What It’s Like To Have Post Concussive Syndrome

What It’s Like To Have Post Concussive Syndrome

To be honest, it feels like I got hit in the head with a rocketship.

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On April 17th, 2018, I was in an altercation with an ex-boyfriend of mine. He punched me in my face and also threw an inanimate object at my head. As a result, I had a large hematoma (a collection of blood under the skin) and a concussion. The whole incident was traumatic and I often think it's my fault as to why it happened. My friends and family tell me that he's crazy and that I shouldn't think like that.

f kind of hard when you have reminders.

A few weeks ago, I was diagnosed with Post Concussive Syndrome or PCS for short. It's basically a disorder that mimics the symptoms of a concussion. It's a long-term effect that occurs for weeks, months, or even years.

Every day, I usually feel on the left side of my forehead. There's a little lump still under the area. It somewhat feels like a little pebble that just won't go away. It doesn't hurt anymore but it always takes me back to the day it all went left.

I often have headaches (more like migraines if you ask me). It feels like I got hit in the head all over again. They usually start between three and five in the afternoon. I got prescribed medication for it but it literally does nothing so I go to sleep.

My left eye also hurts and twitches all the time.

It's hard to drive at night sometimes because I get blurred vision in my left eye.

I can't do any physical activity at the moment and it really sucks because my passion was cheerleading. I'm not allowed to cheer, stunt, or tumble because all the motions rock my head a little too much.

Besides the headaches, my depression & anxiety have worsened. I no longer have the excitement in my life and I feel myself becoming lazier & lazier as time passes.

I try my best to make myself seem okay but it really isn't working.

I wish I could be my normal self again.

Sadly, I don't see that coming anytime soon.

Cover Image Credit:

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Yes, I Had A Stroke And I'm Only 20

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Recently, I read an article on Cosmo that was written by a woman that had a stroke at the ripe old age of 23. For those of you who don't know, that really doesn't happen. Young people don't have strokes. Some do, but it's so incredibly uncommon that it rarely crosses most people's minds. Her piece was really moving, and I related a lot -- because I had a stroke at 20.

It started as a simple headache. I didn't think much of it because I get headaches pretty often. At the time, I worked for my parents, and I texted my mom to tell her that I'd be late to work because of the pain. I had never experienced a headache like that, but I figured it still wasn't something to worry about. I went about my normal routine, and it steadily got worse. It got to the point that I literally threw up from the pain. My mom told me to take some Tylenol, but I couldn't get to our kitchen. I figured that since I was already in the bathroom, I would just take a shower and hope that the hot steam would relax my muscles, and get rid of my headache. So I turned the water on in the shower, and I waited for it to get hot.

At this point, I was sweating. I've never been that warm in my life. My head was still killing me. I was sitting on the floor of the bathroom, trying to at least cope with the pain. Finally, I decided that I needed to go to the hospital. I picked up my phone to call 911, but I couldn't see the screen. I couldn't read anything. I laid down on the floor and tried to swipe from the lock screen to the emergency call screen, but I couldn't even manage that. My fine motor skills were completely gone. My fingers wouldn't cooperate, even though I knew what buttons needed to be pressed. Instead of swiping to the emergency call screen, I threw my phone across the room. "Okay," I thought, "Large muscle groups are working. Small ones are not".

I tried getting up. That also wasn't happening. I was so unstable that I couldn't stay standing. I tried turning off the running water of the shower, but couldn't move the faucet. Eventually, I gave up on trying to move anywhere. "At what point do I just give up and lie on the floor until someone finds me?" That was the point. I ended up lying on the floor for two hours until my dad came home and found me.

During that two hours, I couldn't hear. My ears were roaring, not even ringing. I tried to yell, but I couldn't form a sentence. I was simply stuck, and couldn't do anything about it. I still had no idea what was going on.

When the ambulance finally got there, they put me on a stretcher and loaded me into the back. "Are you afraid of needles or anything?" asked one EMT. "Terrified," I responded, and she started an IV without hesitation. To this day, I don't know if that word actually came out of my mouth, but I'm so glad she started the IV. She started pumping pain medicine, but it didn't seem to be doing anything.

We got to the hospital, and the doctors there were going to treat me for a migraine and send me on my merry way. This was obviously not a migraine. When I could finally speak again, they kept asking if I was prone to migraines. "I've never had a migraine in my whole life," I would say. "Do you do any drugs?" they would ask. "No," I repeated over and over. At this point, I was fading in and out of consciousness, probably from the pain or the pain medicine.

At one point, I heard the doctors say that they couldn't handle whatever was wrong with me at our local hospital and that I would need to be flown somewhere. They decided on University of Maryland in Baltimore. My parents asked if I wanted them to wait with me or start driving, so I had them leave.

The helicopter arrived soon after, and I was loaded into it. 45 minutes later, I was in Baltimore. That was the last thing I remember. The next thing I remember was being in the hospital two weeks later. I had a drain in my head, a central port, and an IV. I honestly didn't know what had happened to me.

As it turns out, I was born with a blood vessel malformation called an AVM. Blood vessels and arteries are supposed to pass blood to one another smoothly, and mine simply weren't. I basically had a knot of blood vessels in my brain that had swelled and almost burst. There was fluid in my brain that wouldn't drain, which was why my head still hurt so bad. The doctors couldn't see through the blood and fluid to operate, so they were simply monitoring me at that point.

When they could finally see, they went in to embolize my aneurysm and try to kill the AVM. After a successful procedure, my headache was finally starting to subside. It had gone from a 10 on the pain scale (which I don't remember), to a 6 (which was when I had started to be conscious), and then down to a 2.

I went to rehab after I was discharged from the hospital, I went to rehab. There, I learned simple things like how to walk and balance, and we tested my fine motor skills to make sure that I could still play the flute. Rehab was both physically and emotionally difficult. I was constantly exhausted.

I still have a few lingering issues from the whole ordeal. I have a tremor in one hand, and I'm mostly deaf in one ear. I still get headaches sometimes, but that's just my brain getting used to regular blood flow. I sleep a lot and slur my words as I get tired. While I still have a few deficits, I'm lucky to even be alive.

Cover Image Credit: Neve McClymont

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It’s Time To Start A Serious Conversation About Mental Health, So I'll Start

The only way that we can get rid of the stigma surrounding mental illness is if we all speak up about it.
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When we think of the word "healthy," we usually think of being healthy in terms of physical health. We go to doctor's appointments when we're sick or when we have to get an annual physical. So why is it that we neglect to mention mental health? There continues to be a widespread amount of misinformation on various mental illnesses, specifically depression and drug addiction, that have caused people to not feel comfortable about speaking up.

After all, there are so many television shows and movies that have glamorized and romanticized these illnesses in a way that causes viewers to believe that they will either not be noticed until they are no longer here, or that someone will randomly come along and make them feel better about themselves. In any case, it's important for people to know that the only way that they can truly get one step closer to recovery is if they are the ones making that choice for themselves and no one else. As recovery is an ongoing process with many ups and downs, it's essential that people know more about the complexities of mental health and how we as a society can continue to spread awareness, especially after recent events.

It seems as though every time I have gone on social media recently, I found out that a famous person, usually a musician, has lost or almost lost their battle with mental illness. After hearing the stories of Robin Williams, Chester Bennington, Anthony Bourdain, Kate Spade, Demi Lovato, Mac Miller, and many others, people are finally starting to speak up about this issue. While a large number of those who are well-known in the media have sent their condolences to those affected as well as advice for how to help those who are struggling, not all of these comments have been positive. For example, while millions of people expressed their concern and sent positive thoughts to Demi Lovato after her nearly fatal drug overdose, there were a select few people who shamed and dehumanized her because of her struggle with addiction. This dehumanization of people who have suffered or continue to suffer from drug addiction is unfortunately common and prevents others from being educated about this horrific disease. Unfortunately, it doesn't end there.

After Mac Miller's recent and upsetting death, some people stated that Ariana Grande was responsible for his death because she ended their toxic relationship instead of acknowledging the larger issue at hand: that Miller suffered from drug addiction for many years. This idea that women are solely responsible for a man's death is not only extremely misogynistic but also continuously contributes to the stigma that people are unable to speak up about mental illness, specifically men. Since men are less likely to speak up about their mental health due to the harmful stigma that men aren't supposed to show their emotions, society has thus continued to express its lack of understanding as to how or why a man can suffer from depression or problems with addiction. However, one important thing that the people I previously mentioned who have lost their battle with mental illness have in common is that they all had access to resources that could have helped them in the steps to recovery that most people don't have. In turn, the stigma surrounding mental health that has been heavily shown in the media continues to prevent others from feeling as though they can speak out about these issues.

In addition to the lack of conversation surrounding mental illness, there also seems to be a lack of awareness as far as who can be affected by these illnesses. While most people often associate those who have mental illness as being of a lower economic class or of a younger age range, mental illness can affect anyone, regardless of class, race, gender, religion, political beliefs, and so on. For example, I specifically remember so many people saying that Anthony Bourdain had their dream life: going to different countries and eating their food while learning about the culture by interacting with the country's residents. And while many people envied his lifestyle, it still had no effect on the larger issue at hand: that Bourdain struggled to cope with his depression. No matter what someone's background is, he or she can still suffer from these issues and not feel comfortable reaching out to get help.

Since National Suicide Prevention Week occurred this past week, these issues have been brought to light on college campuses through organizations or departments that have previously advocated for more mental health awareness, social media posts from people who have personally been affected by mental illness, and other non-profit organizations that aim to end the stigma and help people realize that they are needed. For instance, the non-profit organization To Write Love On Her Arms aims to spread mental health awareness by helping those who suffer from depression, anxiety, addiction, and suicidal thoughts find hope. Remember that people's struggles aren't always known, so it's important to check up on your friends and family as often as you can.

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