Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
20 May

Rebound After Head Injury

It’s Friday, everyone! And that means another Primal Blueprint Real Life Story. If you have your own success story and would like to share it with me and the Mark’s Daily Apple community please contact me here. I’ll continue to publish these each Friday as long as they keep coming in. Thanks for reading!

real life stories stories 1 2I started the Primal eating strategy back in 2005 and rapidly started to heal from myriad chronic illnesses, including PCOS and infertility. Recovering from those was a blessing which has fueled my devotion to Paleo nutrition ever since. Seven months ago, though, something happened which nearly hijacked all the benefits I had gained.

In October my sister tragically died. As if that wouldn’t have been reason enough to forget nutrition, even more tragedy befell.

Four days later I hopped on my mountain bike and headed to one of my favorite trails to be alone with my thoughts… I didn’t think to bring a helmet. The warm sun and the breeze that day made me feel almost happy, and I believe I recall taking some jumps that I know were on the trail, but maybe I only remember it because I’d done it before. I don’t know.

Anyway, from out of nowhere, I bounced up from the dirt. My vision was grey, like snow on a bad tv station. I saw blood dripping on the ground and I could barely breathe. It was a Tuesday and unlikely anyone would be on the trail. I couldn’t see well enough to be certain, though. I tried waving my arms and calling for help but couldn’t lift them high enough and couldn’t make much sound. I actually picked up my bike thinking I would ride to the street but that was impossible. I couldn’t even get my legs over the seat. It turns out the bike was fine but to me, it looked bent and mangled. I couldn’t make it go straight and I couldn’t hold it up.

In those few seconds of terror I had exhausted my options. I passed out. Or at least I guess I did. I don’t remember anything else.

Sometime later that morning some ladies (who happened to be nurses) found me there on the trail. Though I don’t remember it, they guided me the mile to the trail head. I guess I remembered the phone number my parents had had for the last 25 years, so the ladies called and my boyfriend came to pick me up.

He said when he saw me, my eyes were blank – like there weren’t any thoughts going through my head – and I couldn’t talk very well. I don’t have recollection of any of this but he said I looked like a zombie.

I remember waking up later that evening in the hospital. The doctor said I suffered a severe concussion and that I would probably have memory problems for a while, but that within a couple of weeks the swelling would go down and I’d be ok. My left leg was about twice the size of normal. The bike had probably landed on it but it wasn’t broken. I have no feeling in my lower thigh to this day. After the doctor cleaned the rocks out of my chin she stitched up the big gash where I had hit the ground. She also pulled rocks out of my hands, arms, and abdomen before she bandaged those.

In the following days I couldn’t remember much of anything about myself or my life. I couldn’t remember what state I lived in. I didn’t know I had an apartment in Denver. I didn’t know what  kind of work I did. I knew I had had a boyfriend but for some reason I thought we had broken up. I had no recollection of my sister dying. I knew I had a daughter, but she had gone to stay with family as soon as my sister died and so I didn’t even get to see her (which really didn’t help bring me back to reality).

It was like waking up in someone else’s life and being shackled to the bed at the same time. Looking into my mind was like looking into a dark hallway with all the doors closed. I would search for memories and try to piece things back together. I lay in bed alone recovering and I would just try to think for hours and hours. Talking with friends and family really helped to get the memories going but, unfortunately, it was hard for me to remember things for more than a few minutes. This made it even harder to piece it all back together.

Things did start to improve little by little. After about three weeks I went back to work. I had no idea what I was doing there but I asked a lot of questions and kept trying. My short term memory started improving within a couple of weeks (though even now it’s not what it used to be) and after hours and hours and hours of thinking and asking questions, I started to piece my memories back together. But my memory wasn’t the only thing that suffered.

Forgetting everything was really scary and I got consumed by it. I feared I would never be the same, that I wouldn’t be as smart as I used to be, that I would always have gaps in my memories. I became wildly depressed. Actually, the depression started immediately. My mind just wasn’t mine. I didn’t have control over it. That would send me into panic. My heart would race, my blood pressure drop, I would sweat, thinking that my body was broken and that I was going to die. I had almost died just 4 days after my sister had died. It seemed everything was about death. I went to the ER. I became a veritable hypochondriac.

Somehow in all of this I started eating grains and sugar again. I don’t remember how it started (there are a lot of things I don’t remember in those first few weeks), but I remember eating and loving gluten free cookies, chocolate, and stuff with honey on it. (I have celiac disease so I never went so far as the SAD, but I am insulin resistant and am incredibly sensitive to sugar.)

I continued to eat meat and healthy foods too but I just didn’t care enough about life to fight the cravings. I was already fighting enough, I guess. It went on like this for months. I ate sugar to give me some sort of pleasure in all that misery. But the sugar, of course, was just screwing things up even more, but I couldn’t see it. I remembered that I used to be happy, but I just couldn’t for the life of me remember how I had achieved it. At this point I had pretty much resolved myself to a life of unhappiness.

One day, I don’t actually remember what I was doing, but I ended up on MDA for the first time and started reading about people recovering from feeling like crap and I was like, what the hell have I been doing!!?

Memories of my own health just flooded back. (This was how my memories would come back after the accident, something would have to trigger them and then they would just pour into my mind.)

I bought your book The Primal Blueprint for my Kindle and immediately started reading. Your story of Grok put me right back into the life I had lived before. Modern man was like the new me and Grok the old me. It was a harsh, but real juxtaposition.

PeggyRail

Within a week of returning to the Primal Blueprint diet the panic attacks ceased. (Although if I eat any carbohydrates at all the irrational fears return. I have to be even more careful than I used to be). Within a month the severe depression had completely lifted and I was back to my old, care free self. I started remembering almost everything again (or at least I am able to laugh it off when I forget). I started exercising again (and better than ever with harder workouts). I even got back on my bike (which was really good because that’s my main mode of transportation). I hadn’t been reading because my brain hurt so much but I found your writings so irresistible that I read voraciously despite the pain.

Stumbling upon The Primal Blueprint helped me recover within weeks from an injury which I had been suffering for months. Your community of people, offering their experience, has been invaluable in lending me the strength I needed to recover. Your own passion for sharing your research has given me a new direction with Primal eating and lifestyle and I’m more excited than ever to share my own experience and knowledge.

In the end, there’s a purpose to everything. Thanks Mark for giving me a chance to see that.

Cheers,

Peggy, The Primal Parent
ThePrimalParent.com

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. Okay we are getting it now Mark, primal guys look manly and grow beard; primal women look damn sexy…that’s starting to get redundant!!! :)

    Thomas G wrote on May 20th, 2011
    • I have noticed this trend of looking awesome too! Big congrats to all of the primal women who have transformed themselves! May I join your ranks one day… :)

      Crunchy Pickle wrote on May 20th, 2011
      • I have also noticed this. I met 2 dudes for lunch on Thursday in Chicago since I was visiting from gr, mi. We are all growing beards.

        Primal Toad wrote on May 21st, 2011
    • “primal guys look manly and grow beard”

      That’s actually damn sexy, if you ask me.

      Yasmine wrote on May 20th, 2011
      • I agree!

        Sharon C. wrote on May 20th, 2011
        • Yup, just look at Sean Connery for example. He become much sexier once he became a man and grew a beard :)

          Kitty wrote on May 20th, 2011
  2. Congrats on regaining your life back! Must be really scary to wake up in such a state… It’s amazing what eating real food can do to us! ;)

    Albert wrote on May 20th, 2011
  3. Great story. I’ve had friends who suffered similar symptoms after severe head trauma. I’ll keep this article handy for them.

    Max wrote on May 20th, 2011
  4. It’s amazing how resilient our brains are when we don’t fight against the repair agent they need (cholesterol). Let it do what it is meant to do – fix your body!

    Chris wrote on May 20th, 2011
  5. I think this is one of the most inspirational stories I’ve read here.

    Peggy, I’m sorry for your losses and I’m so glad you were able to find your way back. We can all relate to falling of the path and you sure had good reason to get lost.

    Good luck with everything you do in the future. Including being a Primal Parent. ;-)

    Alison Golden wrote on May 20th, 2011
    • Thank you, Alison!

      Yep. Falling off the wagon happens, even to those with the strongest will and discipline.

      Hopefully, sharing my struggle will help one or two others to climb back up. At least then it would be good for something!

      Peggy The Primal Parent wrote on May 20th, 2011
      • I also fell off the wagon for 4 months due to financial stress. I got back on in feb and am doing better than ever!

        Congrats on your recovery!

        Primal Toad wrote on May 21st, 2011
  6. What a great story! The brain is an amazing organ, capable of so much healing when given the proper tools. Good luck on your continued success and recovery!!!

    fitmom wrote on May 20th, 2011
  7. This was so inspirational on so many levels! Thank you for sharing!

    Hannah wrote on May 20th, 2011
    • Let’s all thank Mark for building this primal empire on which stories like this can be shared!

      Peggy The Primal Parent wrote on May 20th, 2011
  8. It’s one thing to share struggles & triumphs, but it takes something more to put the tragedies out there too.
    Thank you for sharing your story so that others can learn! (passing along to a friend who had a TBI)
    Hope to meet you some day, as I am slightly west of where you are…

    peggy wrote on May 20th, 2011
  9. Dang, Peggy! That’s crazy. All you kids remember to cover up your noggin on a bike!

    I can partially relate to this as my brother in law went over his handlebars on his bicycle. Luckily he had a helmet on, but still has problems remembering the accident. I am also a cyclist (road), and it’s something I think about every time I get on the bike – that and folks in cars that can’t be bothered to give you an extra 6 inches of space.

    Glad to hear you’re doing better. I like your blog – it has some interesting stuff on it. Keep it up!

    Hal wrote on May 20th, 2011
  10. Peggy, I am glad you are recovering. I think we should all learn from this, to follow Mark’s rule: “Avoid Trauma” – so take Hal’s advice and wear your helmets!

    Ann wrote on May 20th, 2011
  11. That is quite an amazing story. How serendipidous that you would end up here on MDA and that it would spark your memories. I think this website is a lifesaver in many ways.

    Daria wrote on May 20th, 2011
    • Not completely serendipitous as Peggy’s website informs us that she was using MDA before her accident.

      Nigel wrote on May 20th, 2011
      • I debated about replying to this at all but as Nigel also came round my blog and left two comments correcting the grammar of another commenter I thought I would defend myself. For what it’s worth. I have no idea what he’s referring to.

        I think he may have got confused (god I hope it’s not me!), by references to the many ups and downs with my own health throughout my life and the length of time I’ve been Paleo.

        I went Paleo long ago but the Primal Blueprint is new for me. I hadn’t been reading Paleo literature for a long time before the accident. I hadn’t heard of MDA or Mark or even Robb Wolf until around December. (I looked up the purchase date of his book on my Amazon.com account. That’s so embarrassing.)

        One of the reasons I was trepidatious about so many people seeing this story is because I suffered memory problems. It is scary to feel like you might be missing something or forgetting something. But whatever. In the end, we’re all here for support to help us fight the current. I’ll try to forget my ego and will try, as always, not to make mistakes with my memory.

        Peggy The Primal Parent wrote on May 20th, 2011
        • ..you will find that some people have nothing better to do than pick someones posts apart. I for one am right there for you..I will encourage you you to be strong and move forward.I am your GROK BROTHER..I DO not wish you to even think about those who pick at details..let no one..get to you at all! YOU do not have to defend yourself here…
          GROK ON SISTER>>>

          DAVE PARSONS wrote on May 20th, 2011
        • Love ya Dave. You Grok. They should have “like” buttons on this website.
          Peggy, I totally agree with Dave 100%.

          Kitty wrote on May 20th, 2011
        • Oh god and I even misspelled serendipitous, I’m surprised he didn’t make a comment about that.

          Daria wrote on May 21st, 2011
        • Ignore the stupid comments. They were annoying to me at first but I now simply ignore them!

          Primal Toad wrote on May 21st, 2011
        • I hope I shall be forgiven for mistakenly seeing ten years of nutrition study and six years of familiarity with primal dieting (Mark’s “trademark”) as evidence of previous (before the bike accident) knowledge of Mark’s Daily Apple. I hope also Peggy will turn her experience into a cautionary tale concerning the wearing of protective head gear.

          Nigel wrote on May 23rd, 2011
  12. THANK YOU for your inspiration! This may just be the story I need to get help for myself so I appreciate it so so so much.

    Dawn wrote on May 20th, 2011
  13. Wow. 1) Great Story and 2) You are absolutely gorgeous. Grok on!

    Uncephalized wrote on May 20th, 2011
  14. Powerful stuff.
    Enjoy everyday.
    ..you have purpose…and you have life.
    And you have many of us out here so you are never alone….may your body repair itself as it should and may you be whole once again..
    GROK ON>>>

    DAVE PARSONS wrote on May 20th, 2011
  15. Thank you for your inspirational story and I’m sorry for your loss.
    You mention that if you eat carbs your irrational fears return – I’m exactly the same. Took me weeks to get over starting primal. I was depressed, thought I was going mad and worried over everything. Now if I slip and eat sugar, it comes rushing back for a few days. Makes it ‘easier’ to stick to what’s good for you!
    Grok on!

    MattM wrote on May 20th, 2011
  16. I skipped the green text and was reading this in Mark’s voice (forgot it was Real Life Story Friday), so I was reading this in Mark’s voice. Then I hit “my boyfriend came to pick me up.” Realizing Mark is married to a woman, I thought maybe he lives an unconventional lifestyle, but then I sorted it out :)

    Michael wrote on May 20th, 2011
    • I thought the same thing!

      Jon wrote on May 23rd, 2011
  17. Absolutely incredible story!! Thank you so much for sharing and congrats on finding you again! The mind is the most powerful organ and can overcome just about anything!!

    Tim
    Find me on Facebook
    Big Tim’s Primal Journey

    Tim wrote on May 20th, 2011
  18. That’s helpful to hear. I had never had anything even resembling panic attacks before the accident. Logic was always my greatest asset, and control something I guess I took for granted.

    Sometimes I thought that if nothing was really wrong with me, the panic attack itself would kill me. My heart rate and body temp would both get so high.

    I haven’t eaten sugar at all since but even a piece of fruit will tip me over into paranoia which isn’t as bad but still unnecessary and annoying.

    Peggy The Primal Parent wrote on May 20th, 2011
    • Anxiety and depression are both caused by a malfunctioning frontal cortex. It makes sense that head trauma might cause those symptoms. I suffer from both depression and anxiety “naturally” ie. a genetic flaw passed on to me and all my siblings from our father. I am also very sensitive to sugar (hypoglycemic). I am going to try eating no carbohydrates (or as close as possible) and see if it helps me.
      Thank you for sharing your story! You have showed amazing resiliency!

      Robin wrote on May 20th, 2011
  19. Peggy, what are your workouts?

    Anne wrote on May 20th, 2011
    • Weeelll, I have a pullup bar in the doorway which I use frequently while passing through to my bedroom. I sit A LOT so I do lunges A LOT to make up for it (not really sure it cancels out like that though). I do pushups sometimes when I feel like it but then I do a bunch of them. I ride my bike to and from my daughter’s preschool almost everyday pulling her in a trailer behind me. I walk and ride my bike (thank god) quite a bit because I don’t drive much. There are hills where I live and so I sprint up them often. Up and down, up and down… I snowboard hard (with a helmet). I do yoga once a week these days. I hike and I play. I DON’T do situps. I have embarrassingly hard abs from singing and laughing all the time.

      Kind of regular stuff I’d say. I’m not a huge fitness buff…anymore. I don’t do regular workouts and don’t go to a gym. I just try to keep moving and pushing heavy things.

      Peggy The Primal Parent wrote on May 20th, 2011
  20. Way to goooo…Peggy! Get back on the horse (your bike) and never look back. Count it all joy. Mamma always said, “Things happen for a reason, and it’s uusally a good one.” Happy to hear you’re doin’ well.

    Dasbutch wrote on May 20th, 2011
  21. Peggy

    I am experiencing so many emotions after reading this, and physical sensations too. I’m so sensitive emotionally and physically! I’m overwhelmed by your story and your survival. And your reminder………about eating right in the time of crisis can save you from it and more……..

    Thanks for sharing, reminding, caring…..
    Kernie

    Kernie wrote on May 20th, 2011
  22. Michael…that is too hilarious that you read that wrong about Mark. But seriously, Peggy…WOW, amazing story. You have been through so much – and I can only reiterate what others have already said, you are truly an inspiration. Glad to hear you are doing well! You look great too!

    Sarah wrote on May 20th, 2011
  23. Peggy, congratulations on your recovery! And you are so beautiful too.

    Kitty wrote on May 20th, 2011
  24. Super inspiring. You’re the kind of gal I like to think about when I start whining about my day going down the crapper. If you can overcome TBI, I can do whatever weenie little thing is stressing me out. Congratulations on your recovery!

    Jennjitsu wrote on May 20th, 2011
  25. Wow, I’ve checked out your site before but must have missed your incredible and beautiful story. Thank you so much for sharing it with us!

    Your observation about how the Primal diet impacts anxiety/depression really resonated with me. I’ve been on and off Primal and when I do get back on the wagon I’m almost shocked at how much clearer my thinking/focus become and how much CALMER I feel even in high stress situations.

    I used to think it was all in my head (and other used to tell me I was ‘imagining’ these differences) but the more I read the more I’m convinced that there’s something to this…

    Shema wrote on May 20th, 2011
  26. Peggy, I love your shoes in picture. What brand, did you get them relatively recently, and where? They look like Vans. Even Ms. Grok probably would’ve loved cute shoes if they would have been available back then.

    Ellen wrote on May 20th, 2011
    • hehehe They’re DC like the snowboarding brand. They’re like slippers. Super soft cotton. love the things as far as shoes go, but you know, it gets chilly here. Brrr

      Peggy The Primal Parent wrote on May 21st, 2011
  27. This definitely points to the truth that humans are designed to be strong and healthy and that when we live naturally health comes naturally. It’s amazing how small changes like the ones in this story can have such a profound impact on both our physical and mental health.

    Thanks for sharing!

    Wild Movement wrote on May 20th, 2011
  28. Wow, amazing recovery, good for you!
    I also fell off my mountain bike but not as dramatically as you did, I just broke my nose! I broke a primal law, avoid stupid mistakes.

    Matt wrote on May 20th, 2011
  29. I love reading these Friday real life stories. I went primal about 1 week ago now and reading the posts and comments on this site daily really help.

    Looking forward to being a success story with a beard :)

    Simon wrote on May 21st, 2011
    • I am..I do..GROK ON>>>

      DAVE PARSONS wrote on May 21st, 2011
  30. Peggy, thanks for sharing your courageous story! I love your site, as I am parent trying to raise my little ones Primal/Paleo right along with me. I love your posts but had no idea the trip you have taken to get here. Much love, blessings, and flowing energy to you!

    And, again, thanks, Mark, for everything you do and then sharing it with all of us!

    Lauren wrote on May 21st, 2011
  31. I was so happy to see this story posted. I am also a TBI survivor. My recovery seems to be much lengthier than Peggy’s but I see similarities. I was unable to read/research for the first year of my injury but once I could read I read as much as I could. That is how I found the Primal Blueprint. It has been just over a month since I went primal and my recovery is occuring rapidly now. I especially believe it is the inclusion of homemade beef broth twice a day. I think it is just what my body needed. I am so hopeful that I will be healed soon. My TBI was 11/29/09.

    Heather wrote on May 21st, 2011
    • I am so happy for you! A year is a long long time.

      I do beef bone broth and liver too, but I didn’t during those months I was all messed up. I started those when my daughter was a baby (five years ago) and it has made a great difference in our health. Keep it up!

      Peggy The Primal Parent wrote on May 21st, 2011
  32. Wow! Quite amazing. And beautiful, my coworker thought the picture was a magazine picture. LOL, I said that’s a Primal body for you! Keep up the good work, you are an inspiration to parents everywhere

    Mike wrote on May 23rd, 2011

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