KK Members Blog

KK Members Blog

The Silent Battle: Concussions and Mental Health

10/18/2021 at 6:44pm EDT

Two weeks ago the hockey world was shocked when Carey Price, the goalie who carried the Montreal Canadiens to the Stanley Cup this past summer, announced he would be entering the NHL/NHLPA Player Assistance Program. This came out of nowhere from one of the most consistent and quiet performers in the NHL. It was a statement which came out of nowhere and surprised many people (including GM Marc Bergevin).

I'm writing this post today because when I read the explanation from Carey's wife about the situation I could immediately relate. People in the hockey world were shocked and incredulous that the Canadiens organization didn't know this was coming. But I understood it. I knew exactly where Carey was coming from. I wrote a comment on that Kukla's Korner post where I explained my personal experiences - things I had only told a handful of people. These were things I had previously felt embarrassed and ashamed to write, but it was so easy to identify with Carey that I had no hesitation writing a post about it.

So what's my story? In 2016 I experienced my first ever concussion. I wish I had a great story about how it happened, but I don't. According to my wife I passed out while I was standing in the bathroom at home and hit my head on the granite countertop. She was asleep but woke up from the sound; she came into the bathroom and I do remember her screaming at me. I thought I had done something wrong for her to be yelling at me, so what do I do? I stuttered to get up, walked to bed, and then fell asleep.

For the next week or so, everything was okay and I didn't think about it at all, but about two weeks after my fall I found I was getting incredibly dizzy, was struggling to focus on things, and could not remember ordinary things which typically were easy for me to remember. I mentioned it to a friend who had dealt with concussions before, and he told me, "Dude, you had a concussion man, and it sounds like a real bad one." I shrugged it off..."No way!" I thought, "It didn't feel like a concussion!"

So I continued on with life as though nothing had happened. I continued struggling with memory and found that I was having a hard time keeping up at work. I also found myself having outbursts with my wife and family - something I didn't do before. I started thinking more about my friend's diagnosis and did some research - I had all the telltale signs of having had a concussion.

One of my biggest concerns was my job. I was forgetting things I should have remembered, making mistakes which were small but noticeable to my team and boss. There were days in the office when complete strangers would talk to me as though we knew each other; they'd walk away and I would ask my co-worker, "Who was that?" They would tell me the person's name; I would search it in my inbox and find many emails I had exchanged with the person (not to mention some calendar invites from in-person meetings I had with them).

The question I struggled most with at work was, "Should I tell my boss and my team?" I continue to struggle with this question, and it's where I completely understand where Carey Price is coming from. Should I tell my boss. Should I put this on their radar, but then they start to doubt my recollections...doubt my input...second-guess my output.

A couple years after my 2016 concussion I started to feel better - I would say my good days outnumbered the bad days. But then I suffered another concussion, this one was mild but I knew it the second it happened and shortly thereafter my symptoms began coming back more frequently. A few years after that I was feeling better again, until this summer when I suffered yet another mild concussion and, again, the symptoms have come back. Most days it's not a big deal, but sometimes I will have days that are absolutely miserable. I had a day this past week where I could not function. My wife asks me what's wrong and I want to explain but I can't even find the words to explain how I feel. It's like when you feel like you just want to cry, but you can't even muster up the tears. I look at her, try to move my lips, exhale and look at the floor, and she knows. She doesn't understand the feeling, but she knows what is happening. She's very patient with me and I love her for that.

So what's the point of all this? Because it's important for all of us to know there are others just like us out there, regardless of if we are actually talking about it or not. After I shared some comments on the Carey Price post a couple weeks ago, I was genuinely touched that some of you took the time to post your own situations and perspectives, and I hope others feel comfortable to do the same again here.

It seems there is still a ways to go with how society views mental health issues, but I hope it changes. One of the reasons I have put off any meaningful treatment is because of how my situation was dismissed (and in one case laughed at) by Doctors. It's a shame, and I was foolish and immature for letting that persuade me not to further seek treatment. But I do hope society is improving in how we view these situations and care for those who are going through them.

I can understand what Carey Price is going through, and I hope this snapshot into my own experience helps broaden just a couple other peoples' perspectives into the battle others may be going through as well, albeit silently.

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