Snowgrateful: Lessons from Concussion Jail

Notice the base and top sheet separation?
It was first day of top to bottom skiing at Killington for the season, Sunday 10 November 2019 to be precise and we were all pumped up for that first leg burner.  Would it be smooth, groomed and lovely or a white ribbon of death filled with death cookie chunks everywhere?  I don't remember if I had spent time in the office or even what we did that morning, but I do remember being stoked to ski (like that's a surprise).  In our enthusiasm, somehow we started off that run with some whirlybirds, those silly flat spins that you teach to 6 year olds to learn edge manipulation.  I've been doing them my entire life.  All the way down Snowshed until I wanted to puke.

 Except that this time, the tails of my skis were broken.  Had been broken, in fact, since last season but I didn't care.  My big cocky ego can ski anything, right?  Well, base of my ski dug into the snow on the second whirl and catapulted me into the air.  I laughed as I quickly got up from the ground, blowing off one of my athletes who had stopped to see if I was alright.  I never actually hit my head, so all I could think about was chasing down the BF and catching up to the group.  As I passed him, I laughed: "Might have rung my bell on that one!" and skied right past, enjoying the long run down Great Northern that I'd been waiting for all summer.

The BF was waiting at the SLOW sign at the bottom.  And he was mad.  "You are Done!" he shouted at me.  I begged him to let me just ride up the gondola to get a photo of the sunset (I even promissed to leave my skis at the bottom) but he stood firm.  "If you got a concussion, you are done for the day.  And probably tomorrow as well." And I promptly burst into tears.  I wouldn't realize that something was really wrong until the following morning when I went to meet some clients for a real estate appointment.  When I took out my notes, I couldn't read them.  Everything was blurry and I couldn't remember how to find information that I knew that I knew.

And so I drove home (carefully) and in shame.  I went right upstairs, pulled the blankets over my head and slept for like 15 hours.  My brain was absolutely exhausted.  Even now, I'm still sleeping around 12 hours a day - not because I want to, but because my brain doesn't really give me a choice.  It's funny, this December will be 10 years since the BF's traumatic brain injury and I thought that I knew so much about post-concussive syndrome - until I had PCS myself.   All those times I gave him crap for laying in bed most of the day, thinking he could choose to get out of bed.  Boy, have I learned some new lessons from walking a few weeks in someone else's shoes.  And mine is no where near as life-changing as his was ...

1. Water is Life.  I have prided myself on being a camel and made fun of the BF for his water fixes everything theory.  Even my mom has gotten tired of his pro-water diatribes.  Well, when it comes to the brain, it totally does.  There are times I've had a headache, pounded a 32oz Nalgene and the brain fog just completely lifted.  Water is food for the brain.  Without it, it simply doesn't work.  It's been an amazing discovery.

2. Scrolling & Blue Screens destroy your brain.  There.  I said it.  Nothing bothers my eyes or hurts my brain more than that little blue screen scrolling by.  It still makes me nauseous now, which has really helped me see that I am addicted to my computers, iPad and phone and it has to stop.  I've turned my phone off when I'm at home and removed social media.  I placed a quilt over the tv and have avoided everything (except Baby Yoda!!!!)  I think I'm losing this battle, but I have to try before my eyes die on me.

3.  You do NOT have to hit your head to get a concussion.  Your brain is made up of two different densities of matter: Grey Matter and White Matter.  They move at different speeds and stop at different speeds.  When you stop short, the millions of nodules connecting the neurons are stretched over the border of these two masses and oftentimes snap.  There is no replacing broken connectors.  Think about this.  It's not just the impact, but the movement of the brain inside the skull.  The thing about the brain is: if you shake it, you brake it.

And so, I will continue to take my time, allowing Spoon Theory and the BF to guide my recovery and make sure that my brain has all the rest it needs to heal.  Hopefully soon, I will be back on the mountain - with a brand new pair of skis (Thank you sooo much to Fischer Alpine and Forerunner Ski Shop for making magic happen) - and doing WhirlyBirds again without fear.  But for now, I am snowgrateful to have a backyard that lets me get out on snow without having to get bounced around in a car and nordic skis that let me play gently and without raising my heart rate too much.   People always ask what counts as a ski day; I have never been able to quanitfy something that is as much a part of my life as breathing.  I am going keep on enjoying what moments life brings me and celebrate each and every single one my days on snow, no matter what kind they are and how long they last.

-May You Find the Spirit of the Mountain Within You.


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