Tag Archives: Brain Injury

Brain Injury- An Invisible Death

2 Jan

 

 

Over the past 2 ½ years, I have lived beside the daily struggles of a Brain Injury Survivor.  I have watched the back and forth recovery of this Invisible Death and struggled to describe it to the outside world.  I would have better luck describing a rainbow to a blind person.  This is my account of a Brain Injury and the emotional process of recovery.

Everyone has a digital Camera.  Imagine the Camera you use is the same Camera you have used for years.  It is the Camera that was present at your wedding, at every birthday, every vacation and every milestone in between.  Sure, it has its faults but they are faults you have learned to live with.  They are…predictable.   You know the “Night Shot” button sticks when you press it too hard so you have developed a gentler way to handle it.  You know the “red eye” doesn’t work, so you don’t bother.  You know which USB to use when connecting your Camera to the world.

You know this Camera inside and out.

Then one day, without warning, your Camera shuts off.  At first you stay calm.  After all, there’s never been a problem with your Camera you didn’t know how to fix.  So, you change the batteries, you take out the memory card, you even shake it a bit, but nothing seems to work.  You have exhausted every effort and you decide this is a job for the professionals.

And after weeks of worry and the absence of your Camera, they hand it back to you.  Or, so it looks like your Camera.  But this Camera is a little different.   It feels different in your hand, but the difference is so slight that you doubt your own suspicions.  They tell you this is the newer model with a few differences; they couldn’t fix the one you brought in.  They can’t tell you what the differences are and when you ask for the newer Camera manual, they reply “there isn’t one.  You must figure it out on your own.”

So you go home, you and your new Camera.  You are so happy to have your Camera back that you are in denial of the differences.  After all, it looks like your Camera.  At first, the new Camera just sits there, fooling you with its identical exterior.  You think to turn it on and test it out, but you are hesitant.  You know despite its appearance, it is not the same Camera.  Some of the buttons have moved and the memory card is completely blank.  You begin to feel alone.  Though it’s just a Camera and you remember all the frustration it brought you in the past, it was still your Camera.  You cared for it; you depended on it and it walked through this life with you.  It experienced the same memories you did and recalled them for you when you needed.  This new Camera doesn’t know you.  This new Camera doesn’t remember your life together.  This new Camera is an imposter!

You find yourself grieving.  But you are also confused.  How can you be grieving for something that is still right there in front of you?  You haven’t lost it, not really.  But somehow, you miss it.  You ask a million “why’s?”

But then your denial sets in again and you pick up the new Camera and turn it on.  You struggle to find the buttons you once knew, but eventually you find them.  You take a few sample pictures and you find the “red eye” button DOES work!  The “night shot” button doesn’t stick!  It appears this new Camera might work after all.

But just as you are accepting the new Camera into your life a new fault appears.  Its memory card is malfunctioning and it doesn’t capture every picture you take.  It is inconsistent and you soon learn that some pictures are blurry and some are clear, yet there is no pattern to it.  It also shuts off without warning, a feature your old Camera never would have done.  You go on-line and search for the answers, for the magic fix of others who have owned this very Camera, but there are none.  This Camera is unique to the world.

As time passes you learn to love your new Camera.   You start to accept it and now it has been so long since you saw your old Camera that you can’t really remember it.  Until you see the pictures it took and the time you shared.  And then you find yourself struggling with the loss all over again.  After all, saying goodbye is hard.  The rest of the world won’t see it.  They won’t see the differences; they won’t understand your grief.   This death has been invisible.

Your new Camera is by your side but you have had to learn a new way of managing it.  You have had to be patient, and creative, and you have had to find a new USB to connect your Camera to the world.  You have had to “figure it out on your own.”

 

I say a Brain Injury is an Invisible Death because it is.  You go through the same stages of grief, yet you do it beside the very person you are grieving for.  There is a lot of regret, sadness, anger, denial and acceptance.  But there is also gratefulness and hope.  There is a sense of a second chance.  And while you still must say goodbye to one life, there is a new life ready to be lived.  If only there were a manual on how to live it.

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