Kalindi Commerford's life was turned upside down in March from a concussion on the hockey field, but the sport that caused her head knock has helped her find a way to feel "normal" again.
The former Milton resident and now Canberra Chill star was playing club hockey in Queensland earlier this year when she collided with one of her former Hockeyroo teammates, and with a shoulder to the jaw, she suffered a brutal whiplash concussion.
The eight months since then have been a rollercoaster Commerford could never have imagined.
"I'm still on the ride," Commerford told The Canberra Times.
"I've got an appointment in December to see another specialist doctor in Melbourne.
"Basically I need brain rehab, which is what the doctor that I'm going to see provides."
Commerford said she was "fully debilitated" after her concussion.
"I wasn't able to work, I was hardly able to socialise," she said.
"Eventually I slowly built into exercise, starting with a 10 minute walk. Then at about the four-month mark I got cleared to go back to sport and work."
But she knew something wasn't quite right.
Commerford needed sleeping tablets to get her rest, her social life came to a standstill, and at her day job away from hockey as a law graduate with Deloitte, she struggled to concentrate with persistent dizziness.
"The cognitive part of my brain was still healing so after a month I had to stop because my symptoms were just as bad as when I first got concussed, if not worse," Commerford said.
While her symptoms are now less frequent, they are still present, which is a daunting reality.
"It's become pretty confronting, because I know what I can do, and I know what I should be able to do. But for example, I try and read every day and some days, it's just not possible," she said.
Concussion has become a hot topic in sport, especially in major codes in Australia, as CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy) has been proven to be a deadly brain disorder.
Most of the focus for treatment and prevention is for those in elite sport, but weekend athletes who juggle work and sport don't have the same access.
Commerford was, ironically, able to find comfort in hockey.
She didn't think she'd play this year, instead wanting to focus on her career. But in what became an "isolating period" following her concussion, the 28-year-old eventually found playing in Brisbane and then with the Canberra Chill an essential part of her rehabilitation.
"It became a really important part of my life," Commerford said.
"It felt normal - like something I could do at full capacity - and the whole time the Hockey ACT community were checking in on me and they supported me financially with some of my medical bills.
"Within the first week at the Chill, it all felt like it was worth it for me and I could have actually stopped after week one and gained enough from it. It's a really special environment. I've been a part of a lot of teams and there's something about Canberra hockey that is unique."
Commerford doesn't think about her concussion while on the field. But she knows it's risky.
"If I get hit on my head again, it's not going to be good for me," she said.
"It's just a risk factor that I have to understand. But I think I just haven't had a good year, to be honest. I felt like my life kind of slipped away from me."
Commerford shared her story on social media channels recently to help spread awareness, and the response was overwhelming.
From fellow athletes, to kids, to parents, Commerford's experience obviously hit a nerve, and she's hopeful it'll lead to greater understanding of concussions.
"The reason I keep posting is because every time I do, I get an influx of messages," she said.
"I wouldn't be surprised if in 10-20 years, post-concussion syndrome is taken a bit more seriously. It's really debilitating."
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