A version of this article was originally published on March 18, 2017
BY: ERIN MOORE
On March 18, 2016 my husband Davin sustained a concussion.
I write this on the one year anniversary of my husband’s injury. It brings an incredible mix of emotions. It has been the hardest year of our lives; financially, mentally, physically and emotionally.
We have cried more together this year than we have in our almost 20 years of time with each other. We have been in dark places this last year, individually and side-by-side. We have battled this brain injury together, but alone.
Concussions are invisible to most. The terms the ‘walking wounded’ or the ‘invisible injury’ have been given to concussions because the majority of people surrounding someone with a concussion aren’t aware of what that person is braving, or managing, or being held captive by. I’m not writing this post to educate you on what a concussion is, or to understand post-concussion symptoms, you can go Google that.
I’m going to share with you my experience – as a wife, a partner and a best friend of someone who has been battling concussion symptoms for one year – with no win in sight, and still far away from the finish line.
It was three months into Davin’s concussion that I really started to feel the first feelings of being scared. Davin had concussions before, and I had seen at times some very bad symptoms from it. But they all cleared up relatively quickly and he became his regular self again. Last June his neurologist told us to expect at least a year for recovery, maybe longer. This news shook him, and me, and it set off a whole new dimension for us.
Up to this point, it was almost like I had watched Davin run into a brick wall over and over again, trying to make strides towards a little bit of improvement but getting stonewalled over and over again. After the neurologist’s prognosis, Davin stopped running into that brick wall and just starred at it instead. The light of perseverance, determination, optimism and strength started to dim. I could see him fall into a darker place, faced with the reality that it was going to be a long time until he got better, and no one could tell him how long it could be or what he needed to do to get himself healthy again. The frustration mounted, when all the therapies, practitioners, counsellors, specialists, supplements, food eliminations, (you name it, we tried it) failed to work.
Sure, some people may have seen some snippets of Davin’s behavioural responses to his concussion, but they didn’t get the full picture. Most people saw the same guy they always knew, only off work, and unable to do his usual athletic and social activities. That’s what makes it really hard for people to understand what happens to someone when they are living with a concussion. There is a side that is invisible and unseen by most, even close family members. It’s uncontrolled, reactive, irritable and mean.
I learned quickly that I could never take anything that my beloved dished out at me personally. Davin – the true Davin – did not want to react to situations the way he did but he lacked the filter or response to slow down, think and choose his words or behaviour before acting them out. The remorse and shame that follows an episode is equally hard to watch, as seeing Davin in emotional pain scratches and slices my heart over and over again. As his partner, there are so many times I felt completely helpless, and at times, still do, as though I’m stuck in the path of the concussion’s unpredictability.
The cycle of a concussion is vicious. It first brings physical and mental pain, then triggers emotional pain, which trigger symptoms, which trigger depression and so on.
Ah that word – depression.
I’m scared of that too. A common byproduct of a concussion is this whole other layer of depression and the inability to balance emotions. I again played spectator to Davin as his depression started to guide him, as his clarity on life was now being mismanaged by a giant bruise on his brain and a chemical imbalance. His brain wasn’t firing like it used to and tasks that those with uninjured brains take for granted – like going to grab some groceries – were daunting and debilitating, resulting in frustration and anger. This would then trigger intense fatigue, malaise and depressive states.
How would you cope? Eventually we learned the patterns and together started to identify the triggers. We figured out a management plan and I stood by my man and let him just be, as he needed to be in that moment. No judgement. No resentment. Just love.
By this point we were deep in the summer months in Whistler, B.C. We had decided moving to Toronto was the best choice for us. We were down to one income, with Davin’s Short Term Disability payments ending at the end of June, we had both kids in daycare and we were starting to see for the first time in our adult lives that if we continued like this we were going to be in some financial strife quickly.
Managing his medical and disability applications were also incredibly taxing on Davin, and in September I took over full management and advocacy for his medical paper trail. We were banking on Davin’s Long Term Disability claim to be accepted and which would drastically turn things around for us. But, after six months of waiting for a decision, they denied Davin’s claim. We appealed. They denied us again. We appealed again, and one year later we are still waiting.
So now what?
How do we keep going when the concussion and depression continue to hold my husband in captivity of who he once was. How do we raise our kids so they understand what has happened in the last year but remain resilient to times that have been trying for them, and us. How do we show them that we are strong and brave and that we will get through this? That concussion won’t beat us.
I can tell you what we did, and do everyday, to do our best to stay above the concussion and depression. We allow us the power to choose.
Whistler wasn’t working for us at that time, so we chose to leave and went on an adventure, that was healing.
We chose to move across the country to be closer to family for support and for filling our heart up when we needed it.
We choose to ‘move slow to move fast’, words spoken by a wise confidant that have made all the difference for us.
We choose to do only a little bit, and not all of it, and manage each moment for what it is.
I chose to not go back to a job that would take me away from my family 40+ hours a week.
I chose to start a business to create a different path for our family where we can create and grow in line with the pace that Davin’s brain needs to heal.
I have days where I feel so alone, that no one truly understands.
But despite the torture this last year has been, I have so many things I am grateful for that would not have come to be had this concussion not happened. I have learned, like to no level I’ve known before, what it means to be patient, to have compassion, to listen, to be brave, and to be present.
It’s taken me a long time to open up and allow myself to share the truth of my experience and allow myself to be vulnerable. I hope these words resonate with one of you readers.
Share my story.
Learn about concussions and talk about it, and keep talking about it. More awareness needs to be raised, more understanding about what those who suffer are going through. We need to show more compassion for those that live each day in a fog of their brain injury. We need more support for ways to manage and cope for those with the injury and the people that are by their side.
Erin is mom to two amazing children, and wife to an incredible husband. She has a love for travel, yoga,and bringing people together on issues that matter.