GeekGirlCon Blog

On the Unreliability of Brains: A Story about my Concussion

Hi, I’m Jo, and I have a brain injury.

Let me backtrack a bit. In January this year, I was at my weekly roller derby scrimmage when I took a hit and fell. Roller derby is a full contact sport, so it’s reasonable to expect hard hits, bumps, and falls. (In fact, one of the first things new skaters are taught in derby is how to fall safely.) However, this was one of those weird hits where I ended up flat on my back. My head hit the track, which is laid over solid concrete. I don’t remember exactly what happened, but I do remember that there was a meaty sounding noise when my head hit the ground. Thankfully, I was wearing a helmet, but the helmet didn’t prevent the impact; it only reduced it.

I felt fine at the time, and didn’t think anything was wrong until the referee skated over to see if I was okay, and then told me to see our athletic trainer. There’s a relatively standard concussion test–shining a light in my eyes, asking things like what the date is, counting backwards, and so on. I barely passed, but I passed the test, so I thought I was okay.

A concussion is a type of brain injury where, to be completely unscientific, impact with your head causes your brain to jiggle inside your skull. As a result of the movement, brain cells can get stretched or damaged, which affects your neural pathways, and chemical changes can occur. This manifests in a variety of ways and can vary between individuals.

Image description: a simulation of what happens to a brain in a concussion. A hand slaps an open skull, causing the brain to wobble.

About three days later, I started getting symptoms. First it was headaches, especially when it was bright outside, or when I was looking at a computer, phone, or TV screen. Then sometimes things would be out of focus at the periphery of my vision. I found it hard to concentrate. I was irritable and anxious, and my sleep quality went down. I couldn’t leave the house unless it was nighttime because driving required too much brain processing, and walking outdoors during the day hurt my eyes and my head.

I’d also forget things. Sure, sometimes, being forgetful can be funny, in a “ha ha, I’m looking for my glasses and they’re actually on my face” sort of way, and then there’s being forgetful like when you leave a pan on the stove and almost burn down your house. (I set the smoke detectors off at my house twice in the first month of my concussion that way.) After that, my partner had to prep my food or leave me leftovers. For most of my life I’d been blessed with having a pretty good memory, so being unable to remember things like the names of your childhood pet or even what you had for lunch the previous day was pretty concerning.

I think that seeing my brain fail me in ways where I had previously been able to trust it was the worst part about having a concussion. I’m a highly academic and analytic person, and a lot of my identity is tied up in using my brain.  The other thing about concussions is that it can increase the risk of getting Alzheimer’s later in life. There’s something scary about not knowing if my memory will go, and when, and how, especially if it comes with the risk of forgetting who your loved ones are–or who yourself are–somewhere down the line. But, maybe that’s me overthinking it.

But, there are ways to mend. The main treatment for concussions is to rest your brain–basically, this involved avoiding things that were mentally stimulating, getting lots of sleep, and just… not thinking about things. I spent a lot of time lying in a dark room, listening to podcasts on my phone. This was mostly fine if I could cue up the podcast playlist in advance, because looking at the phone screen would make my head hurt. Sometimes when people on podcasts said “s” sounds at a particular timbre I’d get a headache. For someone who thrives on tech and video games, not being able to interact with digital media was hard. I also had to learn how to zone out. It sounds counterintuitive, but I had to use guided meditation apps to help structure my thoughts (or lack thereof) when I was relaxing my brain.

Image description: Pie chart of concussions by sport. Football, boys ice hockey, and boys lacrosse are the primary sources of concussions depicted. Source.

Roller derby is still a relatively new sport, so there’s not a lot of data about the occurrence of head injuries. Incidentally, there’s not a lot about concussions in women’s sports at all—the majority of sports-related head injuries occur in male-dominated sports: football, ice hockey, and lacrosse. It’s hard to extrapolate from the experience of a male footballer twice my size and half my age to understand what my body is doing when it recovers, so a lot of it is guesswork: I’d turn the lights on and see if that bothered me. Then I’d try looking at a phone. And maybe do multitasking. Maybe I’d do jumping jacks and see if I felt like throwing up. Or I’d try some sudoku of various difficulties. And then I’d use those to track improvements.

Recovery was–and is–slow. I imagine a lot of it is making sure my brain can reforge its neural pathways, and I don’t know what needs fixing until I discover it does. I’m mostly back to normal and I have more good days than bad, so that’s promising. Occasionally I still have days where things will set it off. About two months ago (so, almost three months after I initially had a concussion), I was watching Altered Carbon and noticed that I’d have a headache from some of the visual effects, especially if accompanied by screen shakes. It made me nauseous for an entire day.

One of the scenes from Altered Carbon that didn’t make me feel great was this one where Takeshi gets spammed with advertising on his ocular implant.
Description: an upward panning of a futuristic city interrupted by garish neon signage

Sometimes I’ll forget something and wonder if I’m really forgetful or if it’s caused by the concussion. For most part though, I feel fine. I don’t know whether I can go back to normal or even what “normal” means anymore, but it’s something I’m working through and will continue to work through. I’m hopeful that I’ll get better, more adaptive, and stronger brain out of it.

 

Author’s note: This is not intended to substitute for medical advice as concussion symptoms can manifest differently across individuals. If you have questions about how to treat and manage your symptoms, see your doctor.

JC Lau
“Rock On!”

Grab Your Tomes and Broadsword, The Gauntlet Is This Weekend!

Prepare travelers, minstrels, and duelists alike, because this weekend is The Gauntlet! An annual day of games and giving, The Gauntlet is a tabletop games tournament hosted at Mox Boarding House. Sponsored by ENGAGE, all proceeds raised leading up to and during the event will be donated to this year’s selected charity. Industry professionals and players alike will be present. So stop by and connect with your community for a day of battle and fun as we support the participants and play some games!

This year’s tournament is being held in support of Wellspring Family Services, a local non-profit organization that has been serving low-income families and individuals for 120 years in the Seattle area. They work to support and build emotionally healthy, self-sufficient families and a nonviolent community in which they can thrive.

Even if you can’t make it to the event, there’s still a little time to participate by donating online. You can also stream the event live at twitch.tv/cardkingdom this upcoming Sunday.

Happy gaming!

 

What: The Gauntlet: Realms
Where: Mox Boarding House (13310 Bel-Red Road, Bellevue 98005)
When: Sunday, May 20th, 2018 from 11am to 6pm

Indigo Boock
“Rock On!”

What do We Need from Our Feminist Media?

Since the premiere of this season of The Handmaid’s Tale, I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of feminist TV and feminist media generally. To be fair, I don’t really ever stop thinking about the concept of feminist media, but as there has been a clear influx over the past few years, the conversations surrounding it are becoming more and more pointed.

The Handmaid’s Tale is a clear example of what is widely considered feminist media, but it’s not the only example. Its tone and sense of hopelessness have led me to think a lot about what is useful to feminists about feminist media. Many people think of The Handmaid’s Tale as a story that can open the eyes of those who don’t themselves suffer at the hands of heteropatriarchy to our plight. But as feminists whose eyes are already opened, what do we need from our media?

Teal Christensen
“Rock On!”

Thank You for Giving to GeekGirlCon!

Source: GGC Flickr. Description: Three cosplayers at the GGC17 Kickoff Party all look off together towards the top right corner of the photo.

Thank you for supporting GeekGirlCon during our third year of teaming up with Seattle Foundation for its GiveBIG program! With your help, we raised $14,846 from 41 donors!

As a volunteer-run nonprofit organization, GGC relies on the support of this community to continue to exist and grow. We can’t thank you enough for helping us both maintain and develop spaces where geeky girls, women, non-binary people, and their supporters are safe to be who they are, enjoy what they love, and celebrate women who have done and are doing great things.

Source: GGC Flickr. Description: A group of adults and children gather around a table of science supplies at the GGC17 DIY Science Zone.

Source: GGC Flickr. Description: A group of adults and children gather around a table of science supplies at the GGC17 DIY Science Zone.

Because of your support, we will be able to continue adding more programming, gaming, vendors, artists, year-round events, and community engagement to the GeekGirlCon lineup in the coming year. Your passion for the GGC mission makes everything we do possible, and we are so honored to have you partner with us as we continue to build this community.

We can’t wait to show you the ways that your donations will make a difference both at the con this October 27-28 and throughout the year. Thank you for believing in us!

Source: Giphy. Description: a gif montage of Annie and Troy from Community high-fiving each other.

Source: Giphy. Description: a gif montage of Annie and Troy from Community high-fiving each other.

 

Caitlin Foskey
“Rock On!”

Get Ready to GiveBIG!

Tomorrow, get ready for a day of giving with GiveBIG!

GiveBIG is sponsored by the Seattle Foundation. It’s an online fundraising marathon designed to help Seattle area nonprofits create momentum and excitement about community philanthropy. You can pre-schedule gives to GeekGirlCon right now, and you won’t be charged until the morning of May 9. This way, you can set it and forget it, as it were.

This is our third year of GiveBIG. In previous years, our funds donated to GeekGirlCon have gone to supporting our annual convention and year-round outreach programming. Our goal is to make attendance accessible and affordable for every geek. That’s why we also partner with other organizations to provide free passes to those who may not otherwise have the resources to attend.

There are ways to make your dollar go further too. Per GiveBIG giving requirements, there is a minimum of $10 to participate, but there is no maximum. Also, donations for GeekGirlCon ‘18 benefits begin at $50 and all donations at that amount and above will receive convention benefits.

You can also harness the power of donation matching! GeekGirlCon will be offering a match during GiveBIG thanks to a generous donation from I-Wei Feng, GeekGirlCon’s outgoing board president. All gifts will also be eligible for a Dollars for Change grant. If your gift is selected, GeekGirlCon will receive an additional $2,500. If you have an employer match, you can indicate so with your donation. A GeekGirlCon staff member will follow up after GiveBIG to complete any necessary documentation.

You can donate here on the Seattle Foundation GiveBIG page. Thank you in advance for your support!

JC Lau
“Rock On!”

Get Your Agent Application in Now!

Source: GeekGirlCon Flickr. Description: Two agents help GeekGirlCon attendees get their badges and swag bags at GeekGirlCon’17.

Every year, volunteers from countries around the world come together to help us make GeekGirlCon a success. From setup to tear down, our Agents are there to make sure every aspect of the con is pulled off without a hitch, and we would love to have you on our team this year!

Caitlin Foskey
“Rock On!”

Panel Recap: A Q&A With Kimberly Brooks

The fourth member of our Voice of a Hero panel was one that I was particularly interested in listening to at GeekGirlCon ‘17. Kimberly Brooks, whose voiceover work you’ll hear just about everywhere, shared with us her years of experience working on everything from Rugrats, to Bioshock Infinite and Voltron. A fan of hers myself, I was ecstatic to cover her personal Q&A at the convention.

 

Art saves lives.

Kimberly was really shy growing up, and faced a pretty rough period during her childhood. It was her 5th grade teacher that really helped spark her creativity. She had a small puppet theater set up in her classroom, and Kimberly started voicing all of the puppets in her own little shows. After listening, her teacher invited Kimberly to audition for the children’s theater. They were putting on Alice in Wonderland.

She gave Kimberly the confidence to believe in herself, and like all creatives eventually do, that’s how she got the bug.

She did the children’s theater, and later moved on to a good high school in LA with a pretty stellar theater department. She was in Sweeney Todd, she played Mrs. Lovett. It was a great experience where she learned different aspects of production, like directing.

Indigo Boock
“Rock On!”

Geek About Town: May

Happy (almost) May, blog readers! As the sun continues to grace us with its mercurial presence, it’s time to get out and take full advantage of some of the incredible events coming up this month! Catch some movies, play some games, go to some talks…this month, the world is your oyster!

 

Tuesday, May 1st: Eating Recovery Day Event in Seattle

  • Tuesday, May 1 at 7 PM – 8:30 PM
  • The Grinning Yogi
    345 15th Ave E, # 102, Seattle, Washington 98112
  • Each year Eating Recovery Center celebrates
    Eating Recovery Day–a day dedicated to removing stigma, raising awareness and inspiring hope for recovery.

    The Eating Recovery Day theme for 2018 is #MyRecoveryLetter.

    Join us in Seattle at The Grinning Yogi. This complimentary evening of activities will include yoga, mindfulness, letter-writing, conversation and celebration.

    First, Jamie Silverstein E-RYT 500, Owner and Director of The Grinning Yogi, will be leading a heartfelt yoga practice.

    Following yoga, the group will participate in a creative letter-writing exercise to practice accessing love and gratitude in recovery. Letter-writing will be led by Nica Stepien, LMHC, NCC, Alumni Family Liaison at ERC, Washington.

 

Wednesday, May 2nd: Suicide Girls: Blackheart Burlesque

  • 8:00pm – 11:30pm
    The Showbox
    1426 First Ave, Seattle, WA 98101
    Tickets: $27 – $77
  • SuicideGirls is bringing back a revamped version of the sexiest show on the planet for 2018! Blackheart Burlesque is unlike any other burlesque act you’ve seen filled with pop-culture references, a high energy indie soundtrack and the sexiest choreographed strip tease to make your inner nerd explode with glee. Choreographed by one of their very own – you can see Star Wars, Stranger Things, Game of Thrones, Star Trek and West World numbers in a insanely sexy reimagined way!

Hanna Hupp
“Rock On!”

GiveBIG this year and support GeekGirlCon!

Each year, local nonprofits receive a surge of support during the Seattle Foundation’s annual giving campaign, GiveBIG. GiveBIG invites individuals to support their favorite nonprofits with monetary donations. You can check out GeekGirlCon’s page here. This year, we’re able to provide matching funds thanks to former GeekGirlCon board president I-Wei Feng.

While this time of year is surely important to a lot of orgs, it’s also super important to us, as it’s when some of GeekGirlCon’s most supportive individual sponsors show up in full force. To give you a sense of some of the remarkable folks who really come through for GeekGirlCon during GiveBIG, I interviewed longtime supporter Stevie Lantalia Metke.

Teal Christensen
“Rock On!”

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