by Linda W. Arms
Were you very dependent on others after your brain injury? Did you need assistance, support and care from others just to get through each day? For some of us, it was an extreme dependency because we were flat on our backs. For others, like me, we moved about but everything was difficult. We needed someone to cook for us, to clean, to drive us to appointments, to keep us stimulated when we rather just hide in a hole. We needed someone to help us make decisions, to resolve problems, to take care of personal business, to read something and interpret the meaning for us….so much dependency on others to live our lives. Life on our own was almost unthinkable.
As we improve, we begin taking on more of life’s tasks. Sometimes we don’t do them so well and need to be rescued. Often our caregivers watched over us as we tried to do things and stepped in to help. Sometimes we just couldn’t continue with the task because it turned out to be too taxing. How many of you started a meal, or another task, and just had to stop in the middle of it because it became too overwhelming. Who helped us out when we failed? Our caregivers.
Our caregivers are loved ones, friends, volunteers, professional service providers and others. They are desperately needed during our many difficult days with our injured brain. As we get better we depend on them less. They begin withdrawing from their role. They go back to work. Back to their own lives. Move on to others who need their help. It is all to be expected but still in some way, at some point, we may feel abandoned.
After my brain injury, my husband and daughter stepped in and took over my life for me. Things were taken care of around me. They told me when to eat, they cooked, and they did the grocery shopping. They handled conversations with people when it was too overwhelming for me. They did the thinking for me. I was always so, so tired. I slept 14 or more hours every day.
As time went on, months, even years, I slowly started doing more. They went back to the lives they were living – to work, to school, to socialize with other people. At some point in my recovery, probably around year 3 or 4, I started thinking, “hmmm…. well what about me? Here they are being very normal people and they have a life outside the home. Mine was gone. Most of the time I didn’t care because I didn’t have the energy for much and most activities outside the home were overwhelming. But still, there were times I felt left out. As time went on and I continue to improve, I think even more “what about me?”
Like many of you, after a brain injury, we have to start rebuilding our lives. That is where I am at these days. I’ve been working on it actively now for about a year. I’m sure there are many of you in the same position as I am. Perhaps we all have felt a bit like we’ve been abandoned by the people who took care of us. But it is normal and to be expected that they move on with their lives and it is what we, with the injured brain, must also do.