The holiday season is upon us, and for families trying to cope with the daily grind of a recent (or not so recent) TBI, the holidays don’t necessarily provide a reprieve from routine or work. Instead, people struggling with symptoms of TBI may find that the holiday season shines a light on their limitations. And for some caregivers, the holiday provides the perfect showcase for family dysfunction. I remember a few short conversations like these after my husband suffered his TBI:
“Can’t we have a party, Mom?”
“I’m sorry, but the noise would hurt Dad’s head.”
“Can you drive us to see the lights?”
“Driving makes Dad dizzy, and I can’t leave him home alone.”
And on and on.
Everything about the holidays screams HAPPY. And when you are feeling many things, but happy isn’t one of them, you can be drawn into despair. Although my husband’s TBI occurred fifteen years ago, we spent several holiday seasons feeling blue, but looking back, one thing helped: there was no Facebook.
It’s hard to believe that Facebook only started in 2004 as a website for Harvard students and didn’t become open to the public until 2006. Now, the social media giant is a part of nearly everyone’s everyday lives. There are a million ways that this online connection has helped people, but Facebook has also had another effect. According to Psychology Today1, too much Facebook time may make some people depressed—especially people who are anxious or neurotic. The same goes for people who suffer from FOMO, Fear of Missing Out. After a TBI, many families don’t have a “fear” of missing out—they are missing out due to their circumstances.
Sign on to Facebook, and you’ll scroll through photos of your family and friends, many appearing healthy, robust, and exuberant. Life is beautiful on Facebook. It’s full of matching outfits posing on the shore and glasses raised over candlelight dinners.
Added to the array of joyful announcements are the political posts, sarcastic cartoons, and stories that make us yearn for a better world.
I’m glad Facebook wasn’t a thing when Hugh suffered his brain injury. I felt isolated enough without watching everyone else enjoying life to the fullest.
Don’t misunderstand me. Facebook does help people connect with friends and family far away, and with groups and blogs that can be therapeutic, but during the holidays, I think a stroll down Facebook memory lane may be enough to leave some in a puddle of tears. Dwelling on how life used to be can’t change what is. Sitting in misery over unrealized dreams can crush you to bits.
Memories and stories carry us through our grief, but there’s no need to fake holiday cheer. Maybe the holidays are the one time we should tune out, close the laptop, dock the cell phone, light a candle, and notice what’s around us, what’s inside us, what’s happening to us, and yes, what we wish for in the future. Not all of life is best viewed in high definition.
May your holidays allow you time and space for peace and love.