The brain controls everything, so when a brain is injured, it feels as if everything’s out of control, and there’s nothing we humans love more than being in control.
I don’t know what it’s like to want to say one word and have another word come out of my mouth, or to try to walk, only to find my feet all tripped up, but I’ve witnessed the man I love most struggling to perform simple tasks, and I’ve felt out of control myself because I could not help him.
In the early days of caring for Hugh after his severe TBI, I’d feel a bit annoyed when people would say things like, “Take it one day at a time.” I’d sometimes whisper in my mind, “How about YOU take it one day at a time, I’ll go back to my old life, thank you!” Not nice thoughts, I know, but true. I wanted control. I wanted a problem I could fix.
Many years have gone by now, and I’ve learned a good deal about resilience. In a resilience study, Dr. Emilie Godwin reports that resilient individuals and families know how to “normalize crisis.” The phrase sounds like an oxymoron to me. Normal and crisis don’t belong together, like the words “awfully good” or “painfully lucky.” But when I realized what she meant by this, it all made sense. Normalizing crisis simply means that people see their problems as something manageable, something they can handle. When we don’t normalize crisis, we remain in crisis mode (one definition of crisis is “dangerous or worrying time”) and we’re stuck in a frame of mind that keeps us from moving forward. In short, we see our problems as hopeless.
Over the course of my entire experience as a caregiver I’ve learned this vital lesson: All of our problems have solutions. They are among us and within us.
We find solutions to our problems and even our crisis-like problems when we reach out to others, when we accept help, when we listen and follow sound advice. These are the solutions we find among us. When some problems prove too difficult to overcome, when they feel insurmountable and there seems to be no help available at all, the solution lies within us. We dig deep to find the fortitude, acceptance, and grace to move forward day by day until we eventually emerge from the fog as we draw strength from our personal faith and our human need to seek meaning from adversity.
Sometimes, the only answers to our problems lie within us. These answers may be hard to find, but they are worth seeking because they bring us peace. The first step is knowing they are there, inside us, waiting to be found.