The last few weeks I was not doing well. And that is disappointing. In the years after my accident my system was (and is) confused, which causes complaints. What does it mean if your system is confused? And which system am I talking about? What kind of complaints are there? And why am I talking about that now? You will find all the answers below!
The last few weeks I didn't feel so well. The problems with my hamstrings did not go away and because I had not been able to do the intervals for about two months, symptoms were slowly coming up that were gone before. This can be explained pretty easily. Most people suffer from so-called cervicogenic and autonomic nervous system headaches as a result of brain damage (click here for a blog about it from Cognitive FX). That sounds very complicated in such terms, but it's actually pretty simple. You see the cervicogenic headaches more often after whiplash but also with brain injury. This headache has everything to do with your neck vertebrae (your cervical spine, hence the name). If you consider that after the car hit me, I slid on my back on the asphalt and then smashed my head backwards against the street, then it makes sense that besides my head, my neck didn't like that too much as well. Even now long after the accident, that neck often has some difficulties. This creates (muscle) tension and sometimes pain in the neck and shoulders. This means that the blood cannot flow properly to your head and that also causes a headache. In addition to headaches from neck problems, I also suffer from headaches due to a disrupted nervous system. The autonomic nervous system often becomes disrupted after a head injury. It controls a lot (perhaps even all) of the automatic processes in your body such as your heartbeat, breathing, etc. What this system also controls is your fight / flight response and your rest / digest position. These are supposed to be in balance, which means that if you are frightened your body goes in the fight / flight position, but if you subsequently find out that there is nothing scary, then you go back to rest or digest. After brain injury you stay in the fight / flight position more often and longer. Just think about how you feel when you are terrified. Imagine something very ordinary like when you are standing in the elevator and day-dreaming. When you want to get out of the elevator, you run into someone when you did not expect anyone to be there. You get a scare; your breathing goes up, your stress levels rise, your blood pressure, your heartbeat, your muscles are tight. Then you realize that nothing is wrong and everything becomes calm again. So what happens / happened to me is that something like that stays in my system for ages. This causes (again!) tension in the neck and shoulders and it is possible that the blood pressure in your brain is also unbalanced. All this creates, you guessed it, a headache.
When I heard this at Cognitive FX it was really a revelation for me. In the Netherlands they told me that headaches are just part of brain injury. There is something wrong with your brain, so you have pain there. At the same time, people with more serious injuries during rehabilitation had much less or no headache and I didn't understand. Staying stuck in your fight / flight position was a very logical explanation for me because I didn't understand why I was so upset by the smallest things and that 45 minutes later I was still completely hyped up from something futile. Knowing what causes it is one thing, being able to do something about it is another. This is one of the reasons that Cognitive FX does the interval training. By raising your heart rate and then consciously lowering it yourself (through your breathing), you learn your body to react 'normal' to stress situations again. For the details of how this works exactly, I refer to Cognitive FX (there is also something mentioned in the previously linked blog).
The symptoms that are really connected to me when getting stuck in that fight / flight position are headache, fatigue, stress, dizziness and increased muscle tension in my neck, shoulders and jaw. After not doing intervals for about a month, all these complaints slowly returned. The fight / flight response was creeping back into my body! I have to admit some cursing was involved and it made me a little scared. While I was quietly building up with sports I did too much and again I could not walk because of the amount of problems with my hamstrings. I knew exactly what to do about my complaints: the intervals. The only question was when I could do them again. I was in contact with Cognitive FX, brainstormed with my physiotherapist here in the Netherlands and unleashed some creativity on how to raise my heart rate without troubling my hamstrings too much. In the meantime my hamstrings were being treated and it turned out to be better than expected. As a result, I can do things that are slightly strenuous for my hamstrings. I now have a few options and last week I was able to throw out three sessions of intervals. That feels good! At the moment I am giving it my all on the rowing machine at the heaviest position (blisters on my hands), use a fitness hula hoop at home that pops up my heart rate amazingly quickly (a few days of sensitive ribs) and a few times I got into the gym and used battle ropes. The latter are very heavy but give me the idea that a lot has changed because six months ago I really never could have done that. You would almost put #fitgirl behind it, almost! ;-) So the only way is up again! And if you read this while your system is also confused in such a way, then know that there are solutions. I wouldn't recommend figuring it out by yourself at home, but with the guidance of a physiotherapist and together with (the treatment at) Cognitive FX there is certainly hope!
In the end there were two weeks that I suddenly had headaches every day and I realized yet again: you forget pain so quickly. It really is a shame when it suddenly comes back, but after picking up these intervals it is becoming less and less. And sometimes I already forget it used to be there constantly. I am not fully healed yet, I am not fully wise either (which fool will start rowing so hard that the blisters are on your hands), but I am on my way and I am still moving forward. That Mr Yung Pueblo (see image above) has summarized that nicely for me!