I recently tweeted saying that I would have a guest contributor on the blog as I have been talking about my ‘journey’ through concussion. I wanted to lift the lid on the other aspect that we harldy ever get to hear about; It’s effect on families and family life.
The below is an open and honest account from my wife – Libby – and her story through my concussion and how it affected us. You can follow Libby on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/littlered_libby
Thank you for agreeing to share the story. I know it hasn’t been an easy ride.
I hope you find her story of interest:
I don’t normally do this kind of stuff so please bare with me while I try and explain my side of things.
As you all know Janne suffered a major concussion in March last year and it has had a major impact on his hockey career, but more importantly, on his personal life. The following is the impact the concussion, had on me his, girlfriend/wife of seven and half years.
I was watching the game when Janne got hurt. The hit that changed our lives didn’t seem that out of the ordinary for a hockey game. I didn’t really think too much beyond my normal “please get up, don’t be hurt.” However, I had no idea how badly injured he was and how drastically our lives would change as Janne got up and finished the game.
After the game, we were due to go to my uncle’s house in Ebbw Vale, Wales. I tried insisting on driving, but Janne being stubborn he was adamant to drive the distance. By this stage, he had mentioned that he didn’t feel quite right. It wasn’t until the next morning that the symptoms became apparent. I was only slightly worried at first, as I’ve grown up around sportsmen (mainly rugby players whose mentality is similar to hockey players) my whole life, I’ve even had a couple of concussions myself.
As the morning went on, I realised it wasn’t like any other concussions I had experienced before. Janne’s eyes weren’t responding and it was like he was totally spaced, I had to talk very slow and simply for him to understand anything I asked. The uncle who we stayed at had just had a baby girl who to this date Janne will call Faith, despite it not being her name. Further to that, today he has to pause and place faces to my uncles’ names as he struggles to remember which is which.
He had no idea where he was or what he was doing but he refused to go to the hospital. I was panicked and scared. My whole family was gathered at Ebbw Vale for my cousins christening and the advice we kept getting was to take him to the hospital, which got Janne incredibly irate. This made me worry even more and we left the christening early to drive home. During the drive back Janne dosed in and out the whole time. When we eventually got home he kept asking me the same things over and over again. I found this very frustrating as Janne couldn’t remember anything from a few moments before and I could see how confused Janne was with my reactions. I wasn’t angry but having to repeat myself over and over made me have anxiety attacks.
Following from the injury and as the PCS symptoms persisted, life got difficult at home. Janne was having trouble remembering anything that he was told or asked, which made me feel ignored, even though I kept telling myself it’s the concussion and I knew I had to be patient with him. However, I started to get increasingly worried as I started to notice Janne’s personality change. He wasn’t happy with the way he looked. He grew a beard and grew his hair, which was really out of character for him. He also said that he hated the person he saw in the mirror every morning.
When I offered to help him and speak to him, Janne refused it. He was constantly going through mood swings, which would make him happy at one minute and completely reduced to tears the next. His moods would be anything and everything between those two extremes. I was afraid to speak to my husband, because I wasn’t sure if what I said was going to be greeted with smiles or with shouting.
Janne put himself into a shell and started to shut down. He found solace in blogging. At one stage I felt I found out more what he was going through by reading his blog, than from his own mouth. Janne said that he didn’t want to worry me or his family over nothing and that is why he was turning to the blog and to social media to air his feelings. However, it made things worse as he wouldn’t talk to me or the rest of his family about the issues. Janne’s parents and my parents were just as much in the dark about his state as I was.
Janne always had a sparkle in his eye, which showed his love and affection as well as his cheeky 5-yearold boyish side. With the concussion and as the symptoms worsened, the sparkle was gone. I was afraid that I was losing my husband and I started to feel unwanted and lonely. It wasn’t till after he recovered that Janne admitted that he felt like he had shut down emotionally.
I don’t want to sound needy, but at times I got so lonely and upset I would cry myself to sleep and Janne wouldn’t even notice, I didn’t tell him as I was scared that he would snap at me or worse leave me. His moods were getting worse. One time when we were in town, Janne was visibly suffering. He was pale, he was sweating and his eyes had, what can be called the 1,000 yard stare. I asked him if he was OK and if he needed to go home, but my suggestion and concern for his wellbeing was met with anger and shouting.
Sometimes I would try and force him to pay attention to me by jumping on his lap and kissing him with all my passion I felt inside for him, but the reaction back was on the verge of repulsion, which was so hurtful that after awhile I couldn’t cope with what felt like rejection, so I stopped trying.
As things moved on and Janne seemed to distance himself more from me and the outside world, I became worried. While he was still going to training, which in hindsight I should’ve stopped him from doing, Janne wasn’t really interested in engaging in social situations. We started to argue more as Janne’s moods changed. I insisted that he was keeping things from me, while he didn’t see it the same way and kept saying he wanted to protect me and not burden me with all his issues.
As months went by, Janne was starting to feel better. He was still suffering from constant headaches, mood swings, light sensitivity and he was constantly frustrated as he was not as fit as he wanted and kept blaming people (me, doctors etc.) for holding him back. In fact every time we went to see the doctors for a control visit and when the answer was “It is going to take a lot of time” Janne would get really angry and depressed about it. I think deep down, where he kept saying he felt lost, he longed for normality again.
Our relationship also suffered. Yes we loved each other, but we were on autopilot mode. We would go through the motions but not really spend any quality time with each other. Janne kept saying he felt so lethargic and that he felt like he had lost himself.
I tried my best to support him the whole time, but I felt like I had no one to talk to about it. It almost felt like the concussion was stigma as others kept saying Janne looks fine, if maybe a bit depressed. I was too proud to admit to other people I was struggling with it as well. I just kept plodding along and kept telling myself things will get better and that the sparkle in his eyes I had fallen in love with would come back.
It has been a gruelling year marred with ups and downs. We have had to face up to the problems that the concussion caused on the long term. It wasn’t just a knock that would’ve healed in a couple of weeks time, it took good 6-8 months for us to really get our lives back. During the time of the concussion and PCS we were drifting apart and we have had to work hard on our relationship to make sure that we are fine. We almost lost each other, but we have come out a lot stronger from it, so in a way it has had a positive impact on life, but it is something that I would never want to go through again.
However, every time Janne steps onto the ice, I’m scared that he will be seriously injured again and that we would have to endure the hell again. I was scared after his car accident that the concussion he suffered would set him back, but at least we both have learned valuable lessons from the last experience to better manage it. Where it doesn’t seem as bad as the last one, I still have this constant worry over it.
I hope this helps people to realise that concussions and PCS have a major impact not just on the person but everyone around them. It’s hard to cope with all the changes, but as long as you deal with them and don’t ignore the “illness” you can get through it.