How We, the Brain Injured, Fight to Fit In Again
Posted on July 13, 2014
We, who are the brain injured, strive to live in a world where the term “short term memory loss” and brain injury is something that most people just don’t understand. As someone who experienced brain injuries that included short term memory loss, I have to admit, for a long time I cannot remember anything funny about it. Having comments made to me by well meaning people who were trying to compare their forgetting where their car keys were or forgetting something they needed from the grocery store as comparable to what I was enduring just sucked. Mark was so strong for me as I worked to figure out how to make everything work in me work as it used to do. I am better today in many ways because even if it doesn’t seem to be improving, it is getting better. What starts to happen is that while the memory loss is real and the brain injuries are real, slowly we start learning coping techniques. Let me re-emphasize the word s-l-o-w-l-y.
Lucky me, who loves talking, wound up getting a stutter with my head injury. It has taken me almost twenty years to learn ways to control it to the point that now, it only starts when I get stressed and start trying to convey my vocal messages fast. I have experienced real panic attacks over losing my pocket book, car keys and whatever I’ve had in my hands. I fought my confusion in not being able to understand why things got side-tracked. I would cry and be screaming in anger at myself for being so stupid that I couldn’t will myself better. Mark was there for me, to say “calm down, it’s okay, we will find it, get it. make it” whatever the “it” was that was wrong, his words, “We’ll fix it.” was my lifeline in finding my way back. The old me that I had been was no more and the growing pains for reaching the new me living with brain injury was hell.
Who would have ever thought that in 2011, Mark would join the ranks of the brain injured with damage to his brain’s executive management skills area and now live with serious short term memory loss? If just a small bit of time had been spent confirming the safety of the medicines that Mark was being given to take, we would have once again left the “institution” with a positive experience. We had made a point to get to the ED around 8:30 am. Everyone we saw seemed to be working but not slammed to the wall with patients oozing out of the windows and waiting rooms. While Mark was receiving the IV infusion of CIPRO, if a second glance had been given to Mark’s medical chart, the error could have been caught in time to save Mark from the danger that lay in wait for him later. Being human, I fight being bitter but I can say that hate is an emotion that I cannot afford to have right now. Love and hate cannot occupy the same space at the same time. God cannot abide hate so in order to have His help I had to forgive and help Mark work towards peace in that area. God brought me through all my recovery so that I can now be the one who helps Mark learn the coping skills he’ll need. It’s my turn to be the one who leads with the sense of humor and cries out of sight. Daily I use the tools that survivors adapt to make the unbearable, bearable.
In order to understand how brain injuries can leave the victims at a loss as to how fit in and function as they had formerly been able to do, I need to tell you a bit about my husband’s life before he experienced his brain injuries. My Mark is someone who has spent his life being organized in all areas of his working performance. We are a family that enjoys spending time with each other. In his working career in the blue collar world of electric power and supply, he handled responsibilities for 23,000 to 500,000 volts, commonly referred to as 23 – 500 KV. Building new substations, rebuilding substations and responding to emergency substation catastrophic events was part of his routine work load. One such incident involved an explosive fire in a main power substation furnishing power to a large city. Working in dangerous conditions was something that he did very well. His ability to think on his feet and to evaluate the correct order in which to approach and repair damaged power substations was a much used strength area for him. Whether he and fellow crew members were working normal repairs or doing dangerous distribution repair in areas hit by hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, ice and snow storms, knowing how to keep himself and others from being injured or killed was always at the top of his agenda. Because of Mark’s excellent level of experience in working with contract crews and his keen understanding of budget management and projects being built, he was assigned to manage those crews during a particularly busy construction period for his employer. His days away from home were longer but the pay was good, he was happy and the dogs and I held down the fort on the home front.