How rugby messed up my brain
Living with an invisible illness
I live with an invisible illness; invisible in the way that no one can see it and I hide it very well.
I have post-concussion syndrome.
Not much is fully understood about what I have as studies are only just starting to be completed about the effect concussion can have later on in life.
My first diagnosed concussion came when I was 14-years-old.
Like every 14-year-old trying to fit in, I gave up my safe sport of hockey to go and play rugby for the mighty Waitaki Boys U15 Bulls.
I sustained my injury in practice while going over a ruck and a boot flicked up and smashed me in the head.
I waited the three-week stand down and it happened again in a game this time.
I got three concussions that season, though at no point was I knocked out which was a scary thought looking back.
Nothing was really known to us then about concussions. The doctors would just clear you and you would be able to play again.
I got a couple more when I switched back to hockey.
I didn't play sports for a while after school but then I thought I was OK to play some more.
Then I suffered a concussion playing league that was so bad I went blind for a day and a half.
I waited the three weeks and got knocked clean out the first time ever; I was out cold for five minutes.
Since that, I have completely avoided contact sports.
I played hockey and accidentally got another one.
From there the symptoms hit a plateau; I had headaches and minor forgetfulness.
I lost my ability to remember things automatically and had to start working to remember information. That was the hardest part.
I now have a "sweet spot" that if knocked causes me to almost automatically be knocked out. I'm just glad I am tall because it's on the top of my head.
I got assaulted in town one night and since then things are getting slightly worse.
My memory isn't what it used to be, and I have lost certain social skills.
I hide this from people because it signifies weakness to me.
I am not the person I used to be.
I started studying again a few years ago, and I have to put above and beyond effort into it to achieve my mediocre results.
I don't let people know this because the person they see as having it all together and knowing heaps of stuff, is better than the person who puts that much effort into things and then doesn't do well.
Through exercise and minor diet changes, things get better.
I think learning to understand yourself is the best and see a psychologist who does behaviour and patterns is amazing. I can't thank the man who helped me enough.
Through extensive psychology, I have learned to retrain my brain to what it is now.
Sure life is a lot harder than it was.
But with each day and every technique it becomes easier to adjust.
I just hope that they can come up with the magic pill to return my brain to what it was!
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