“You are officially a mess.”
When Terry Niemann hit her head on a bathtub in 2013, she didn’t know she already had a concussion. Though a bike accident twelve weeks earlier caused her significant head trauma (And yes, she was wearing her helmet), her doctors were more concerned with ruling out any brain bleeding or spinal cord injuries. When they found none, she left the hospital in pain and without a clue about what was to come.
Three months later, she found herself blindsided by a bout of vertigo. “I never had any before, so I didn’t know what the heck was going on,” Terry explains. “It just spun me out of control and dropped me.” She knocked her head on a porcelain bathtub and found herself in the hospital once again. This time, the head trauma dramatically affected her speech, motor skills, and overall consciousness. “I couldn’t form sentences,” she says. “Walking was hard. Retaining anything or remembering anything was not happening.” She recalls with a dry laugh that the doctor told her that she was “officially a mess.”
Lucky to be alive
Miraculously, Terry healed completely from both concussions a year later. She always loves being active, so it felt good to pick up her usual hobbies, like strength training, hiking, and even boxing. She also started working again at her usual job as a special education teacher.
It was at her job when tragedy struck again in 2016. While preparing her classroom for incoming students one evening, she went to take a break in the restroom. The night custodians didn’t leave a “caution” sign after they mopped the bathroom floor. Terry slipped and hit her head—Once on the bathroom’s cement wall, then again on the tile floor.
Post-Concussion Syndrome (PCS)
Terry still suffers from the effects of her third concussion. These persisting symptoms fall under the umbrella of Post-Concussion Syndrome. Every day, she wakes up and assesses her symptoms: Where is the pain? Am I having trouble balancing? Sometimes she forgets where she is and what she’s saying, but she gets her bearings pretty quickly when prompted. She finds relief from her symptoms through vision therapy: For example, she says prism lenses are helpful. She also loves essential oils like valor, frankincense, and CBD.
Her PCS also leads her to be deliberate about where she expends her mental energy. “I liken my brain to an old phone, where you have to be mindful that [the battery] isn’t gonna last all day,” she explains. “I have to pace myself.” She tries to do things that bring her joy every day.
tries to spend valuable time with the people she loves, as she says that “fills her bucket,” or makes her feel fulfilled mentally and emotionally. “I choose them first,” she says. “I choose things that I know I can do, and I feel good about.”
Prioritize your Joy
Terry has learned to find joy in the cracks of life. Because she knows, first hand, that life can take you down winding paths you haven't chosen, prioritizing joy and creating space for yourself is paramount to living a happy, healthy life no matter what.
Terry can’t work as a special education teacher anymore, but she produces a podcast with her husband, Drew, called A Battle Within. They talk about what it’s like to live with Post-Concussion Syndrome (PCS), and they speak with others affected by this disorder. Terry says she’s blown away by the community that developed around their work. In the future, she hopes to create a nonprofit foundation to support people with traumatic brain injuries.
Connect with Terry
Terry Niemann co-hosts the podcast A Battle Within with her husband, Drew. You can follow the show on Instagram here. When she isn’t working, she enjoys being active and spending time with her loved ones.