I felt like my head had been smashed between two semi-trucks, that I was debilitatingly exhausted as if I had just experienced massive jetlag, that I was fatigued as though I had the worst case of the flu, and that I was nauseous as if I were extremely hungover.
Yet, none of that was true.
Rather, the night before, I had fallen while salsa dancing (no alcohol involved), and hit the back left of my head against a concrete floor, when my partner accidentally let me go, rather than catching me during a spin. As a result, I suffered the worst concussion of my life, of which I had previously suffered five (all sports related), as I was always a sporty kid. To make matters worse, I was living alone in London at the time studying for my master’s degree in neuroscience, (ironic, studying the brain while suffering a brain injury) so did not know where to turn.
After sleeping the entire day, I woke up at 2pm and knew that I needed to go to the ER, or as they call it in England, the A&E (accident and emergency). The doctor reviewed my symptoms, asked me to walk a straight line, and then proceeded to tell me that I should take six tablets of paracetamol and 3 tablets of ibuprofen until “the symptoms subside.” The symptoms, however, would not “subside” for another 14 months. The good news was that I did not take the doctor’s recommendations, but rather took my well-being into my own hands, and started on this journey of “biohacking” myself back to health.
So, what did this mean? To start, it meant seeing more than 15 specialists from four different countries, all administering loads of tests. It also meant retracting from society for three months including removal of all screen time, to allow my brain to heal. Along with those steps came a list of daily physical and emotional adjustments to be carried out not only in the immediate future, but long-term.
Adjusting my vegetarian diet to reincorporate omega 3 and DHEA to heal my brain
Removing sugar and alcohol to reduce brain inflammation
Learning to love cold ice baths, and diving deep below the water to increase atmospheric pressure and allows cells to become more oxygenated
Incorporating natural healing techniques, like sun gazing and “grounding,” to combat the negative side effects of modern life activity
Using the tools of plant-based medicines to rewire my brain
Becoming more vocal with others about this invisible injury
Unlearning the idea that emotions and vulnerability are things that need to be pushed down and shut off
Reengaging my meditation practice and learning to love stillness
Realizing that I may never be fully healed and that my sensitivity to light, electronics, and loud noises is now my ‘new norm’
Ceasing to identify with the persona of someone who is ‘smart’ and ‘driven’
These were just some of the high-level adjustments that I learned to make over the past several years of living with chronic pain. Each of these we can “double click” into and expand on but suffice to say that the journey has led me down a trajectory of health. My health was wiped away from me in an instant. My brain was what had served me for 30 years, and now I didn’t have that to fall back on (no pun intended)?! What was I to be? What purpose did I have? What purpose did my life have?
Concussions, unfortunately, are extremely common; chances are every single person reading this has had one at some point in their lives. It is just a matter of us failing to remember it. Perhaps you were dropped when you were a child, or you fell down the stairs and “walked it off,” but forgot that you tweaked your neck, which was the reason you began to have more frequent headaches. Concussions are invisible injuries, and because we can’t see them, they are difficult to understand. The biggest symptoms of concussions (fatigue, imbalance, nausea) may heal quickly, but the reverberating effects (memory loss, depression, emotional fatigue, forgetfulness) can last for months, if not years.
I am not a doctor, and I don’t play one on TV, YouTube, Instagram, or any other form of media. I have no official medical training, though I once thought of becoming a doctor and apprenticed at an Ayurvedic hospital in India and am now training to become a health coach. I have always been interested in health and investigating health related issues, so I read, question, interview others, probe, experiment, and read some more. I know more about my concussion than many doctors, because, frankly put, I had to get to the bottom of it. I was living with the pain and agony of not being my full self. I didn’t care if the tests showed I was “healthy and normal” as per standards of Western medicine when I was feeling horrible.
With the brain, the more I learn, the more fascinated I am with what we do not know. Since the brain is a complicated organ, the game of healing the brain is one of probability. The good news is, for the most part, any therapy has a >1% chance of helping, so, why not explore those options, and increase your chances of achieving good health? Chances are that doing something rather than doing nothing could help.
Some of the modalities that were most beneficial to me for getting my energy and brain function back:
Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy
Nootropics (most importantly was Lion’s Mane)
Grounding and removing nnEMFs (non-native electromagnetic fields)
Intermittent Fasting (and diet changes)
It took time. It took effort. But it was and continues to be worth it. The brain is the most beautiful thing that we have. It allows us so many freedoms that we take for granted – swallowing, thinking, loving, connecting, communicating – it is critical to how we experience this life. So, when I hear stories of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia it breaks my heart, because there are a multitude of preemptive measures we can take which may help to protect our brains. Lifestyle changes may seem difficult or ‘annoying,’ but they can potentially impact the enjoyment of the remainder of time we have on this planet. ‘Use it or lose it’ as they say, and trust me, once you have lost the power of brain functioning, it is MUCH more difficult to gain it back.
Many of the measures we can take to prevent Alzheimer’s, or the proposed “Type 3 diabetes,” and dementia are small tweaks in our lives that will have great impact:
Remove all added sugar and limiting alcohol intake
Reduce screen time (this has been associated with insulin spikes)
Constantly creating or using our brains – build new patterns (e.g., brush teeth with the opposite hand)
Stay physically active and mobile (be sure to do lateral twists and backbends to avoid stagnation of energy and lymph)
Remove toxic relationships which cause spikes in cortisol
Incorporate breathwork into every day (we take 20,000 breaths a day, those are signals of health to our bodies; many illnesses are due to lack of oxygen in the blood)
While studying for my masters, I thought of the brain as a supercomputer. I now look at it as something much more impressive. It is not just a series of nodes that are connected, but a living organism that adapts to its environment. The brain can heal and also deteriorate based on the signals we provide. Much of the stimulation and input of modern life can stagnate and stifle the brain and its continued development throughout our lives. The beauty in this is that we are in control of how the brain adapts. We have tools, supplements and lifestyle choices at our disposal to help track our brain functioning. We have access to more information and more knowledge of preemptive measures than the previous generation. Now is a great time to study and learn more about our brains and their immense capabilities.
If you’d like to learn more, or if you believe you’ve had brain injuries in the past and are looking to explore options, I do offer concussion consulting services to walk you through options that perhaps you had not heard of before. Additionally, my company, WhealthCo, is geared towards open discussions for women on their health. If you are someone who has gone to numerous doctors, tried the diets, bought the supplements – this is a community for you. Backed in science, we host discussions with doctors and researchers and open it up for you to also participate and ask your questions. The forum allows you the ability to discuss with other like-minded women searching for answers to questions about gut health, low energy, mood imbalances, brain fog, and more. You can find out more about it here — WhealthCo or, if you are on social media, then at @whealth.co on Instagram.
Dasha Maximov, is a former-management consultant in mergers and acquisitions turned health explorer. While studying for her masters in neuroscience, Dasha suffered a debilitating brain injury, which resulted in constant fatigue, chronic headaches, amnesia, electrohypersensitivity, and depression. Specialists across the globe offered reductionist approaches and outdated recommendations that were not backed in science. Her last brain injury occurred, ironically, while she was earning her master’s degree in neuroscience. Knowing about the brain and feeling the frustration of shrugged shoulders from her doctors, led her on a path of health exploration to take control of her health and educate herself on alternative ways to heal her brain. You can find her on IG at @dashofhealth, or via email; firstname.lastname@example.org.