Mourning the Old Me After a Traumatic Brain Injury
When I think of who I was before my traumatic brain injury and who I am now…
Who I am today and who I was before are two very different people. She baked from scratch, and made Pinterest decorations for and threw bridal and baby showers. She kept a clean house and played with her kids. She went to the gym and playgrounds and parks regularly, she was always 15 minutes early, and could survive off of four to five hours of sleep and have a ton of energy.
She was incredibly well-spoken, and while her memory wasn’t perfect, she didn’t forget entire days and important conversations. She didn’t get so anxious and overwhelmed and overstimulated by large crowds of people and need so much time alone at home in solitude to decompress from time around people making conversation and being social. She didn’t find loud or harsh repetitive noises so anxiety-inducing. She didn’t struggle to regulate her temperature; it didn’t feel like she was outside in winter when she was actually inside with perfectly normal temperature settings. She didn’t have to wear special glasses or miss work because of light sensitivity induced migraines. She didn’t have such a hard time getting laundry put away or dishes done.
She cooked 90% of her family’s meals, and I don’t mean mac and cheese and nuggets. She made homemade stews and soups. She made homemade pot pies with from-scratch white sauce. She made homemade dips and hors d’oeuvres for parties and get-togethers she also hosted. She didn’t know how amazing she was and I see her, and I miss her.
I am a shell of her. I am her shadow and feel like I pale in comparison. People who didn’t know her would never know I used to be her because despite all the deficits I face daily, I still function. I work, I raise my children, I see friends, I am in school part-time and try to attend events, yet I merely survive. Despite how it may seem, every day is a struggle. Every day is a struggle to be me and I’m nowhere near close to her.
It’s hard to not resent my situation. It’s hard not to mourn the death of who I was and it’s hard to accept who I have become. I struggle with the guilt of side effects of an injury that is invisible and other people having to deal with it too. My “broken” brain negatively impacts others’ lives. I truly don’t know how to put a positive spin on this. It impacts me. Every. Single. Day.
Although I have made some progress in the four years since I was first injured, my TBI influences my life and the lives of those around me for better or worse. So I try to find the beauty in situations and moments she may have missed. I try to keep things light-hearted when I talk about my accident and the impact on my life. I try to stay positive. I try to help others when they are struggling. We may struggle for different reasons, but unlike so many of the TBI-related struggles I encounter, for friends and loved ones, I can help lighten their load. I can be their support. I can help. If that’s the end result of my TBI, if perhaps my pain and trauma in turn helps me support many others, for that I am happy.
I ask those of you who have a loved one with a traumatic brain injury to have patience, be encouraging, praise their efforts and calm their anxieties. Please just love them and accept them and be there.
Getty image by Lisa Vlasenko.