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.
Please remember, we are not able to give medical or legal advice. If you have medical concerns, please consult your doctor. All posted comments are the views and opinions of the poster only.
Shiree replied on Permalink
My husband is four years post TBI who suffers from sensory overload, depression, anxiety, PTSD. This is the hardest time of year for him and me. We do not participate in parties or socialize most of the year particularly this season. I would hope that others would remember the difficulty that TBI sufferers have and yet still be kind and understanding with them. I am thankful for our family and the few friends we have. It's hard for the care taker to enjoy doing things without their loved one so many times we opt out. Send a card to let them know you still care and think of them or a quick call or message. They are the little things that get us through each day. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you all.
Nicole replied on Permalink
This is a perfectly timed post. What (many) TBI families are dealing with at the holidays is vastly different than what others may imagine. It is important to protect ourselves and our loved ones at this even more vulnerable time.
Ann replied on Permalink
So true. !! Especially being around men the same age as my son. Now married with children and lives. Very depressing to see, not that I begrudge them, it's the fact that my son did not get those opportunities. And is so isolated how ones life changes over night.
George Mavridis replied on Permalink
We feel the same as you here that being around others our sons age and seeing their lives travelling along nicely feels a bit like a smack in the face. Generally I'd rather avoid most social activities at these times as I feel quite safe in our own environment.
Marina replied on Permalink
Your article was very insightful and I hope people that read it will practice these helpful exercises! Thanks, and merry Christmas!
Suzanne Tobin replied on Permalink
Thank you for expressing just how my caregiver and I feel. Even with fast-forwarding through all the commercials, it's just all too much. I am an acquired brain injury survivor abd this is the fouth anniversary of my diagnosis.
Priya replied on Permalink
Hey, Thanks a lot for your informative post.