Sophie Paci's Community Story - Healing Through Acceptance and Art

I had been dealing with post-concussion syndrome for a year and a half when I got my fourth concussion from a wakeboarding accident. Now let’s rewind seven years. My first two concussions occured from soccer games in 2010 and the third from a skiing accident in 2016, my last semester of college. During that semester and my first year working as a teacher post-grad, I tried to be “tough” and not complain about my persistent symptoms. Besides a few weeks of neck physical therapy, I did not receive adequate medical attention.

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My fourth concussion in August 2017 changed everything. This time, I sought proper medical care immediately and, after the first few weeks of treatment, reluctantly made the decision to take a year of medical leave from my job to focus on full-time recovery. I found the courage to prioritize my health and make up for all the days I pushed through and thought I was being “tough.” I made a pledge to be New Tough: to listen to my symptoms, to give myself the time and space to heal, and to commit to a full recovery.

For the first twelve weeks of my recovery, I went to rehabilitation appointments every day and diligently completed my home-therapy exercises. My activities were extremely limited because of my physical symptoms, mainly dizziness, fatigue, and migraines. During this time, I discovered abstract painting to be very therapeutic. Getting lost in blending the colors and creating shapes distracted me from my symptoms and helped me calm down when my emotions felt overwhelming.

Some of the hardest work I have done this year has been confronting my post-concussion depression, which I think I started experiencing after my third concussion in college. Letting go of my resistance to the idea of being depressed and seeking treatment has been a big part of my overall healing process. I learned that depression is common in post-concussion syndrome and I became more comfortable talking with my friends and family about my emotional journey of the past few years.

Accepting that recovery is a non-linear path with an unknown timeline has been a huge mental hurdle for me. Overcoming this hurdle allows me to live in the present and take things one day at a time. I have found a number of silver linings during this difficult year, including making new friends, spending more time with family, and learning about mindfulness meditation.

My pledge to be New Tough has strengthened my physical and mental health, and I feel more grounded as a person. The resilience I have developed helps me continue to move forward on my recovery path.

Headway Foundation