I’ve been thinking about something you said recently. About the way you imagine the world looks at you now. About the “burden” your journey has become. Brain injury has changed your life. This much is certainly true. But I can see that it has also changed you.
You didn’t ask for this injury or its cataclysmic aftermath. If there was an exit anywhere, I’m sure you’d be clamoring for the door. At first, it felt as if everyone was in your corner. People held you up in encouragement. People prayed and thanked God and offered prophecies of great healing. Everything happens for a reason, they proclaimed. Your family is a miracle, they exhorted. But time passes. People continue living their lives. Yours continues to be glued to The After.
Sometimes I see you apologize for things that are outside your control and I wish I could tell you never to say those words, I’m sorry. With your struggle, you are teaching the rest of us how to live. How to ask for help. How to live in honesty. How to love boldly, heartbreakingly, unconditionally. I know it doesn’t feel that way to you. I know the insider’s view is messy, exhausting, unending. I know there are days you truly do feel it will break you. But please never apologize. Your life is not an inconvenience.
There is so much about you that I admire, beginning with your capacity to nurture. You give to everyone in your life with such tremendous force; I wonder if you are reserving any of it for yourself. I see you – doctor appointments to hospitalizations, traditional therapies to innovative therapies – doing everything in your power to restore quality to the life of the person you love. You have become an advocate for others in this world. And even though your own life is piled high with responsibilities, you always find the time to share your voice with others.
Over the past few years, you’ve been knocked off your feet more times than I count. I don’t always know what to say, so overpowering is the sense of injustice I feel in witnessing your prolonged struggle. And yet, you rise. Maya Angelou’s fierce words come to mind, “Leaving behind nights of terror and fear, I rise. Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear, I rise.”
Brain injury has changed you. It has broken you, rebuilt you, strengthened you, and humbled you. Sometimes it does all of this in the span of one day. I don’t know that I have the words to make this journey easier for you, but I can offer this: thank you. Not everyone can do the job you do. Not everyone can do it with compassion, grace, and laughter. Not everyone has the strength to ask for help or the wisdom to recognize their own human limitations.
As far as caregiving goes, perfection is not the goal. You don’t have to be a superhero, a brave warrior, or any other glorified figure. You can simply just be you, willing to carry on – a remarkable person, indeed. Trust me when I say, friend, there is nothing about you or your journey that will ever be a burden.