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Monday, August 6, 2012

As Simple as That

My daughter recently met a young man who had just returned from Afghanistan and who suffered a TBI while he was there. Not only has this man seen the atrocities of war, had close friends die before his eyes, but also struggles with the difficulties of recovering from a traumatic brain injury. I can't even imagine what he must be going through. As my daughter explained to me some of his behavior and some of methods he used to cope with the the aftermath of his injury, I found myself hurting for him and relating with his struggle. I'm not for one second suggesting that my situation was as devastating as his, but I can certainly understand a little of what he is going through. Today marks the 2 years, 7 months and 6th day of my journey. Without a doubt every step, every day has been a challenge and a hell that cannot fully be expressed with words. During dinner this weekend the subject of the injury came up. My daughter was on deployment when the injury occurred, and as my husband began to talk about that day, he went into greater detail than he had previously shared with her. She admitted that until she moved back to Oklahoma, she didn't fully understand the extent of how the injury had changed me.  She told me someone close had told her that I could simply recover from it, if I chose too. And herein lies the absolute helplessness someone who has had a TBI deals with on a daily basis. Not everyone suffers a personality change after a TBI, but those of us who do, would do anything within our power to get back the person we were before.  Imagine for a second, if suddenly most of your personal, emotional, and spiritual attachments disappeared.... Ceased to exist.  Imagine looking into the eyes of your children, your spouse, your parents, and your friends and not feeling any of the intrinsic connections to the most important people in your life.  The loss of some of your memory is one thing, but the loss of who you are is not something you can simply "Get over". Our sense of self is what connects us to our world, to each other and more importantly to ourselves, not to mention the spiritual connection to our God.  In the last couple of months, two of my children have been told by their counselors, that they must mourn the loss of the Mother they knew and embrace the woman I now am. The depth of the sorrow I feel for not being able to bring their old mother back, is a vortex of failure I will forever feel. When the movie "The Vow" came out, someone asked my husband if we had seen it. We watched the trailers on the computer and looked at each other and simply shook our heads no. We are walking this path and though it may make for a touching movie plot, we find no entertainment value in watching it played out on screen.  My therapist asked me a few weeks ago, what I missed about the old me.... "Oh, let me count the ways" Besides missing the feelings associated with my most important attachments, I miss knowing how I would react to any number of given circumstances. I miss trusting myself. I miss being a "fix it" person. I miss my compassion, empathy and passion. I miss knowing that I KNOW who I am and what makes me tick and I miss liking myself. I miss feeling the presence of my God, the spiritual moving of him in my soul and the feeling of being at one with him and myself. I miss dreaming with expectation of those dreams coming true and miss the joy I found in life itself.  The first few weeks and months after the injury seemed like one long out of body experience. Slowly but surely my mind came back to my body, but not entirely. I still get the sense that I am watching my life from afar without the means to return fully to that which I was. That being said, I am better than I was. I operate not on instinct, but from drawing on the remnant of who I used to be and I still hold onto the hope that some day I will return to being that person and leaving the new me for the familiar comfort of the me I knew and loved so well. Until then, I am on auto pilot, or an actress playing the part of me. Some days I'm not sure where this plane is headed, or how long I can continue the roller coaster ride.  Yes, if I could I would "Get over it", but sadly, it's not as simple as that. My salvation has been those who continue to love the new me as if nothing has changed. It's for those people that I desperately dig the depths of my soul to bring myself back to the surface.

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