I’ve debated posting about this for a long time, but figured that even if it helps one other person feel less alone, I’ll be satisfied. I’ve had discussions at conferences with individuals whose children are currently experiencing what I am, frustrated as they enter college with a ‘new brain’, I’ve spoken to individuals whose spouses are experiencing similar issues, who have become depressed, and I’ve experienced the judgement of others in social situations – something that for someone with social anxiety (me!) is very discouraging.
I play recreational softball every year, and I love playing softball! Growing up I never participated in organized sports (my parents watched me play a sport for the first time at 27 years old), but when my husband invited me to join his company’s softball team, I fell in love. I’ve played for the past 9 years and have improved significantly – before that point, I hadn’t even put on a ball glove.
2.5 years ago, we were playing a game on a very sunny day. The position I play is rover, which is between the infield and the outfield. The batter hit a pop up and I got under it, but I lost the ball in the sun. It came down and hit me full force in the cheek. I didn’t fall down, I didn’t lose consciousness, but I definitely had been injured.
The next day I went to the ER where I had a CT scan to determine whether I had broken any bones – I had not. I did have a concussion though and my jaw was really messed up. My face would swell up and bruise with even the smallest amount of chewing, talking, laughing, or yawning. Over the next 1.5 years, I:
- Maxed out all of my dental coverage with appliances to fix my bite and realign my jaw
- Maxed out all of my physiotherapy coverage, where my physiotherapist did manual TMJ manipulations 2-3 times per week
- Maxed out all of my massage coverage, where my massage therapist did more TMJ massage and worked very hard on all of the neck/shoulder/back muscles that pull on the jaw
- Was on a liquid diet (juices and soups) and was unable to eat meat because I couldn’t break it down with my teeth
- Had surgery to manually manipulate my jaw and jaw muscles back into the places where they belonged
When I first started physiotherapy, I could open my mouth 7mm. You’re supposed to be able to open it 32-40mm. After surgery, I was able to open my mouth considerably wider, but we spent another 6 months at physiotherapy getting me to 35mm.
All of these physical issues were tolerable. I could deal with the broken teeth and not being able to repair them until I could open my mouth wide enough, I could deal with eating liquids and mushy foods, I could deal with all of the appointments – all of this was annoying, but it was fine. Physically, everything is 100% resolved now. The thing I have had a harder time with has been accepting my new brain and how crumby my memory now is.
I always had a creepy-good memory. I could remember phone numbers for people I only called once, and as a student, I could highlight something and have it committed to memory. As a presenter at conferences, I could do a few run throughs of my presentation and have no problem delivering it unassisted.
Now, this is not the case. My short-term memory is absolute crap (sometimes I can’t remember something said to me a few minutes previous – super frustrating during meetings), and my ability to practice a presentation and deliver it unassisted is no longer a thing I’m capable (right now) of doing. Within my position at a local college, I occasionally deliver training sessions or workshops, and my memory is an important tool, so it is quite frustrating to not have the same capability that I once did.
Additionally, I have deferred my accepted position within a Doctorate of Education program twice because I’m not confident in my ability to successful write 100+ page papers the way I once could, because now I lose my train of thought often and can’t remember things written pages previous as I once could.
As a presenter, this frustrates me because:
- At times, I seem flakey and scatterbrained
- I struggle to ensure that I’m getting ALL of the information to my audience (they paid to be there – it’s important!)
- I now must script out all of my content, and when I go off-script, I lose my train of thought
Now, when I present, I use Evernote to draft out all of my talking points, and I present with my iPad to ensure that I get all of the information to my audience that I want them to have. I create a lot of reference videos ahead of presentations so I can share these after the presentation, and I now use a whiteboard or flipboard to log things to come back to or to refresh my train of thought at the point when I lose it – this helps prompt me later on and has helped me remember where I had originally been going with my discussion before I lost my train of thought.
This year I plan to consult with a professional who specializes in concussion management, because these individuals specialize in strategies to improve clients’ memory and cognition, so I’m confident that I’ll be able to learn how to work more effectively with my ‘new brain’, but until then, I will continue to present confidently, and I will definitely continue to play softball (with a helmet). Despite all of this, I consider myself incredibly lucky that I didn’t end up with larger scale injuries.
I hope this post helps someone; if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out!!