Sunday, September 2, 2018

Have you Seen the Bread?

   After my husband’s car accident, concussion-related challenges seemed to pop up daily. Dizziness and balance issues, constant ringing in his ears and word-finding problems started immediately. His PTSD kept us awake at night with terrifying dreams and his days were spent trying to figure out how return to work in his newly disabled body. The bills piled up and everyday life items seemed like great obstacles on our road to recovery.

   As we both adjusted to our “new” life, we were also faced with the funny quirks that came along.

   Sometimes, he would say things that made absolutely no sense and we’d collapse into giggles – we still do this today. Sometimes, he would say things that made me blush and if we were in public, some of those things could be inappropriate. Usually, he didn’t realize that what he’d said could be hurtful or embarrassing. He was crushed if I mentioned that something may not have been the right thing to say. It was a fine line for me to walk – ignore bad behavior and lose our friends and family or speak up and hurt his feelings. I still struggle with this one today.

   During those first couple of years, we had a lot of mysteries in our house. Things would go missing – lots of things. Like forks. Spoons. So many utensils went missing that we emptied the silverware drawer during one meal. We bought new forks and spoons several times during the first five years after the accident. Since we still had children in the house, they were usually blamed for the missing utensils, missing drinking glasses, and last-roll-of-toilet-paper using. When the kids grew up and moved away and we were still scratching our heads, I realized the problem was bigger than I thought.
   Through it all, we have been able to laugh and find humor in the day-to-day hurdles.

   Now and then we treat ourselves to coffee “out.” This isn’t the kind of coffee we brew in our pot, but instead is made by someone else, exactly how we want it. My husband calls it, “Fancy coffee.” During one of these coffee outings, we splurged for frozen coffees. Here in New England, there is a Dunkin’ Donuts on every couple of blocks and my husband loves their Mocha Coolatta’s. (He also struggled with consuming mass quantities of sugary treats soon after his accident, but that’s another story.) If you’re not familiar with the drink, it’s made of frozen coffee, lots of cream, chocolate syrup, and then it’s all blended to a slush. His always came Large and covered in whipped cream. To be clear, this isn’t a diet beverage.

   After buying our drinks that day, we took a drive out to the beach. We talked about life, our kids, the news, chores around the house, and sang along to the songs on the radio. Eventually, he reached for his Coolatta and it was empty. Still driving, he stared at me for a long time. (My drink was still mostly full.) I figured what the outcome would be, so I wasn’t surprised when he finally said, “Did you drink my drink?!” This same scenario has played out over the years, with candy, French fries, and even soda’s and coffee. He didn’t believe my answer and we still laugh about it.

   With all of the changes his brain was going through and the noise of a freight train in his ears, he was easily distracted all the time. Random things showed up where they shouldn’t have. There was cheese in the cabinet. The pepper-shaker appeared in the fridge. Tennis shoes made their way to the garage as if by magic.

   While making his peanut butter sandwich one day for lunch, he called me at work to say he couldn’t find the bread. I’m not normally a sandwich-eater, but I was certain that we had new loaf, purchased just a couple of days prior. He was disappointed for lunch that day and it was a priority when I got home from work. Sometimes, finding things that are put away in the wrong places can be difficult. My first clue was that the toaster was on the counter. We always cleaned it after using it and tucked it into a cabinet. When I looked into the cabinet, there was the loaf of bread, ready to be eaten. Apparently, after breakfast, he put the bread away where the toaster belonged. At lunchtime, he didn’t connect the relationship between the toaster being on the counter and the bread missing. He is able to realize that this happens now and will usually re-trace his steps to figure out what happened.

   A couple of years ago, during a time that nothing went as planned and he was repeatedly frustrated, I started a game. An ordinary can of turkey gravy turned up in the living room, next to the television remote. It took him a couple of days to realize that it was there, but he surprised me by asking, “Did I leave this here?” I felt terrible that he thought he actually left it there, but he played the game. The next day, I found it in the bathroom. The day after that, he found it in his office, next to his phone. We didn’t put it in obvious places, but we didn’t hide it either. It was a way for us to make light of things. It’s not his fault that he’s sometimes absent-minded. If I had as much going on in my body and the noise in my ears that he does, I would be distracted too!

   We’ve learned the benefits of routines, which build habits, which creates predictability. By the same token, if things are crazy busy, if we have visitors and even if we have a bad night’s sleep, the “normal” is a little off-kilter and we make adjustments. Today, he frequently is able to connect the dots, but I do still find things where they don’t belong. Just this morning I heard, “We must be out of bacon,” followed up by, “Found it!” The package of pre-cooked bacon he has every morning for breakfast was in the freezer. Life certainly is interesting with a brain injury!

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Hope, Faith, Love

   Since we started along this journey almost six years ago, I've held on to the core pieces of my upbringing: having Faith, Hope, and Love in everything I do. I was raised in the Catholic church and sometimes the path of our new TBI life takes me to the edge of accepting that form of religion again, but then questions of God and "why did this happen to us" stop me in my tracks.
   I've come to understand that I can pray anywhere, without the wrathful, vengeful God I grew up with. It helps to put my burdens on something bigger than myself... a Higher Power, if you will. Simply asking "help me with ____" or "help me to accept ____" somehow makes the problem seem smaller.
   Perhaps one day I'll figure out how to accept a formal religion again, but for today I accept that I'm not responsible for fixing the world and I'm practicing my own form of religion - one full of Hope, Faith, and Love. Sending prayers to all who struggle.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

How did this happen?

   I recently wrote about my life before my husband's accident and how it changed me. If you missed it, go here: The Old Me. I made a list of the things I lost - most importantly, photography, and I think I've been mad since then. Until I sat down and wrote, I didn't realize how my hobbies and routines defined who I was as a unique individual, seeing things in my own special way.
   Since then, it's all I can think about. I realize the gravity of the things I lost. While taking care of everyone else, I managed to lose me. When our eight children were struggling with the changes and his parents were struggling with the new "David", I was keeping everyone calmly assured that things would be okay and life would get better. I never stopped to think about my own grief and how to process all of the feelings I was bombarded with.
   I think I'm angry and I'm definitely sad. Now, to do something about it......

Sunday, February 12, 2017

The Old Me

It's been six years since my husband's accident and I'm still trying to sort through the feelings and changes that make me who I am today. I've decided I miss the old me and am trying to find a way back to the person I was.

The old me was confident. She shared things, like when she was happy about something, or when something wonderful happened, or for no particular reason. She was a regular on social media, updating her friends and family about her new married life, the new town she lived in, how her kids were doing in their new school.

She took pictures of everything, all the time. She loved to take pictures, framing each shot the way she saw it, capturing the memory of the way that moment in time made her feel. She was hopeful for the future and imagined making a living by selling her photographs, visiting far away destinations to catch the beauty that was everywhere. The old me had nothing to fear about the future.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

The year 2016 is coming to a close and 2017 is full of hope and promise.

Looking back through the year, there were several really wonderful things that happened. My first grandchild was born in January. She’s a beautiful princess and I’m loving being her Nana.

My husband and I visited Disney, but after a snowstorm cancelled flights up and down the eastern seaboard, our five day vacation turned into a two-week work-cation. I know I probably won’t get much sympathy on this one, but it was unexpected and expensive.

We had a plentiful garden this year, and a yard full of beautiful sunflowers planted by roving bands of chipmunks and squirrels.

Knowing that there’s never enough time, we took my in-laws on a cruise to the Bahamas. Laughed, loved, and realized this is probably the last year we’d ever be able to do this with them, ever.

The summer was warm and autumn trudged on through. My beautiful Siamese passed away from kidney disease for Halloween. Trump was elected. Then we coasted to Thanksgiving, when the proverbial wheels fell off the bus.

A series of recent events made me pause, 1) To be thankful and, 2) To move forward without any more reflection.
  • Starting the month, my husband hit a pedestrian who ran onto a highway on-ramp, into the path of his car. It reminded him of his accident when he was hit by a car and we spent a week worrying about this stranger and what she was doing in the dark on the interstate.
  • My husband was cycling in our neighborhood when a dog got loose from its owner and bit him. (Aside from fear and dogs being PTSD triggers, he is okay.)
  • Last Friday, the company I worked for was acquired and my position was eliminated.
  • To start this week, our fully-decorated Christmas tree fell over, shattering several cherished glass ornaments. The carpet may or may not still be damp from all the water that was in the tree stand.
  • Just yesterday, I was issued a $75 ticket for failing to have my car inspected. (It’s an annual requirement here in NH and I just hadn’t found the time to get it done.) The car hadn't been driven for weeks, but I needed to go to work to turn in my company assets.

This is where I finally decided to give thanks for a complete year. I’m looking forward to 2017 with much hope!

J We’re getting the hang of living with a TBI and choosing things that are good for us.
J The kids, most of them, appreciate our limitations and accept the way things are.
J I live with a roof over my head, food in my belly, and a warm blanket for sleeping.

My wish for you for 2017, is that you’ll find support in your relationships; you’ll seek care for yourself, and you won’t get too overwhelmed with “life”, to enjoy life. I appreciate you and this group of safe humans... remember that you’re in my circle of love and I can’t do this without you.

Monday, May 30, 2016

I need a break!

     I've been in school for several years, studying Project Management. Coupled with the demands of life, work, family and the obligations that go along with having friends and doing things I enjoy, I have found little time for myself - specifically, my health and my happiness. My current school term will complete in a week and I am taking a break for eight whole weeks.
     Caregivers and those supporting others frequently put themselves last on the list of priorities. It can be come a slippery slope where we're neglected long enough that our health and our own supporting relationships can be affected. Find a way to do something for yourself today, even if just for a couple of minutes.

Sunday, May 15, 2016


     Lately, life has gotten a bit hectic. Between work and some new demands there, home and some new challenges there, and school... well, don't get me started about school; it seems like all I do is juggle everything without really getting anything done. I'm due for a break - soon. My current term at school is over in three weeks and this girl is taking a break. Today, I'm not sure I can muster the strength to go back after an eight-week hiatus. Ask me about it in a couple of months.
     I know what I'm walking through is normal, but that doesn't make it easier. If I get around to comparing, I can envy my friend who doesn't have to work and stays home with her children, or the one who loves her job and gets everything she needs to feel complete from her family and church.
   Perhaps this is what it's like to be a grown up: staying busy all the time, until I'm out of time? For now, I guess I'll be content if the balls I'm juggling stay in the air. Peace to all who are making it work - even when it's hard. I have faith it'll get a little easier.