Battling back

Elizabeth Peirce. Photo: Tammy Fancy

Gone are the days of athletes just playing through concussions. In many sports, rules are changing and more safety equipment is required for both youths and adults. High level athletes are taking more time off to recover from concussions than in the past. Elizabeth Peirce calls this the “Sidney Crosby effect.” 

She recently wrote a book about her concussion journey called Lost and Found: Recovering Your Spirit After a ConcussionPeirce describes her book as “a tool kit: a strategy that concussion survivors can use where they can pick and choose among [the resources] to see what works for them.” There’s no one-size-fits-all solution. “Each concussion is like a snowflake,” Peirce says, adding her book is not a substitute for treatment. “[It’s] to complement a multi-faceted approach to treating concussion.”

A concussion occurs during a jolt to the head that bounces the brain against the skull, resulting in a bruise to the brain. The more severe the jolt, the bigger the bruise. Like many concussion victims, Peirce initially felt she could just “shake it off.” Recovery back to her full strength took two years and included a “loss of self” that she says affected her physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

With an invisible injury, concussions suffers are hard to spot, making the long recovery time frustrating for both the injured and their loved ones. Peirce had to enlist the help of friends and family to support her in her everyday household chores and parenting tasks. “You’d be surprised how much energy it takes to have a shower” Peirce explains. “I would have used up my energy by 10 a.m. and still have eight hours to go with a two-year-old child.” Peirce describes herself as lucky to have support from her “amazing husband and friends.” 

But not everyone was supportive. Some acquaintances said she should “buck up and get more involved in your parenting” and that she “should be over it by now.”

Peirce explains that she felt helpless. “I blamed myself and tried to put pressure on my body to get better quickly,” she recalls. That added extra stress on her already injured brain. 

Her most unforgettable moment was hearing others’ concussion stories, giving her a sense of connection and reassurance that what she was experiencing was normal. That’s why Peirce hopes to help spread the word. “People who have concussion need to know that you haven’t lost yourself,” she says. “Take time and allow your body and brain to heal… Stop putting pressure on yourself.”

Her book allows others an insight into an experience she describes as the “hardest thing I ever did.” But she adds that she also learned to be brave and resilient. “You will get through this but it will take time to heal,” Peirce says. “Anyone going through a concussion is a warrior.”

This story was originally published in Halifax Magazine.

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