Concussion Recovery: The Next Chapter

The Success Story!

For those that read HOW CONCUSSIONS HAVE RESHAPED MY LIFE – that story has a happy ending! It took a while for me to realize that I had not shared my success story (or written about bike riding in a while). As an entrepreneur and successful Executive Coach, it has become most important that I focus my energies on my business and my best-selling book. Regardless, I still cycle, I still love it, and I still have cycling goals!

Here is the saga of the road to recovery – part 2, hopefully, the final chapter on concussions. What I share in this blog has not been endorsed by medical science and is derived from personal experience. This is my personal journey and success story. It is my hope that this information will help you, a loved one, or a friend.

This information is not a substitute for medical advice.

Healed At Last!

It’s a beautiful joyous day when you wake up to realize that you have completely healed from a compounded concussion! I cannot describe the relief that flooded my entire body. As a victim of 4 known concussive events, the last experience was serious. Deep down inside, I was genuinely scared that I would never have the same cognitive function again.

Little did I know that, prior to my last concussion, I had already lost a great degree of cognitive function due to mismanaged healing processes. I am thrilled to state with confidence that I have healed far beyond what was expected! I am actually operating at a neural level much better than prior to my second concussion.

A car accident in 1997, a mountain bike accident many years later (10 years?), followed by a group ride incident, finalized by being thrown head-first into pavement during a Criterium Race was enough for me. While we cannot control very much in our life, we can control our choices.

I chose to step out of road racing and hung up my mountain bike. (To be honest, I’m not very good at mountain biking anyway.) After several years pursuing the grueling grind of Gravel Racing and associated events, I finally decided that I loved cycling too much to beat myself up anymore.

Basically, it has been a long, long journey to love myself enough to practice self-care.

Our ride in France, from coast to coast (had a blast!)

Allow Yourself to Heal

As I shared in Part 1 of this story, you have to allow yourself to heal from a concussion. This is not a “shake it off” experience. Don’t be tempted to suck it up and get on with your life. If you do, you are committing an act of sheer stupidity.

You aren’t being tough, brave, or even remotely smart to try and shove yourself back into your regular routine asap after a concussion. Most importantly, your brain injury won’t show up immediately after the event unless it is traumatic. In other words, swelling and concussive symptoms will occur after the adrenaline has left the body. Usually this is the following day.

Even though no injuries were found at the hospital, I had to put an icepack on my head and take anti-inflammatories for a week afterwards to manage the brain swelling. I couldn’t look at my phone. I couldn’t watch TV. Forget working on the computer. All I did was sleep. It was the best thing I could have possibly done.

Every concussive event is different. Unless you are recommended otherwise by a doctor, sleep is how the brain heals. Here is an overview of what you might expect (varies by individual):

  • You will need more sleep than usual
  • You will find that you get mentally tired more quickly
  • You will find it difficult to process visual stimuli
  • You may find it challenging to absorb multiple sensory stimuli
  • You may feel ‘fuzzy’ or hear ringing in your ears

I have friends who lost the ability to see correctly because their concussion damaged parts of the brain that held certain motor memories. I’ve known people that had to relearn how to do common tasks. I know others who have had so many concussions that it has altered their mood, overall brain function, and damaged relationships.

Concussions are very serious. Take healing seriously too.

Heal Well and Be Well

Step One is to get over feeling like you ‘should’ bounce back and be tough. Release your need to prove how brave you are and focus on getting better. Only the truly strong can be humble and patient. If you are competitive (like I am), I retrained myself to think of healing as a competition. If I did the absolute best job I could at healing, then I had won.

Step Two is to remove any self-imposed timeline on your healing process. It will take as long as it takes. Allow it to be that way. You are not like me or anyone else. Your body has different needs. Focus on what your body needs to heal. This is not a race. It’s like climbing a mountain. There will be some false summits along the way. Be patient.

Step Three is to invest in your wellbeing. We are rarely our own best friends and we like to shrug off help. Let people help you. You will need support through this journey. While I got frustrated at doctors quickly and did my own research, there are great neuroscientist out there that may be able to help you.

Step Four is to celebrate any small wins. When you realize that your sleeping patterns are getting better, celebrate it! When you can watch a video without feeling like someone freeze-dried your brain, acknowledge the gain! Share your journey with your friends and supporters. More people need to share their experiences so less people will suffer in silence.

Most Importantly: DO NOT PUSH YOURSELF. I know of people who have gone right back to work, pushed themselves and suffered. They thought they were being tough. Unfortunately, they now have permanent brain damage. Their current challenges and afflictions could have been avoided but they were too busy trying to prove that they (a) didn’t need help (b) were tough or (c) allowed their own self-dislike to take over their common sense.

Fall on the Virginia Creeper Trail

Healing Beyond 100%

I healed beyond 100%! Which means that, my cognitive function has increased beyond what I was capable of prior to the last concussion. I am still awestruck and incredibly grateful every day. In fact, as I write this, I have accomplished more in 3 hours of working than I have in years.

Since I like getting to the point, let’s talk about HOW I healed so well!

Get Your Sleep – I slept, slept, and slept. The first several weeks were really just sleeping. I let any guilt go. I didn’t feel bad about taking care of myself. I accepted that sleep is what I needed and gave my body every chance to rest. When I felt sleepy, I slept. After months of sleeping 12 hours at first, then 10, and then 9-8 … I finally can feel genuinely rested with 7 hours of sleep. I haven’t been able to do that for 10 years.

Brain Breaks – As an Executive Coach and as an athlete, I discuss brain breaks. Whether you are healing or not, brain breaks are critical for peak cognitive performance. Even a healthy adult experiences productivity loss after 2 – 2.5 hours of sustained task-intensive work. Give yourself a break! Take breakfast, mid-morning, lunch, mid-afternoon, and before end of work day breaks. These breaks are short: 10-15 minutes doing routine things, exercise, or daydreaming. It allows your brain to reset, recharge, and get ready for more work.

Take Your Vitamins – Don’t rely on multi-vitamins or your food for nutrients. Most multi-vitamins don’t have high enough quantities to help. The minimum dosage amounts are just enough to keep you alive, not thrive. Either take LOTS of multi-vitamins are invest in higher dose nutrient sources. Commercial farming have depleted most soils so what you need isn’t in your food either. You are delusional if you think it is! Here are my target supplements for optimal brain function:

  • Blueberry Extract – helps mental function as well as cardiovascular benefits
  • Bio-Cell Collagen – not just for your skin, this is also essential for your brain and neural network
  • Omega 3 Fatty Acids – fish oil is your friend. Also great for your brain
  • Coconut Oil – excellent for boosting glycogen which is the fuel your brain needs
  • Resveratrol – I use grape seed extract because wine doesn’t help your concussion
  • Gingko Biloba – a good source for boosting brain function and most commonly known
  • Magnesium – specifically L-threonate – some other types may cause digestive distress
  • A, D, & E – in low doses as recommended help aid other minerals do their proper jobs

Light Exercises – I’m no longer a supporter of intense, body-breaking workouts, and competitive events. What I’ve noticed is that: your body will make you pay for it later. It may be years later, but you will pay a price. Quite frankly, the healthiest people I know have a little bit of extra body fat, work out regularly but not to exhaustion, and have fun. If your idea of fun is killing yourself and breaking down your body: you have some undealt with issues to resolve. That is my certified professional advice as a Coach.

During your healing period, a combination of light to medium exercise can be beneficial. One of the benefits of slightingly elevated heart rate and mild exertion is improved blood flow to the brain. This is incredibly important for your healing. I ignored the doctors advice and pursued light exercise, paying close attention to my body. This, however, is not advisable for everyone.

What’s Next

While I have been out of competitive cycling for a while, every now and then an event-addicted friend will ask: “So, what’s your next event?” or “What are you training for?” … My answer: “LIFE”. Life is my big event. Life is what I’m training for. While I do miss the comradery and social aspect of events, it has to fit inside my Fun Factor.

I found that how you cycle has a lot to do with why you cycle in the first place. I started riding my bike because I love to be outside. I love to experience nature. I love to see things and appreciate how wonderful the earth is. It has nothing to do with how fast I go, how hard I ride, or how many feet I climb. While I do enjoy longer rides on occasion, getting out and appreciating Life is the best!

I’ve won medals and what-not. I don’t have anything to prove anymore. I never really did anyway. Cycling is a way of life. It is a wonderful community that I’m grateful to be a part of. Regardless of why or how you cycle: may the road go smoothly for you my friend.

Learn more about Coach E. Urban’s Career Accelerator program or her Bestselling Book: Elevate Your Career: More Impact + More Income