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A Podcast Is All It Takes - Interview with Bella Paige

Please, tell me about yourself. You may start wherever you’d like to. You may include occupation, fun facts, etc.

I am the founder and owner of Post Concussion Inc. It’s a website and podcast to help individuals after concussions and brain injuries. I got into making a podcast after having over ten concussions.

I used to be a showjumper with horses, that was my passion. Now, I do podcasts! I like the outdoors. I’m from a small town but I’ve lived in six different cities. I have been dealing with this for a very long time. Went through both high school and university. After going through head concussions and brain injuries during school as well.

Please share as much information as you feel comfortable about the nature of your injury and how it was caused. What were your thoughts regarding this period of time?

I’ve had over ten head injuries and they all vary in different events. They were from sports, all athletic injuries. One of them is when I was snowboarding. I was eight years old during that time. I was going down a hill, racing a friend and we decided to meet in front of a jump. Now that I’m older, I realized how terrible of a plan that was. However, we still decided to race and see who got there first. I remember showing up there and sitting down. It happened to be reading week and the hill ended up being busy. Someone flew off of the jump and landed on top of me. They were probably in their 20s. I didn’t realize it was a head injury until the next day when a dance teacher mentioned I was off and not being myself.

Then I got a few riding horses. I had two horses trip and fall on me. I had gotten kicked off of a horse and ran over by one. Just a variety. There were all different sports and events that I was doing. When I happen to crash, it happened to be bad.

What are some routines that helped you to cope with your symptoms while you were growing up?

My biggest symptom was having a headache every day for about seven years. That was probably the hardest thing I ever had to deal with. The first two years, I slept. I was in bed, all day every day. I just couldn’t do anything. Then eventually I learned that certain foods would help me. I take a nap every day, still to this day. Now that I’ve got to the point that I don’t need to sleep every day. I take a nap around 3 or 4 o’clock on days that I can, some days I can’t. I definitely noticed my brain’s kind of done around six if I don’t take a nap. Small snacks have also been a big thing for me. I do better if I eat frequently but not such large meals. I drink a ton of water; I don’t think I’d go anywhere without it. I wear a hat everywhere I go for the false sense of security it provides. Also, it keeps the sun off my head, which really helps.

Do you ever find external pressure from society? Explain your social life, as an example.

It’s interesting because it’s invisible. It’s hard because people don’t realize you’re struggling. I had a lot of comments of “oh you looked fine” or “oh I didn’t know you were going through that” or “oh you seemed good yesterday, why aren’t you today.” One of the medications I was on made me lose 20 pounds. Then there were lots of comments of people wishing they had that kind of medication, saying that they want to be small like me. I had pharmaceutical anorexia and it was hard to hear that people wanted to be in my situation but weren’t realizing the full extent of it.

With friends, it wasn't that hard. I just realized I grew up really fast. In high school and In University as well. Even now, sometimes I notice it. Because I’ve gone through something that lots of people go through but it’s kind of invisible. Going through something that’s hard, living between doctors, hospitals, appointments. I wasn’t able to go to school and I was told to drop out of school. I find that I grew up fast and a lot of my friends felt very immature because of that.

Were there any obstacles in your life that tried to stop you from accomplishing certain goals? It could be either short-term goals or long-term goals.

When I was 14 or 15, my parents and my coaches started talking about the Olympics and professional showjumping. Getting to the top of the sport. I was doing really well. I spent too long trying to complete that goal. It wasn’t a short-term goal, the plan was that in the next ten years, we’re going to get you to the top of show jumping. My whole family was behind it. Then my head pain prevented me from doing that. I kept trying and then within a few months, I’d be in so much pain from the jumping of horses and ramping off the jumps.

I had to completely retire from that. I also had to give up on a few careers because of things like memory issues, inability to read, and more. I originally wanted to be a lawyer but that fear of doing law school and actually remember any of the papers I read was a big issue. I had to kind of form my own career because a normal career just wouldn’t work for me. I can’t work a 9-5 job every day or do a 12-hour shift because my brain doesn’t have the capacity to do it and probably never will. I can work all day, but I still need breaks and special accommodations to make my life easier.

What do you think changes the most after your injury and how have you been coping with that?

The hardest things I had gone through were mental health or severe depression from my injury. I would definitely say I understand people a lot more than I ever expected to. That is definitely something that has changed me a lot.

What inspired you to start doing your podcast?

It’s called the Post Concussion podcast. I started it because I wanted to start a blog and I wanted to help people. I couldn’t figure out how. I really like to talk, and I listen to podcasts a lot. It was actually my brother who kept telling me to start a podcast. He said, “you really like to talk so why not do that!”

I started to look into it. It took me a long time to actually start it and publish it because I was just too nervous. It wasn’t really something for me, at first. However, now I love it. I started because I wanted to help people. I want people to realize that it’s invisible. It was something I needed. Everything that Post Concussion Inc is everything that I needed when I was going through this. I needed someone to tell me that there were other people out there like me. That there weren't just professional athletes struggling 20 years into their sport. That there are other people that have mental health issues and needed someone to tell me why to go therapy, not just to do it to kind of vent.

Are there any stories of people reaching out to you explaining that you’ve made an impact on their lives?

I actually get a few a day. Half of them make me cry. I had one lady who sent me voice messages. And she mentioned how much she loved the podcast and how she hadn’t felt understood until she found the podcast. It made me bawl my eyes out. It happens really often and that’s how it makes it all worth it. I spend more time on the computer than I probably should than the capacity that my brain handles. Messages like those. If it’s actually helping people, it’s all 100% worth it.

Do you have any future plans on expanding your platform?

Yes, for sure. I have an exclusive podcast coming in July. I have so many guests and I don’t know where to put them all, so I have an exclusive podcast. With that I will have a personal podcast within it talking every month of things that I’ve gone through, just to give people more in-depth of what it’s really like to go through a brain injury or concussion. I also have plans for scholarships for students who retire from sports to go to school because I find a lot of kids keep pushing because they need that scholarship. Then they won’t stop, then they end up dealing with longer consequences because of it. I would like to do events when covid goes away. I have a ton of plans for it. There’s a book in progress as well that will hopefully be out by next year.

Where do you see yourself in the next year?

Probably just doing what I always do. I don’t see the world changing like crazy in a year. Podcasting, getting to know each other, hopefully creating as much awareness as I can, and helping people that are suffering. However, I also found that my family needed a lot of support through this. It’s something that they didn’t get so that’s also a focus of mine.

Do you have any other hobbies or interests that you would like to share?

I love to go for walks. I like to hike, and I bike even though I probably shouldn’t cause of my head injuries. I still love my horses. I spend a lot of time outside. In the summer I spend a lot of time in the water. Winter is my favorite season despite the cold.

If you have any advice to people who are brian injury survivors, concussions survivors, or stroke survivors, that are trying to adapt to their new life, what would you give them?

My number one advice is to go to therapy, and I mean like a psychologist or some kind of mental health therapy. You don't realize how much is changing in your life and you need to talk to someone about it. You need to talk to someone who would give you the tools to help it because I always thought that therapy was to just go and vent. I always thought what was the point. I have great siblings and great friends so I could just go vent to them. It didn’t make sense to pay someone for me to vent when I could just do that for free to someone that I know. I learned that therapy is not like that, it’s a place where you could get tools on how to calm down on things like bad thoughts, how to get over the changes in your life, or how to accept or move on from them. There are just so many benefits from it that I think everyone should go if they’re going through something life-changing like a brain injury, concussion, or stroke.

Interviewed and transcribed by Brianna Paulino

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