Symptoms following the concussion: speech, reading, and writing
I’ve had quite a lot of problems related to speech, reading and writing. Although these are significantly better, I am still having some problems.
Understanding speech is one of the most basic areas of function where I have had problems. Initially with my visual problems I had to close my eyes in order to understand spoken words that were even slightly complex. Following speech and making sense of words has become much better, but I’ve still had problems more recently with tracking conversation with multiple participants and understanding new information and concepts. I’ve also had problems with my own speech – including difficulty finding words and constructing sentences – symptoms that have been worse under higher cognitive load. Interestingly once I have ‘found’ a word once then I have no difficulty finding it again.
Reading has been quite a significant problem and I’ve still got some problems now. Initially I could barely look at writing because of the visual complexity. I could recognise the individual words – but if it was not simple language or a simple topic I was not able to process the meaning and would have to stop looking at it. With relatively simple text I could understand the meaning of a few words together, but I couldn’t read and make sense of sentences. Even when the writing was improving, anything that was badly written, poetry or complex was impossible to read. I still find it difficult to make sense of content that is badly written or complex and get dizzy if I read for long.
I also had some problems with writing. Apart from being much more verbose than normal (common with a hit on the front of the head apparently), I’ve had some problems with mixing up words when typing – usually typing a different word that sounds similar to the intended word – but not directly homonyms. For example, typing ‘surface’ when thinking ‘service’. Another thing I have experienced, which is apparently common with a hit to the right side, is making and being amused by word puns – this is quite out of the ordinary for me (and can be annoying for everyone else) but fortunately only lasted for a couple of weeks.
Symptoms following the concussion: Memory, higher functions, and emotional processing
Apart from a brief period just after the accident (where I don’t remember stopping for as long as the GPS said), I don’t think that I have ‘forgotten’ anything as such. For a couple of months I did have what I called a ‘random flashback memory’ where I would have intrusive memories pop into my mind randomly and unrelated to my activities at the time. These were typically memories of particular places and times from my biographic memory and sometimes accompanied by images. Although I don’t think that I have lost any of my biographic memory I do seem to have lost some memory of places in terms of navigation. I can’t remember how to get between places that I know and that previously I knew how to get from one to the other – but this may be more related to visualisation than memory as mentioned below.
As a visual thinker this ability to be able to picture things is very important. I was aware of how important this way of thinking is to me – but I hadn’t appreciated how significant it is – I’ve realised that visualisation plays a an important role in a number of activities for me. Without the ability to visualise I have difficult understanding new information – I picture things visually to make sense of them. I have found I find it difficult to understand new concepts without someone drawing out a picture for me now – and abstract ideas are particularly difficult. I’ve also found planning and navigation to be difficult as a result of not being able to visualise – when doing tasks I find it difficult to know where to start and just have to jump in and work it out as I go along – certainly not my ‘normal’ approach. I’ve adopted a ‘jump in’ and ‘big bang’ approach to things. I start cobbling stuff together – see how it fits better and then dismantle the bits that are wrong and but them back together better. And the same with navigation – I can’t plan routes or picture where I need to be going, so I just have to start walking and hope that I recognise where to go next based on memory or with the aid of GPS.
Some interesting points at the end, especially
“I’m still unable to visualise and have reading difficulties.”
Hope this helps understanding a bit about concussion (even a minor one)
Still, don’t focus on your “deficits/difficulties” too much and let what you can’t do stop you from what we CAN do!
“Do not be defined by our disability, but be empowered by our abiliities.”
In June I flipped my bicycle doing 30km/hour during a time-trial and landed on my head, giving myself a severe concussion. For the majority of people the symptoms of concussion lasts a couple of weeks, for some people the symptoms can continue for months and even years after the injury – known as Post Concussion Syndrome. Although my symptoms have certainly improved over the last several months, I am still having some problems as a result of the injury. I started writing this post about 6 months ago – I wanted to capture the various symptoms that I had because I was fascinated by it all – but it’s taken such a long time because writing something coherent is apparently quite complicated for a bruised brain. As I said at the time and many times since – “You don’t realise how much the brain does until it stops doing it.” Here are some of my experiences of…
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