walk, I got a migraine. The longest migraine lasted for 14 days. For me, the headaches are the least of my problems because I am able to control them with pain medication. The more significant problem for me is the aura that I get along with the headaches. My auras involve nausea, visual disturbances (blurry vision and sometimes complete but temporary blindness), auditory disturbances (ringing in my ears, sounds become amplified), and motor disturbances (wobbly legs and arms). For the first few months after my concussion, I spent a lot of time in a dark room by myself. I could no longer think of myself as a go-getter because I wasn’t able to go and get much of anything.
Physical activity is a recommended treatment for concussion and post-concussion syndrome. Before my concussion, I was a runner. Not a marathon runner, but a runner. I liked to run for 45 minutes, around 4 times a week. I never liked walking, but walking, and walking very slowly, was the only thing that I could do after my concussion. At first I hated it. And then slowly I came to enjoy it. I walked in the snow. I walked in the rain and then eventually I walked in the warm sunshine. And, now, I walk as the leaves fall. I am finally able to walk briskly, to play with my daughter, to talk with people and to read and write a little. I’m able to imagine myself running again in the near future, something I couldn’t imagine a few months ago. I am still recovering, but I am slowly coming to accept myself as I am in my current post-concussion state. It’s a slower me. But, being the type C person that I am, I am hopeful about becoming a new and improved me and being able to do much more soon.
Meena Krishnamurthy is an Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the University of Manitoba. She can be seen walking slowly in the lovely neighborhood of River Heights in Winnipeg. She is often accompanied by her reassuring husband, spunky 6 year-old daughter, and extremely cute dog.