Living with a brain injury is complicated. It is, by far, the hardest thing I have ever had to do in my life. Nothing can prepare you for the complexities of what it’s like to have a traumatic brain injury.
Sometimes we are told to simply “walk through” some of the hardships that come to pass as part of being human. But the concept of walking through something implies that there will be an end – a date or time where you can look back and happily say, “Thank goodness that’s over.”
Not so with a brain injury. It never ends.
During a recent radio interview, my wife Sarah called me “courageous.”
Um, I feel anything but courageous. Every day, I suit up and show up for this new life. I don’t always want to. But realistically, what other choice do I have? This is my one shot at life, and I need to keep trying to make the best of what I’ve got – even if what I’ve got sucks on more days than I care to admit.
When I write, I write about what is happening in the moment, about what my reality is today. And today, well today I’m just not feeling the TBI love.
I need look no further back than a few days ago. I had been expecting a delivery from Amazon. That alone makes me pretty much average. It was supposed to be a delivery of some vitamins I take now in my ongoing wellness quest.
“Sarah, we never got our last Amazon order,” I said, a bit frustrated. The tracking information said that UPS left it conveniently in our garage. I trekked out to look for my package to no avail. Sarah, knowing that I miss things more often than I used to, also went looking for our order. Like me, she came back empty-handed.
I sat on the couch and fumed for a few minutes.
“I can’t believe someone came on our property and stole our order,” I said to no one really, just venting frustration. I was ticked off, miffed, fit to be tied. Call it what you will, I was not a happy camper.
A couple of short minutes later, Sarah came out of the other room, our ordered items in hand.
Apparently, I had unpacked the order, placed everything where it should be on a closet shelf, threw away the packaging, and with the packaging, I also threw away any memory of having done so.
I knew it immediately for what it was – one of those TBI memory lapses where my brain is unable to lay down new memories. They don’t happen as often as they used to, but my TBI memory challenges still rear their ugly heads with regularity.
On the outside, I tried to make a joke about it.
“Hey, how did you just do that?” I asked, failing at my attempt to be funny.
No one laughed.
I sat there on the couch and my eyes filled with tears. My self-esteem was gone. In a heartbeat, I felt useless. I felt damaged. I felt stupid.
Sure, logic says that I’m reasonably intelligent and decidedly better than I was a few years ago. But for that moment in time, I wanted to climb under a rock and go away.
Not only is the fact that I have a brain injury not visible to anyone who meets me, but equally as invisible are the feelings of being less than those that are uninjured. Feeling like I belong on the Dented Can Shelf of humanity is not good for me, not good for Sarah, and not good for those around me.
But there are still times, more often than most will ever know, that I can look others in the eye, and feel deeply that I am less-than.
I told you. It’s complicated.