One of the hardest lessons to learn is the fact that the survivor of Traumatic Brain Injury, no matter who they are in your life is not the same person you knew before the accident. Depending on the severity on the Injury or the part of the brain affected they might not even be close to the same person. But even if the injury is like my boyfriend C’s where it’s not quite as crippling you have to understand they aren’t the same person. I myself am a firm believer that the individual is mostly shaped by their experiences. Well I talked with a social worker who described coming out of a brain injury is like being reborn and having to go childhood to the present all over again. (There was a time where C being able to eat on his own was a reason to celebrate, and I still remember when C couldn’t figure out how to tie his shoes) If you think of it that way than you’ll understand a brain injury as a rebirth, it brings about a new person who has gone through through many new trials. I think of C as a shade of his old self, I do not hold these changes against him and I have made my peace with the fact that the old C is gone (and most likely for good). It’s not easy to do because you want the survivor “to go back to normal” but if they spend their time dwelling on who they were, on what old them could do, would do, than they aren’t really growing but dwelling. Same with the support group, if you dwell on who they were instead of the person they are you cast a shadow and a quiet expectation over the survivor. The key isn’t “to go back to the past” but “to grow as you are into the future.”
At first you might not think TBI and religion are related in any way but a Traumatic Brain Injury affects just about everything. This post however does not just strictly apply to TBI, it can apply to anyone who has to face adversity and seek out religion.
I was reminded of my own short lived stint in the very beginning when I was told of my boyfriend’s accident (I have decided from here on out to address him as C) I was begging and bargaining to every God and Goddess I can think of, (and I’m an atheist btw.) But in moments of turmoil (especially in something that extreme) it doesn’t matter what you are you want any amount of hope/ control over the situation. Honestly I’m not sure how common it is that this happens but I’m willing to bet it’s fairly common. I made a lot of promises to a lot of religious figures and frankly I’m still an atheist and I don’t plan on fulfilling any of those promises.
Than there are survivors themselves, it is understandable that a lot of TBI survivors turn to religion. It can be a good thing it can help motivate a survivor, give them something to take their frustration out on, and can give them hope. Religion can be a wonderful thing for people who are suffering it can provide support and guidance, it can make people heal faster (not the religion itself but the survivors belief in it) hell if we’re being totally honest a huge reason people are religious are moments like this. When the chips are down, when people are suffering, these are the moments where religion shines.
…I’m not going to lie though C (my boyfriend remember I said I’d do this earlier) didn’t turn to religion. Whether religious or not whether the accident makes you doubt your religion or turn to it, whether or not you think I’m using the phrase “whether or not” too much. Theology can be a huge factor in recovery… or not a factor at all but you’re bound to at least bump into the topic at one point or another.
I realize there may have been a lot of things not covered (don’t worry it’s my first post after all) it’s hard to condense the post but I’ll make sure future posts are on more specific topics. If anyone at all sees this and has any questions/ concerns message me.
Traumatic Brain Injury’s vary greatly, the brain is so complex, that one centimeter, one milometer, hell even smaller than that spot of damage can make all the difference in the world. Someone can have a nearly identical accident and will come out affected in a completely different way. Sometimes this results in some physical hindrances, some mental, some emotional, and a lot of the time it’s all 3. There are just so many factors, so many different scenarios that there seems to be no single TBI experience, it is hard to categorize, hard to understand, and just plain hard.
However before we (I) skip ahead of ourselves(myself) lets go back to the beginning, some people are there right now. Back in that dreaded ICU with beeping machines and that weird sterilized smell, and the tubes. On those cursed waiting room/area couches.
When you first hear the news that your loved one receives traumatic brain damage your world falls apart. You wonder what happened and why, you have so many questions that doctors just don’t seem to be able to answer, your frustrated, and sad, and scared.
At this time it is important to remember that people grieve differently, some will cry straight out (actually it’s safe to say most if not all will cry at some point) some feel the need to organize things ( this is something we’ll get back to, this is fairly common) some will withdraw, some will not seem to react at all (these types typically break down or lash out at some point.) When you’re grieving it is hard to be understanding towards others methods especially if they come off as insensitive or uncaring but there is nothing worse than fighting with someone while you are awaiting news of your loved one. (Personal experience talking)
Because life keeps going ( life unfortunately doesn’t care about you or your loved ones) you will eventually feel somewhat numb you’ll laugh and smile but it won’t feel real, life will revolve around your ICU visits, around sharing the info, and around waiting in that accursed waiting room. You’ll also notice at this stage if you weren’t already inclined to organize things feeling the need to organize, or just all around get things done. These things you’re doing don’t have to be relevant to the brain injury they can be chores, errands, one man I met kept track of everything that had happened since his mother’s stroke in a notepad. I personally honed all my frustration into my cleaning projects at work. This isn’t to say things are easier at this stage, but this is when you’re devolved reptilian brain instincts kick in and tell you that you cannot live this way and that you have to find something useful to do so you won’t be a constant mess.
Than there’s dealing with the waiting: The first thing you should know about this is that while the patient’s still somnolent or comatose (yes they’re two different things) the doctors don’t really know how they’re going to be like until they wake up. Doctors can show you the physical damage to the brain and they’ll know the physical damage to the body but remember the brain changes personality and mood, effects how the body moves, how you speak, you’re memory and more. The worst part is the waiting, but while waiting remember to take the whole thing one step at a time, celebrate every victory no matter how small and try to build up a community try to share information and make sure everyone knows whats coming. However don’t compare your story to others, don’t look up the wikipedia definition of tbi, and don’t panic. I mean in the VERY beginning it’s fine but really now isn’t the time to be crippled by anxiety because when you’re loved one wakes up the real work begins.