Summer is the perfect time for sunny days, working all the time and unexpected funny stories. My anecdote just so happens to include all three things.
So far this summer I’ve spent the majority of my days either sleeping or working at a coffee shop.
It was at this coffee shop that I was working the drive-thru and, you guessed it, received my very first concussion. I was handing a drink to a customer, reaching out a little farther than normal, since their car was farther away than the normal distance, and on the way back inside, I hit the back of my head on the top of the drive-thru window.
I remained nearly un-phased for the remainder of my shift.
Yet, I knew something was wrong when it took extra effort to count money and when the lights on the way home from work seemed a little brighter and more irritating in the dark. It was later determined that I had a mild concussion.
If you’ve never had a concussion before, it’s a frustrating experience.
The normal concussion recovery period ranges from seven to ten days but can extend quite a bit longer if the concussion is more severe or if proper treatment isn’t met. During this time, your brain is essentially supposed to do nothing.
To start, you begin to realize how many screens you’re surrounded by – and how much it hurts to read them.
With a concussion, the one guarantee to healing your brain is by keeping yourself away from everything that hurts it – screens and loud noises are off limits.
Of course, like anytime I’ve felt the random, weird urge to stay off my phone for a period of time, this was no simple feat and I cheated multiple times. With my head hurting, my instinct reaction was to watch Netflix. However, this too included using a screen that would inevitably hurt my head. This just goes to show you how reliant we are on our screens for entertainment when we’re bored or sick.
Another weird situation happened during the first week of my concussion. I had the sudden urge to read books. Maybe it was because I knew I couldn’t look at a screen. Maybe it was because you don’t know what you have until you don’t have it anymore, but all my concussed head wanted to do was read a book. In short: concentration while reading with a concussion is nearly impossible. I was left to do what I probably should have done to begin with: I went back to bed.
I slept a lot. Ironically, I also thought a lot. I thought about how we take our noggin’ and our noggin’s health for granted. I know I don’t think about the concentration it takes to stare at a phone screen or read a book when I wake up in the morning. I don’t think about the concentration it takes to count back change when I’m working.
The dreariness caught up often, and I slept long. Eventually, after a little over a week, I was able to look at my phone without getting a headache in return. I was even able to read books – although I no longer had the same desire to read them as I did before.
As I write this story, I am still struggling with some of the effects of the concussion. As much as I want to go to Cedar Point, I’m aware it’s probably not the best choice. I went to a concert, coming home with a headache. These effects sometimes take a toll on me, knowing that I currently can’t do the big things I had planned for this summer, but maybe it’s best for all of us to slow down sometimes.
I’m a huge promoter of self-care, but maybe self-care is more about relaxing and taking a break from thinking than about the relaxing tea and face masks. Self-care does not have to involve money, which could actually put more stress on you. Self-care is about intentionally finding time in your life to breathe and maybe even log extra rest.
Do yourself a favor this summer and during the fall semester to work hard but remember you are allowed to take a few breaths, both for yourself and for your noggin’.