The Cause of it All

The Cause of It All

We walk past it at least once a day, that triangular pocket of grass and shade — hardly large enough to be considered a true park. It’s the spot where my husband TC was attacked 21 months ago as he was coming home after a night out with friends. A hundred feet or so away is the porch where he eventually fell unconscious after knocking door-to-door in an attempt to get help.

For some, it’s hard to believe these locations are part of my family’s everyday experience. They are horrified and perplexed by our decision to remain in the neighborhood where TC nearly lost his life. I can understand their confusion. And occasionally, I share in their disbelief. But at the root of this seemingly provocative decision is the question all survivors of TBI must grapple with: how do we deal with the cause of it all?

Through social media, e-mail, and a rapidly growing network of TBI resources, I have come to meet and learn of many young families, just like ours, whose lives have been altered by brain injury. As I take in their stories and the unique circumstances through which their brain injury was acquired, I’ve often wondered how the cause of injury impacts each family’s recovery process. Many of the families I’ve encountered acquired TBI through a terrible and unfortunate accident. Others have served in combat or perhaps suffered a series of major medical issues. And every once in awhile, I get an e-mail from another family like ours — a family whose universe has been turned upside down as the result of violent crime.

In all cases, there is an element of post-traumatic stress, for we are all confronting the same philosophical crisis: how can we trust a world that, in an instant, distorted every aspect of the life we once knew? It’s not easy going forward, knowing the reality of how people can be hurt. When the really bad thing has happened to you, it’s difficult to put aside the fear that it will happen again.

Understandably, the first twelve months of TC’s injury were the worst in my life. But it may surprise people to know that the hardest part for me was constantly being forced to relive the cause of his injury. At the time, I deeply resented being involved in the necessary legal processes. While I certainly sought justice for TC and understood the importance of my testimony in the several trials that took place, the constant discussion about that horrible night and the people responsible felt like a poor use of my already limited energy supply and a distraction from what was really important (i.e. moving forward).

From the beginning, TC has had little interest in the men who attacked him and the details of his case. Like me, he is focused on the process of recovery and learning to live a full life in the interim. But we are human. There have been nights we’ve sat on our couch, drenched in our own tears, trying to make sense of this unspeakable act of cruelty and uselessly wishing we could undo it. There have been moments we’ve acted cruelly to one another, when in reality, the people deserving of our anger are sitting behind bars. But when it comes to the cause of it all, we are fully united in our attitude. These young men and the crime they committed have already taken so much from us. We refuse to give away one thing further.

I won’t pretend that I’m not a million times more sensitive to the news these days or that I don’t still get jumpy walking alone somewhere. The trauma and the fear associated with what happened to TC are never far from the surface. They’re my constant reminder to stay alert and to remember that safety is never guaranteed. The best I can hope for is to keep these anxieties at bay and to continue living the life of my choosing. I imagine this is true for many others. You learn to get back on the bike or behind the wheel again. You confront your fears head on, and you reclaim that really scary thing until it can no longer own you.

The cause of it all is important, but no more important than how you choose to go forward. As time goes on, I know my feelings about what happened to TC will change. I will make new discoveries within myself. I will continue examining the world through new lenses. I’ll spend some hours trying to make sense of an event that was random and entirely preventable, but I vow never to resign myself to it. The what-ifs are applicable in every TBI situation. What if he had walked a different path home? What if I hadn’t gotten sick that week and he had been out of town on business like originally planned? There are a million what-if scenarios to be cycled throughout our brains at any given moment. But they don’t change who we are now: people whose lives have been altered, but who have finally regained some control over our futures. The cause of it all can’t be changed, but it doesn’t have to destroy us either.

Comments (9)

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Your thoughts in this article are so real and hit home with me. Thanks for sharing. I find writing about the experience of a tbi can be so helpful in releasing thoughts and sharing with the public what they know very little about. I pray for you and your family that you will continue to move forward in your lives and enjoy your time together creating new memories! My husband had a tbi in an automobile accident in 2011.
Hello, Our family's spot where our 15-year-old's life was changed forever is nearby. We avoid it, because I can't go through the intersection after 21 months without crying. The truly tragic part is that intersection is one our daughter had never crossed before. There was no car wildly out of control or some thugs that beat her. Our daughter was cycling with another teen. We live in an area where there are almost as many off street recreation trails as there are roads. However someone my daughter trusted led her across the busiest road in the area. My daughter had planned a route and discussed with me. She was eager to make a new friend and must have agreed to follow the other teen. Not only did they not need to cross the road, but the other teen initiated the crossing against the light. The girl had determined the road clear to cross. My daughter was always cautious, but I guess she was in following mode. Since the accident, that teen has disappeared from my daughter's life. That seems as much like a crime to me as those thugs who injured TC. My daughter is left to deal with this forever. The other teen may not be legally responsible for the accident, but she is humanely responsible for supporting her fallen "friend". It is so hard to live with this unnecessary accident and knowledge of lack of humanity. We understand your tears and have shed rivers of tears ourselves. We are in the fight of our lives. It might even hurt more that it was someone we knew and thought we could trust who created danger where no such had to exist
Thank you for sharing. It's been 5 years since my daughter's accident. One day I had an active 16 year who worked, played sports and was college bound athletically and academically. In the blink of an eye I have a child who is wheelchair bound. I tell myself that this is the cards that your were dealt now play your hand. But the constant daily trauma for her and me as mother/caregiver are always forever present. It is an insult to injury (no pun intended) that the in home services she was receiving were cut off when she turned 21. I have never felt a major impact on government in my life....but the day my only child turned 21 it was a violating feeling that I had to quit my job to care for her. I am a believer and I pray for God to heal our hearts more so than to allow her to walk, because my heart gets so heavy at times.

So hard to write about this because it brings it all forward and current again..I was robbed and hit in the head coming back from a Jewelry show...They followed me to a rest stop hours later. Your post mentioned the Post traumatic stress part of the injury..It is very tough to deal with  that at times and with time you try t push it back in your mind. My injury occurred over 10 years ago and back then there was not much info about TBI then. My recovery has been very difficult because as the TBI recipient my ability to analyze my problem was limited to what I figured out . I just knew I was injured and broken.

At first I even had slurred speech and motor control issues of course with the Memory loss and short term memory gone. My vocabulary was formally very large and now was very limited. I had a very hard time communicating ..Words would come out of my mouth me brain did not want.

Has been a very tough road for me. I am a top jewelry designer and manufacturer and my mind was every thing to me, to function with out my mind has been very tough and I did not have my family and friends  support me. I was all alone in this journey and I stayed away from family and old friends and business for many years until I was able to function again.

They still do not understand my condition at all. My wife laughed at me one night recently when I said I had TBI and said what I really had was a mental break down years ago...Thank God we have this site and some more info..I just looked at her and stated..OK get on the internet and do your research and then plug in TBI and as you have seen me all these years..come back and tell what I have..After a few days of research..she came back and yes apologized for her  treatment of me and said she understood...But she does not..she is still very short with me when I ask a question for information I need..I get to hear..I just  told you that.!! I say if I knew why would I ask..?? I do not understand why people do not get this..???

Thank God my jewelry memory is almost photo Genic. Memory of who I deal with is hard..and hard to remember things related to my jewelry in how I have to deal with it. I have to rely on a lot of notes and still do 10 year later.

My main message here is for the people around a TBI person..You need a lot of understanding and compassion and patience with us. I wish I had been lucky enough to have had that and still need it. That is what is missing in my life and tough to deal in a world that does not understand or who care to understand. I am so thankful for this site and others that have helped me understand.

My biggest reason to succeed and over come this condition is to show other TBI people that they can come back and function again as I have..I am a different person now with different skills and abilities and has been very hard to follow in my former shoes..I still have problems with that...My former self was so much different...

 hope this helped any who need it and I want to dedicate the rest of my life helping other TBI people recover also. I would like to offer myself to any meeting or group that needs a speaker on this subject..


Another great post – one that hits very close to home. At least once a week, I cycle by the exact spot where I was struck by a teenage driver back in 2010. Most of the time, there is not much more than an idle curiosity and an awareness that I am at the spot where the old me “died,” and the new me was born. Yearly now, on the anniversary of that day, my wife Sarah and I head over there. The last couple of years, I’ve brought a single rose that Sarah grew and placed it on the spot. On those days, it feels live we are visiting a gravesite. And in some respects, we are. Yes, year one was the hardest for us too. While never easy, it does get easier. Please know, Abby, that your words help so many to know that they are not alone in this new journey. Thank you for your share. ~David A. Grant

We, like you walk past the spot practically every day; the spot where our lives changed forever, in fact I can see it from my kitchen window. My Husband went for a short walk after working all day in his home office but never made it back. I found him eventually in the communal gardens of our 'secure gated community' unconscious and terribly injured. The Police have never found the person/people responsible for changing our lives beyond recognition and were not helped by the fact that the security cameras were not working on the night. Now 6 months later I doubt they ever will. After a 6 hour operation to stop the bleeding, 24 days in an induced coma and 4 months in hospital, my husband does not care to think about who could have done such a thing and why. He calls it a random act of unnecessary violence but I always have the nagging question of why. I see everyone getting on with their lives around us and want to scream 'what about us?'. My husband has a severe TBI, altered personality and many cognitive deficiencies but with time, love, understanding and good medical help we hope to get back to 'normality' but we accept it will be a new kind of normal for us. Life is not fair and to have your life changed without consultation is probably the worst part. I know I would not wish what happened to us on anyone. There will always be fear; I'm not sure that will ever go away but there is hope.

Much love to all who support, love and push x

The cause of my indecent,  accident was totally, uncalled for. Nor was it necessary. I had graduated from Alvirne, H.S. Hudson, N.H. Serving three years in the U.S. Navy, as a C.B. Construction Mechanic. Had fallen asleep while on my Yamaha 550, after consuming some quantity of alcohol. It was late, I was going for a cruise, ( Not the hospital, so I thought.) The road had a bend, but I didn't lean into it. I hit the curb, went over the handle bars, resting on my back, 15 ft. away, After sailing 10 ft. up in the air. Remained in a coma, for 3 months, and twenty years later, I still regret that incident.

Here I am, like twenty three years post incident, about to accept a few Million from Publishers Clearing House !  No one will listen, they all feel that I'm full of it ! They tell me, don't count my chickens, before they are hatched ! I'm sorry, but I don't dream any longer !  

Like the other above said, your experience is so wonderfully expressed here! We moved from the apartment where my husband's accident took place, but just to one block over, so that the children could remain near their friends without having to walk up and down the same stairs many times/day. We still drive by the other house and pass the hospital, which is just three blocks away, many times/day. Sometimes I just move past and at other times I picture the moment of finding my husband on the pavement. I do not know when I have which response, but like you, I am happy to have remained within our community.

Great writing...really relate to so much of the "what If" paragraph you wrote

"The what-ifs are applicable in every TBI situation. What if he had walked a different path home? What if I hadn’t gotten sick that week and he had been out of town on business like originally planned? There are a million what-if scenarios to be cycled throughout our brains at any given moment. But they don’t change who we are now: people whose lives have been altered, but who have finally regained some control over our futures. The cause of it all can’t be changed, but it doesn’t have to destroy us either." <-- I understand that all too well, and am working so hard to put the what-if's to rest in my own life. My fience and daughter were in a motorcycle accident on the way to meet me. She was on his bike because I chose to work late. The what if's go and go and go. We are now living with mTBI and and above the knee amputation in our lives. The alterations are huge in all ways. Every one of your entries I have read so far as hit me so deeply. When you talk about living with TBI, I can insert either my experience with my daughters TBI, or what living with an amputation feels like. No matter how good he ever gets with the prosthetic, and he's not very good so far, it's never going to be the same, much like TBI. I have hopes my daughters TBI will continue to heal, because the doctors keep telling me it will...but regardless, our lives are so forever altered and those what-if's continue to run through my mind over and over.

Thank you again for sharing your journey to freely with others.