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!”

August Geek About Town!

As we say goodbye to summer, make sure you check out these great events before the season changes! GAT will now also feature events that are going on throughout the month, so you can plan ahead!

 

Throughout August:

Free Gates Foundation Family Tours and Activities

Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Visitor Center, 440 5th Ave North, Seattle

Open Tuesday – Saturday, 10am to 5pm (until 6pm from June 3-August 30). Closed Sunday, Monday, and all U.S. holidays

Free admission!

It’s interactive, kid friendly, and full of teachable and inspirational moments. Bring your family to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Visitor Center for a free visit to learn about the work being done to improve lives from Seattle to South Africa.

The Visitor Center, through engaging and thought-provoking exhibits, allows parents and children to dive into some of the world’s toughest challenges and learn how to act on their own ideas and solutions. Families can expect hands-on exhibits and spaces to create, explore, and discuss.

It’s an experience unlike any other in Seattle. Visit us across the street from the Seattle Center and the iconic Space Needle for an experience that will leave your family hopeful. Arrive curious. Leave inspired.

 

Monday, August 1: GeekGirlCon Agent Applications Close!

Today’s the last day to get your Agent Applications in! Applications are due at 10:00pm tonight.

GGC games

Tuesday, August 2: All Geeks, All Games at Mox Boarding House!

6:00pm-10:00pm, Mox Boarding House, 13310 BelRed Rd, Bellevue, WA

Our All Geeks, All Games events are growing in popularity! Join GeekGirlCon and Mox Boarding House in Bellevue and help us continue to expand our community of diverse and inclusive gamers to the East Side!

Help us fill that beautiful Tournament Room with folks enjoying our favorite games in a safe and accepting atmosphere. Why mess with the headache of traffic when you can come and play games with us instead.

Staff from both organizations will be on hand to help facilitate gameplay for the shy to the extroverted, from the expert strategist to the board game neophyte. With a huge lending library of games on hand, there will be something for everyone!

As an added bonus, if you play a board game from their library and love it, you can buy a fresh copy for 20% off! How cool is that?!

 

Saturday, August 6: Seattle Center Movies at the Mural: Mad Max, Fury Road

Dusk, Seattle Center

Free admission!

Experience FREE movies outdoors at Seattle Center this summer. Picnic on the gently sloping Mural Amphitheatre lawn, in front of a state-of-the-art 40-foot screen, with the Space Needle looming above. The series features popular movies, both classic and contemporary, appropriate for all-ages.  Movies at the Mural is an outdoor cinema experience like no other!

The desert wastelands inhabited by the Road Warrior are still rife with motorized gangs in this fourth chapter of the Mad Max legend. When Max encounters a group of refugees fleeing for their lives, he joins them and their fiery leader, Furiosa in this apocalyptic story set in a stark desert landscape where humanity is broken, and everyone is fighting for the necessities of life.

 

Monday, August 8-Friday, August 12: Creativity Camps for Kids: Rock n Science

8:30am-4:15pm, EMP Museum and Pacific Science Center

Registration: $445 ($415 for EMP members)

Open to students in grade 1-2.

Discover the science behind sound in this amped up week!

At EMP, artists will take you on a tour to explore rock ‘n’ roll and hip-hop. Join a group and form a band, perform in front of virtual screaming fans, and collaboratively compose a song recorded for family and friends. Experiment with electric guitars, keyboards, and tuning forks.

At Pacific Science Center, explore vibration, pitch, and volume as you investigate your vocal cords and create your own instruments. Find out how tubes, wind, and string combine to make the sounds of science.

 

Friday, August 12: DIY Science Zone Board Game Night at Wayward Coffeehouse!

7:00pm-10:45pm, Wayward Coffeehouse, 6417 Roosevelt Way NE, Seattle, WA

For this GeekGirlCon game night, there’ll be a special host and theme!

Do you love board games and enjoy teaching others how to play? Explore the board/card game hobby and meet folks happy to teach you their favorite board games! Come and play with folks who love playing games. And the best part about the GeekGirlCon game nights with our friends at Wayward? They are absolutely FREE with no cover charge!

Our group is inclusive and totally newbie-friendly. We play a wide range of modern board and card games as well as some classics. You might find CodenamesLove LetterSplendorKing of TokyoVöluspáslashAlien FrontiersLocke & KeyCoup,TokaidoSuperfightThe ResistanceColt ExpressSkull and RosesSettlers of Catan7 WondersToc Toc WoodmanFLUXX, and many more!

Bring a game with you or just bring yourself. Join GeekGirlCon staffers, make some new friends, play some games, and enjoy some delicious organic, fair trade, and shade-grown coffee.

 

Saturday, August 13: Seattle Center Movies at the Mural: Galaxy Quest

Dusk, Seattle Center

Free admission!

Experience FREE movies outdoors at Seattle Center this summer. Picnic on the gently sloping Mural Amphitheatre lawn, in front of a state-of-the-art 40-foot screen, with the Space Needle looming above. The series features popular movies, both classic and contemporary, appropriate for all-ages.  Movies at the Mural is an outdoor cinema experience like no other!

Decades after the success of the sci-fi series “Galaxy Quest,” the show’s washed-up stars — Jason Nesmith (Tim Allen), Gwen DeMarco (Sigourney Weaver) and Alexander Dane (Alan Rickman) — are recruited by actual aliens to pull off an intergalactic rescue mission. At first, the actors assume the so-called Thermians are just another group of die-hard fans. But as the plot thickens, they realize they’re working with real-life extraterrestrials.

 

Saturday, August 13-Sunday, August 14: Felt-A-Con

10am-6pm, Seattle Children’s Theater,  201 Thomas Street Seattle, WA 98109

Registration: $40 Kids Mini-track, $100

FELT-A-CON 2016 is a time for networking, education, fun, and outreach. The event will welcome both professionals and enthusiasts, and puppeteers of all skill levels, from beginners to legends. The weekend registration fee will grant attendees access to at least 5 workshops, lunch, a FELT-A-CON 2016 t-shirt, and a group dinner at a Queen Anne restaurant.

Puppet professionals from Seattle, Everett, Portland, Phoenix and Los Angeles will lead workshops on a wide variety of topics, including sketch writing, tabletop puppetry, and stop motion animation.

 

Tuesday, August 16: All Geeks, All Games at Mox Boarding House!

6:00pm-10:00pm, Mox Boarding House, 13310 BelRed Rd, Bellevue, WA

Our All Geeks, All Games events are growing in popularity! Join GeekGirlCon and Mox Boarding House in Bellevue and help us continue to expand our community of diverse and inclusive gamers to the East Side!

Help us fill that beautiful Tournament Room with folks enjoying our favorite games in a safe and accepting atmosphere. Why mess with the headache of traffic when you can come and play games with us instead.

Staff from both organizations will be on hand to help facilitate gameplay for the shy to the extroverted, from the expert strategist to the board game neophyte. With a huge lending library of games on hand, there will be something for everyone!

As an added bonus, if you play a board game from their library and love it, you can buy a fresh copy for 20% off! How cool is that?!

 

Saturday, August 20: Seattle Center Movies at the Mural: West Side Story

Dusk, Seattle Center

Free admission!

Experience FREE movies outdoors at Seattle Center this summer. Picnic on the gently sloping Mural Amphitheatre lawn, in front of a state-of-the-art 40-foot screen, with the Space Needle looming above. The series features popular movies, both classic and contemporary, appropriate for all-ages.  Movies at the Mural is an outdoor cinema experience like no other!

Winner of 10 Academy Awards including Best Picture, this classic musical set among the tenements of New York City finds star-crossed lovers Maria and Tony caught in the midst of a turf war between rival street gangs.  Featuring music and lyrics by Leonard Bernstein and Steven Sondheim, and directed by Jerome Robbins.

 

Saturday, August 21: Seattle Brasilfest

Seattle Center

Free admission!

Seattle’s BrasilFest celebrates the unique diversity of this South American cultural melting pot. Brazil’s African, Portuguese and indigenous roots are celebrated with classical guitar, samba rhythms and the percussive beats of traditional folk music.

BrasilFest (Brazil spelled with an “S” in Portuguese): The lively world of Brazilian arts and culture will fill Seattle Center with a sultry display of South American soul, Brazilian style.

This one-day extravaganza will offer continuous music, dance, workshops and performance that represent a broad repertoire of traditional and contemporary Brazilian expressions as well as traditional folkloric performers. Experience all that this exuberant and vivid culture has to offer, from Capoeira demonstrations and workshops for all ages (Brazilian martial arts), Samba workshops, children’s activities (mask-making, painting), Brazilian instruments, arts and crafts, photo exhibits and films. BrasilFest is the first annual celebration of Brazilian culture in Washington State, drawing a significant audience.

 

Saturday, August 20-Sunday, August 21: Rat City Rollergirls presents Rust Riot

10:00am onwards, The Rat’s Nest, Shoreline

Passes $45 (2 day) or $25 (1 day)

Menacing clouds are rolling in to Seattle, and the forecast calls for a Rain of Terror as they host this year’s Rust Riot, a tournament featuring some of the best B teams in the world. Mark your calendars for August 20th and 21st and get ready to embrace the gray.

For just $45, you can purchase a weekend pass, which includes admission to 9 full hard-hitting derby bouts. Only available on Saturday or Sunday? Not a problem. We also have one-day passes available for just $25.

This tournament features Rat City All Stars, Rat City’s Rain of Terror, Terminal City All Stars, Terminal City B-Side, Rose City Axles of Annihilation, Montreal Sexpos and Rocky Mountain Contenders.

 

Friday, August 26: Star Wars: The Force Awakens at Skyway Outdoor Cinema

8:00pm – 11:00pm, Skyway Outdoor Cinema, 12610 76th Ave S, Seattle, Washington 98178

We end yet another epic season of SOC with a movie that truly needs no introduction, Star Wars: The Force Awakens. You may want to start grooming your trusty old Chewie costume now.

FOOD: Taco Time NW‘s Taco Time Traveler & Full Tilt Ice Cream
“Three decades after the defeat of the Galactic Empire, a new threat arises. The First Order attempts to rule the galaxy and only a ragtag group of heroes can stop them, along with the help of the Resistance.”
JOIN this event to get all the breaking news on food trucks, raffle prizes, entertainment and more as they’re announced!
The preshow gets started at 8pm behind the Skyway 7-Eleven in the US Bank parking lot. Don’t forget to bring a comfy chair or blanket (or picnic table, or beanbag) and some cash for the concession stand (there is a US Bank ATM on premises, if you prefer). Movie starts at 9pm with a raffle to follow.

GeekGirlCon will be tabling at this event! Come by and say hi!

 

Friday, August 26: GeekGirlCon Board Game Night at Wayward Coffeehouse!

7:00pm-10:45pm, Wayward Coffeehouse, 6417 Roosevelt Way NE, Seattle, WA

For this GeekGirlCon game night, there’ll be a special host and theme!

Do you love board games and enjoy teaching others how to play? Explore the board/card game hobby and meet folks happy to teach you their favorite board games! Come and play with folks who love playing games. And the best part about the GeekGirlCon game nights with our friends at Wayward? They are absolutely FREE with no cover charge!

Our group is inclusive and totally newbie-friendly. We play a wide range of modern board and card games as well as some classics. You might find CodenamesLove LetterSplendorKing of TokyoVöluspáslashAlien FrontiersLocke & KeyCoup,TokaidoSuperfightThe ResistanceColt ExpressSkull and RosesSettlers of Catan7 WondersToc Toc WoodmanFLUXX, and many more!

Bring a game with you or just bring yourself. Join GeekGirlCon staffers, make some new friends, play some games, and enjoy some delicious organic, fair trade, and shade-grown coffee.

 

Saturday, August 27: Seattle Center Movies at the Mural: Life of Pi

Dusk, Seattle Center

Free admission!

Experience FREE movies outdoors at Seattle Center this summer. Picnic on the gently sloping Mural Amphitheatre lawn, in front of a state-of-the-art 40-foot screen, with the Space Needle looming above. The series features popular movies, both classic and contemporary, appropriate for all-ages.  Movies at the Mural is an outdoor cinema experience like no other!

Based on Yann Martel’s best-selling novel, this coming-of-age tale recounts the adventures of Pi, an Indian boy who is the sole survivor of a shipwreck. While cast away, Pi is hurtled into an epic journey of adventure and discovery as he forms an unexpected connection with another survivor: a fearsome Bengal tiger.

 

August 27: Kitsap County 1st Annual Pacific Islander Festival

1:00pm-6:00pm, Evergreen Park, 1400 Park Avenue, Bremerton

Free admission!

The one event you don’t wanna miss… KITSAP COUNTY’s 1st ANNUAL PACIFIC ISLANDER FESTIVAL…FREE & ALL AGES WELCOME!! There will be a couple Halau’s, Live Island Reggae Bands jamming out through the event, Ono Grindz and various Vendors… We will also have Dj seattlesfynest spinning all the island rhythms… Island people come together as one, for future generations under the sun!

 

JC Lau
“Rock On!”

Hitditch Cup is a Hit to Showcase Women in Sport

Written by GeekGirlCon copywriter JC Lau

What do you get when you cross Harry Potter fandom and the fastest-growing women’s sport in the world? The Hitditch Cup, hosted by Rat City Rollergirls, of course!

As far as sports and fandom crossovers go, the Hitditch Cup is an apt and often hilarious way of combining roller derby with the Harry Potter fandom. Rat City skater Sher Nobyl filled me in on some of its history: “The original inspiration for the Hitditch Cup was after realizing the personalities of current four home teams of Rat City loosely corresponded with the four houses of Hogwarts,” she said. “So we decided to do a themed fundraiser bout because Harry Potter has so much to draw from: food, costumes, props, spells, and so on.”

JC Lau
“Rock On!”

GeekGirlCon ’12 Preview: Sporty Geek

GeekGirlCon ‘12 is nearly a month away. It is going to be a rocking, amazing, empowering, inspiring convention.

Don’t believe us? Well, perhaps a preview of some of the awesome panels will persuade you. Today marks the start of a series of GeekGirlCon ‘12 panel previews that will come out in the coming weeks.

Join us on Saturday, August 11, for Sporty Geek: How Roller Derby and Quidditch Are Changing the Game for Women.

Roller derby and Quidditch don’t seem to have much in common on the surface. But they share something very important. They are both thriving, grassroots sporting efforts that provide a new range of athletic opportunities for women. Geek girls are kicking ass … on skates and brooms!

Panelists Sara Weisenbach, Chelsea Hougan, and Tammy Oler will lead this moderated discussion. They will explore the intersections of geek and jock culture with two sports that challenge convention and have the power to change women’s lives.

Here’s a little more background on these sporty geeks:

Sara Weisenbach is the Alaska and Washington state representative for the International Quidditch Association. She is currently studying design illustration at the Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle, where she is also co-captain from the college’s quidditch team.

Chelsea Hougan is the other co-captain from the Cornish Quidditch Team. She’s currently attending the college to pursue a degree in motion design.

Tammy Oler co-founded the Denver Roller Dolls in 2005, a nonprofit roller derby league that has not only trained hundreds of female athletes, but also contributed thousands of hours of community service. She also co-produced Talk Derby to Me, a documentary about the roller derby revival.

We don’t talk about sports a lot in geek culture, but a number of GeekGirlCon staff can be seen attending Seattle Sounders games or roller derby bouts, losing their voice at Seattle Seahawks events, running marathons, or kicking butt in fantasy football.

Are you a geek and a jock? Or are you simply interested in learning more about women and sports? This is the panel for you.

With the Summer Olympics only weeks away and ending during GeekGirlCon ‘12, we thought this was the perfect panel to highlight. So what are you waiting for? Get your passes for GeekGirlCon ‘12 before we sell out.

In the meantime, let us know your favorite sport in the comments below.

Guest Contributor
“Rock On!”

Join The Discussion #GeekGirlCon

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