When I first started caring for my husband after his traumatic brain injury, I felt strong, determined, and ready for anything. But as time passed, and the slower-than-slow healing process dragged on, I slid into a downward spiral and became a woman obsessed with TBI.
If you want to let TBI completely take over your life, follow these strategies. I’ve tried these and hated the results:
- Wake up each morning, groan, and expect a rotten day.
- When your loved one with a TBI does not want to get up and going, take it personally, say something nasty, and stomp out of the room.
- Each time you feel disappointed at the response of your loved one or his/her inability to communicate with you the way you want, say to yourself, “I hate my life. He’ll never get better.”
- Cry and complain to anyone who will listen. Give every detail of why your life is pure misery, and don’t let your friend change the subject.
- When a friend asks, “How can I help?” be sure to answer, “You can’t! TBI has ruined my life!”
Stuck in a negative cycle
When I lived by these strategies, I felt frustrated, angry, resentful, and exhausted, and I blamed all of it on TBI. Then, one day, I realized my children were watching me handle adversity, and they were learning to blame all their bad luck on someone or something else in life and to react with anger if they didn’t get their way. They were not learning tolerance or kindness from me when I behaved this way.
My reactions impacted every member of my family; misery in families is contagious. I could not sleep, making it harder to get up in the morning to face another day — another hard, sad, angry day just like the one before.
So I tried a few new strategies:
- I woke up and consciously gave thanks for what I did have and appreciate in my life and offered a silent prayer to the universe for compassion and strength in the day ahead.
- When my husband did not want to get up and going, I gave loving encouragement or whatever worked that day: his favorite breakfast, a short shoulder rub while prompting, or a visit from the kids to perk him up.
- Each time I felt disappointed at his response or inability to communicate with me the way I wanted, I said to myself, “He’s struggling right now so I’ll wait. With time and patience, things will improve.”
- I vented to a few close family or friends, but not to everyone, and not all the time. I made a point to ask how others were doing, and sought out humor so I could laugh every day! Healthy friendships are balanced.
- When my friends asked, “How can I help?” I tried to answer honestly and directly. “Would you please pick the kids up from school? If you go to the store, would you buy me a loaf of rye bread?” Friends love helping friends and they really love knowing exactly how to help. I always offered my sincere thanks in return.
It took some time and practice, but finally, I controlled how I chose to see my situation and how I reacted. And in so doing, TBI was no longer ruling my life. I took charge and worked hard to be consciously present, focused, and better adjusted.
At the end of the day, I felt thankful again that I chose kindness when I could have been nasty. I felt good inside because there was peace in the house and I knew I was modeling kindness and tolerance for my children — exemplary social skills that will fortify them in the future. I gave thanks for wonderful friends and family who stepped in to help when I needed it.
My girls were 14 when their father was injured. They are now 26, and I could not be more proud of the compassion, empathy, and good judgment they show every day. With hard work, we all moved forward together using every bit of knowledge and understanding we could muster to make a hard situation better.
Who’s controlling your life? You, or your loved one’s TBI?