If there's anything I've learned since my traumatic brain injury, it's that life is not always fair.
My wife Sarah and I were still relative newlyweds when the hand of Fate struck hard. We had just celebrated our one year wedding anniversary in August 2010. A few months later we began our new lives. Mine as someone with a a brain injury and Sarah's as the spouse of someone with a brain injury.
If you asked what changed since my brain injury, one word sums it up: everything.
Over the years since my brain injury, I've learned to laugh again. If you had shared this with me at most any time during that abysmally tough first year, you would have been met with disbelief.
I was incapable of seeing through the brain fog and unable to envision, even remotely, a life worth living. If you are still early on, trying to regain your footing after a brain injury, hold on. It will get easier. I was told to hold on by folks during my tougher times and quite frankly, I didn't believe it. I believe it now.
Life as I knew it and life as Sarah knew it ended abruptly on a cold November day. Little did we know, however, that a new life was beginning for us.
Over time, new compensatory strategies began to emerge. From embracing technology to manage my time to simply realizing that some things are just not worth worrying about, life has gotten easier.
Where I used to have good hours, I now have occasional good days. Where there was nothing but darkness, fear, and no real hope of living a meaningful life, there is now an acceptance that life is different, but okay. And there are times I know a peace that I never knew before my injury. Go figure. I never saw that coming.
Sure, life is a bit slower, but it certainly didn't stop.
Almost five years ago, Sarah and I honeymooned at Disney World. We had such fun on our honeymoon that we decided to take a honeymoon every year. These plans were laid down before my brain injury. Thankfully, we are able to continue our tradition.
And it's times like these when there are aspects I have come to really appreciate about having a brain injury. So much of this new life has challenges, so why not embrace a few odd quirks of life after brain injury?
This year, our Honeymoon will take us from our home state of New Hampshire to Montana to Glacier National Park. From door-to-door, it's more than 2,500 miles.
Here's where it gets fun.
Since my brain injury, I am no longer able to discern the passage of time. Perhaps you are in that club as well. In the spirit of complete disclosure, there are times I love it. A three hour flight to Florida "feels" more like 25 minutes. "Ladies and Gentlemen, this is your Captain speaking. If you have had a TBI, prepare for a very short flight. The rest of you, well, make yourself comfortable for the next few hours."
Or those occasional trips we take to visit my Mom and Dad in the northern part of New Hampshire. It takes Sarah two hours to drive there. Me? Our ride north "feels" like twenty minutes.
The blessing of time travel has a downside, though; there are two sides to every coin. I can return a call from a friend that I thought was a speedy reply only to be told that it took me two weeks — or more — to do something as simple as returning a phone call. Those who know me, who really know me, take it all in stride.
Sometimes I am embarrassed. Most of the time, however, I just chalk it up as part of my new life and move on.
It all feels a bit like science fiction … like I am living in some endless loop of the Twilight Zone. I can't explain why my ability to discern the passage of time is gone.
This summer, if you happen to be on a flight to Salt Lake City and see someone in seat 11B with a bit of an awkward smile, it might just be me enjoying traveling at the speed of light.