“Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the king’s horses and all the king’s men
Couldn’t put Humpty together again.”
I’ve been thinking a lot about Humpty Dumpty this past week. I heard my nephew singing it and it was stuck in my head as all catchy nursery rhymes do. My affinity with Humpty was the great fall. In my case the wall was replaced by snowboarding and the team of horses and men were my doctor and family.
I didn’t even realize I had a concussion. I know I fell and hit my head. But I got up, stayed calm and carried on. A few more runs later I realized how sloppy I was riding and thought I must be really tired and should call it a day. I have had far worse tumbles in my beginner snowboarding days. In fact, I expected the body aches and pains and experienced the swollen and bruised legs that made me look as if I had been battered. All part of learning such a sport I guess. But I wasn’t a beginner anymore. One bad tumble during an otherwise great day and I hit my head. I was under the false and dated impression that one had to be knocked unconscious and have a slew of symptoms to be classified as a concussion. Boy, I was wrong!
The next day I left work halfway through the day with tremendous pain from looking at the computer and was encouraged by a colleague to check in with my doctor. I thought it was just a headache that would go away with some ibuprofen, but as it got worse I thought I should double check. After a thorough examination my doctor confirmed the injury and prescribed “complete brain rest.” What the heck is that I thought? I can’t shut my brain off – it’s such a vital component in one’s ability to live and function! But as the most complex organ of the body I had to take this seriously. I had not thought it was serious thus far. No computer, no text, no reading and no TV. By avoiding these, amongst other activities such as driving and sports, I had to give my body’s main computer a chance to reboot.
Whisked away from my King West abode to my parents house in the quieter north east part of the GTA, I could do nothing all week except sleep, talk and pet the family dog. The recovery process for any injury is not easy or fun, but, as I’ve discovered, a brain injury presents many different challenges. This was a new level of boredom.
I couldn’t even resume those forbidden activities if I tried. My head was splitting and I couldn’t concentrate on anything without feeling worse. It was a medically prescribed technology and electronics detox. I have no trouble unplugging from these modern conveniences when I go on vacation, but all of sudden I kept on thinking of shows on Netflix, the book I had to read for a course, piled up deadlines at work, friends whose texts I couldn’t return, podcasts and the undesired hiatus of posts on this blog! I tried to communicate with my contacts with the voice memo function on my iPhone.
A week later I was back downtown for follow ups. My place became a mess. My family brought me food. I couldn’t return to regular activities, but I was back in the city and could feel its energy. The sun was shining and I needed fresh air. I took a 5 minute walk to the nearest Shoppers Drug Mart and felt incredibly dizzy. The crowds, the bustling street, the ambulance, the streetcars, the noise and the lights in the shop all compounded in my brain. I left as soon as I got there and had to sleep for the rest of the day to recuperate.
The city is not the best place to be when recovering from a traumatic brain injury. For an urbanite like me, it’s far worse not to be able to engage in what the city has to offer, especially on a vibrant street like King West with restaurants and entertainment at my doorstep. Of course, I was far more concerned about my brain than my robust social life, but recovering from my post-concussion symptoms and giving my brain time to heal itself in the city was a test of patience. I couldn’t walk to my yoga studio or do any inversions, so I created my own little sanctuary of healing within my piece of real estate in the sky and meditated each day. Even now I am only able to go to the slow, meditative restorative or yin yoga classes.
As a society we often focus on the physical and superficial (what’s on the surface). We value multitasking. We forgot that wellness is a triumvirate of physical, mental and spiritual well-being. Without one or the other there is an imbalance. This concussion forced me to slow down, to detach from habitual activities on gadgets that overload my brain, to stop multitasking, to silence my trooper mentality and surrender to my new limitations, to reflect and to remember the important things in life that I value like my health and the thoughtful gestures of others.
Now I know why Humpty Dumpty has been depicted as an anthropomorphic egg. It is quite similar to my powerful yet fragile brain – a gelatinous-like substance cushioned by a bit of fluid from the shell of the skull. Poor Humpty, however; I am grateful that my fall was not worse and that I am able to be put together again. Recovery is a long, slow, painful process that brings anxiety and frustration, but I am sure I will eventually be able to engage in all the city has to offer once more.
Share your story: Have you experienced a concussion in the city?