Marriage after a Brain Injury
Today was a beautiful day in El Paso, TX. The Sun was shining and a blue sky make my eyes appreciate how spectacular is to live day by day. I do not worry about tomorrow, the enjoy the blessings of today.
Life after a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) can be challenging not only for the patient but for the family. My husband sustained a TBI and I also suffered the consequences that comes with it. That may be just me but I don't believe so, the more I hear spouses the more I realize that this injury although unknown by many, it is well lived by others. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) the incidence of brain injury is approximately 1.7 million a year (http://www.cdc.gov/TraumaticBrainInjury/). That means that every day 46,575 people sustained a TBI. This statistic excludes TBI in Soldiers, so the incidence is even higher. The short and long term consequences of a TBI are(http://www.cdc.gov/traumaticbraininjury/outcomes.html):
•Thinking (i.e., memory and reasoning);
•Sensation (i.e., touch, taste, and smell);
•Language (i.e., communication, expression, and understanding); and
•Emotion (i.e., depression, anxiety, personality changes, aggression, acting out, and social inappropriateness).
The reality is that very little is said about marriage after a TBI. One thing that most of us have to realize is that the person we married is no longer the same in so many ways. So, how marriage can work? There is no an set of instructions that will provide you the perfect formula. For me marriage needs to be founded in the principles of communication, friendship and love. For other people it may be other things. After a TBI communication has to be better than ever.
Communication is a key component to understand how your loved one feels and also how you as a caregiver feel. We caregivers feel loneliness and we are so embedded in taking care of our loved ones that we disregard our own feelings. The reality is that if we do not take care of ourselves we will be burned out. We need to take time and reinforce those attributes that will make us stronger, physically and emotionally. The marriage does not ahve to be over, it will just experience slightly changes because your life had a sudden detour, but not everything is over. We have to plan, analyze and execute the plan that will make things work. Alone we cannot do that, we need the support network of friends and family.
The marriage after a TBI changes and you may not do the things that were the "normal" but like my husband and I say "TBI is not the end but the beginning of a new life" and as a consequence a "new normal". I hope we all strive to make everyday one worth living and be proud of. I also encourage you to believe in the possibilities that marriage after TBI can be a new journey with new paths that as a team should be walk with love and hope.