Lessons From My Concussion – PART 2

It’s been nearly 8 months since I hit my head and suffered a concussion on Nov 2, 2021 and I have a few things that I’d like to share to add to the previous article that I wrote so that people can hopefully learn more about concussions, how to heal from them, and hopefully avoid some of the mistakes that I made.

I’m still experiencing headaches every day and I am unable to work or perform for long periods without experiencing worsening symptoms. I’ve been instructed to try to operate right below the threshold for as long as I can without going over and breaking when necessary, for as long as required to have the symptoms subside.

This has been very difficult to do to say the least because I have more of an on or off approach to things rather than doing things in little chunks. Even as I write this article, I feel the headache getting worse and the need for a break but I have a strong desire to keep writing and get this done. However, I know that if I continue through it for some time, I will have to pay for it with an even longer amount of time spent resting in order to have the symptoms dissipate. 

Here I’ll answer some frequent questions I’ve been asked. 

How did you hit your head?

I was going up the stairs and picked up a box of tissue paper, when I lifted my head, I knocked the back right side on a part of the ceiling that has a protruding corner. It hurt like hell, so I took some tylenol and melatonin and went to bed. I didn’t think it was serious or a concussion as I was poorly informed on the nature of concussions and how serious they can be. I believed that concussions were for serious head injuries that happened in sports or car accidents. My recovery time has probably been extended by the fact that I just didn’t know anything about concussions or how to deal with them. 

What are your symptoms? 

Nearly 8 months in, the symptoms are much more tolerable than even just a few months ago but I have headaches every day (I never really had headaches before, ever). At their worst, my symptoms include pressure headaches that make it impossible to concentrate, light and sound sensitivity, inability to read or work on a screen for multiple hours, anxiety from not being able to perform at pre-concussion levels, neck pain, difficulty balancing, reduced vision, irritability, dizziness, and nausea. 

Headaches can be caused by all forms of sensory input. The more intense the sensory input, the faster the onset of a really bad headache. One of the biggest challenges with a head injury is people don’t see a cast or a bandage. To them, I look perfectly fine, other than perhaps when I am rubbing my forehead. 

Can you still play and practice? 

I can now but I find that I can’t practice or play challenging things for long periods of time. I can’t play at fast tempos for as long, I can’t read music for endless periods of time, I can’t spend many hours learning and practicing new music as I did before. I’m mostly playing things that I’ve already played. However, things are slowly improving. In November, December & January I could rarely play for more than 20 minutes without my symptoms becoming intolerable. In February I started to be able to play for longer periods of time but I was using a lot of tylenol and requiring long periods of rest afterward.  

How long does it take to heal? 

The answer is that nobody really knows and that was really the hardest thing for me. In December, I was given an estimate of a month by my family doctor but here we are at the end of June and I’m still experiencing serious symptoms. What I have noticed from talking to others that have experienced concussions is that the older you are, the longer it takes to recover. I’ve met some people in their 50s that are still experiencing symptoms after many years and I’ve heard of people having injuries that were much more severe than mine as children, healing in a manner of weeks or months. So the short answer is nobody knows, it’s really a case by case basis.  

The first few months for me were mainly spent wearing a blindfold and trying to relax as best as I could. I was very eager to get back to teaching and playing and I had not accepted that this would take a very long time to fully heal from. In February, I started seeing a physiotherapist who told me that he estimated it would take 6 months for me to fully recover. That was something that was very difficult for me to hear but it allowed me to accept that I would have to be patient in order to fully heal. If his estimate is correct, I should be 100% at some point in August but I’m trying to remain cautiously optimistic as I know it could take much longer.

Here are some tips for those with concussions that I wish I would have known earlier. Please refer to my other article for more. 

I take the following supplements: 

  • 200mg of Riboflavin (vitamin B2)
  • Magnesium
  • Omega 3
  • Vitamin D

Other tips

  • There are clinics that specialize in solely dealing with concussions. In Ottawa there is 360 Concussion. I highly recommend finding a place like this as soon as you can as they will have a lot more knowledge and helpful tips than elsewhere which could help speed up your recovery time.
  • Start the day with walks (work your way up to 30 minutes if possible)
  • Eat at regular times, low blood sugar can cause the onset of headaches
  • DO NOT power through headaches. Rest until they subside to something tolerable or until they disappear entirely.
  • Autonomic dysfunction can make things worse
  • A good physiotherapist will give you exercises to work on your eye muscles and vision, neck muscles and balancing. 

I have to say that I have no idea how I would have gotten as far as I have without the support of my family and friends. Being an independent worker with no disability insurance has made this incredibly challenging. If I hadn’t saved money diligently for many years by living like a hermit I don’t know where I would be.  

If you’d like to support me, you can buy a ticket to one of my shows or give me a tip. You can purchase my recording You can contact me for a lesson online or in person or you can subscribe to my YouTube channel

That’s it for now. Will update the article with more or write a third one if I think of other things.

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