- It was a Distillers concert at the Kool Haus. All ages – nothing was ever all ages. I was in grade 10 maybe, and I chose my clothes to look like I hadn’t thought about choosing my clothes. I had been in the mosh pit for half the show. A guy grabbed my shirt and pushed me – but the floor behind me had cleared so my head hit the concrete floor backed by his weight. The guy carried me out of the pit “do you need water or something? I am so sorry” “No, I’m fine” and I sat on the beer sticky floor until the venue cleared and I could find the friend I came with. We waited outside for her mom to pick us up and drive us home.
- Playing hockey with I was rushing back to stop a breakaway. I caught her with a diving poke check. My momentum carried me head first into the zamboni doors which burst open.
- My first roller derby scrimmage. We were playing the team from Foothills. I was jamming and a girl clotheslined me. She got a penalty. She apologized after the game. I thought I got up right away, only the pack had moved and everyone had taken a knee. When my coach asked me I didn’t know the date. I kept saying “I’m fine” even when no one asked me. I finished the scrimmage feeling high.
- #1 was actually probably from the whiplash I got in a minor car accident when I was in grade 6. I wore a neck brace. Our car had been rear ended on the highway. The police officer’s name was Kelly – I remember because she gave me a teddy bear that I named after her.
- I’m a bit lost on timeline now. July 2014 was a big one, one of the first to be diagnosed as a concussion by someone other than hindsight. My head hit the ground with the sound that still makes me flinch and hunch my shoulders, the sound I hear whenever I drive a car or lift weights or coach or go to a game or see photos on facebook: anything that reminds me of roller derby. The panic attacks are worse when I’m tired; before I quit my job I was coming home every day and crying for at least an hour before sleeping for 12. There was a flash of light behind my eyes and still I see it echo. This was in Fernie. I sat out the rest of the game and the only other thing I remember is a moment when the announcer – not knowing I was hurt, I assume now – made a comment about how rare concussions are in derby, you never see them – and I raged rage rage. How the fuck dare she?
- Was this before or after? At a game in Calgary I got a bad case of whiplash. The skater came at me the wrong way on the track – was this at Flat Track? No, it was against Regina in a friendly? I’m not sure. I didn’t finish the game, my neck hurt, my jaw hurt, I didn’t feel well. I was afraid to drive home so Mims drove me and Poppa brought my car. No. Mims drove me in my car and Poppa followed in their vehicle. Headache and neck ache and I followed up at work with Chiro and Athletic Therapy. I think that was the time when the AT suggested I go home from work. I felt giddy. I bought a new $300 helmet.
- Practice the week before Montana. In Red Deer, Friday night. Shannon the Cannon hit my visor so hard that the screws pulled out of my helmet. Totally by accident, but I was ditzy with hate: my own teammate. At a practice. Before a travel game. Shannon’s a powerhouse and I admire her for never holding back. Why does every hit feel like a hammer and why am I not strong enough to bounce back anymore? My get up and go is the best thing I got, and it’s gone. I didn’t even consider concussion until 2 days later. At work, a client/friend mentioned that I was acting concussed again. But I ignored it because I wanted to play in
- Montana. I was feeling edgy, powerful, agile, jittery. Coach told me I’d be jamming lots. In warmup I felt swift and dodgy. Frisky. I felt like someone else; someone better. I was scoring lots of points. We were smashing them. My head never even hit the ground: shoulder to left ear, punch to the right side of my head, the world lurched. The world lurched.
Edited to add:
Seeing the #BellLetsTalk posts prompted me to post a piece about my concussion – whatever I think about corporate sponsorship, real conversation about the different experiences of and around mental health is important. I still get anxiety attacks. I often feel depressed. Even as my other symptoms get better and better – I have only had to take an anti-headache pill once since Christmas, if I avoid noise triggers my body feels mostly normal – the mental and spiritual recovery is still in process. And even as I write that I grit my teeth and think it sounds like hypersensitive bullshit. Like: pull yourself together Claire, it’s been over a year. The feeling of failure is less constant than it was, but it’s still there, a gnarl of a knot I’m trying to unpick one thread at a time.
Something I haven’t talked about: I still dream in derby. Every night lately I’ve either been dreaming of playing or coaching, either at derby or at the gym, and it’s always a nightmare.
And facebook often makes me feel more isolated, because I feel very strongly that I want to seem happy so that my family doesn’t worry and so that I don’t seem like a whiner. But it means that my closest friends, who are so far away, also don’t know what’s going on, leaving me feeling more isolated than I’ve felt since the first month of my concussion.