Several years ago I made the decision to live a life of almost complete transparency. In the five years that have passed since my accident, I’ve found that the more open I am about the struggles that I face and about the challenges that define this “new normal” that I live today, the more I can help others who share my fate.
Over the years, I’ve both written as well as spoken about a wide range of issues that we as survivors and survivor families face.
Writing about contemplating suicide during that abysmally tough first couple of years? Not off limits.
How about intimacy issues when brain injury strikes? Been there, done that, and blogged about it as well. Why not? If it affected me, it most likely affected you.
Families virtually fractured after brain injury strikes? Yes, we can add this to the growing roster of topics you might have seen me write about.
Recently, life unfolded in a way I never saw coming. The raw, gut-level emotional pain was unimaginable.
And for the first time ever, I decided that a topic was too raw, too real, and too emotional to even consider writing about.
Like so many others who share my fate, social circles got quite a bit smaller after my brain injury. A rather drastic personality change does tend to make folks a bit uneasy. Add to this the fact that near death reminds people of their own mortality and it should have come as no surprise when the Friends and Family Bus pulled out of my life.
I had read about the human exodus that occurs after brain injury strikes. In a moment of naiveté, I thought I was exempt. I had solid relationships with close friends and strong family ties.
So, David, how’d that one work out for you?
My oldest son got married last month. While a source of joy to many close to him, it seems that he ran out of ink before he got to my invitation. In fact, it’s been over four years since I’ve even heard his voice. Just after my first year accident anniversary, he took his seat on the Friends and Family bus and rode out of my life.
I have lived in constant torment for years, with self-doubt reigning supreme. My accident erased most of the year 2011 from my memory. Did I say something harmful or harsh during the time that I was struggling with disinhibition? Was he uncomfortable with the personality change? Perhaps the unkindest cut of all – perhaps he believed the rumor that “Dad is faking all this brain injury stuff.”
In my life one day, fade to black the next. No explanation, just gone.
If he looked in the rearview mirror of his bus as it left the station, he would have seen my face, bathed in the red taillights, with a look of complete and utter bewilderment.
In the years since, he’s found love, and now his love is his wife.
I hold no anger, no resentment, and not even any bitterness. But sadness? Yeah, like nothing I’ve ever experienced. It was a one-two punch as his wedding was just a few days before my five-year accident anniversary.
Spiraling downward into an emotional abyss that I’ve not experienced since TBI Year One, it became clear that I needed to take action or perish. I doubled up on my efforts to help others. More emails were sent to others who share my fate. I threw myself more into the type of writing that has been shown to help others, and I held on to my seat.
None of this brings him back, but constantly thinking about how I can help others takes the sting out just a bit.
Through it all, I still have hope. We’ve all heard the saying, “Where there’s life, there’s hope.”
And to my son, if fate ever directs you to these words, please know that I wish you and your new wife a lifetime of happiness.