Coping

It’s ironic to me that while a situation as the one we are in can bring so much perspective to your everyday life, it is incredibly easy to lose that perspective in the small, stressful moments of the day. For some reason, Wednesdays are always the toughest day of the week for me. Yesterday was no exception. I thought the enormity of what has happened to TC would make me better able to deal with life’s ordinary stressors, but in fact, the opposite is true. Little things like waiting in line, Jack feeding his food to Spencer, searching for a parking spot, etc. send me into crazy woman mode.

Yesterday it took me 90 minutes to drive from our house to my graduate class in Tenleytown. 90 minutes. I actually contemplated pulling over at the tidal basin to have my first public nervous breakdown. But I kept on trucking. I arrived to class grumpy, anxious, and 30 minutes late. And then, of course, I had to step out of the room to field phone calls from detectives.

It’s not easy being a full time cheerleader when you secretly want to throw in the towel every moment of the day. Around Jack I try to smile, laugh, and carry on. I get dressed in the morning like I’m going to work and I do the drop off/pick up routine from the nanny that was routine in our previous life. After he goes to bed, I head back to the hospital, pay bills, read about neurology, or do some general organizing of our very complicated and messy life.

Around TC, I play essentially the same role. I smile. I reassure him this is only temporary. I tell him how proud we all are. And I listen to him vent. I back up the decisions made by the doctors and therapists, even though I understand why TC is unhappy with some of their choices. The most recent of these was the decision to have TC sleep in an enclosed bed. This contraption, which looks like a traveling cage for zoo animals, is meant to keep TC from breaking free of his restraints and getting out of bed. Apparently his fall the other night did not go unnoticed by the doctors.

TC was understandably offended when they introduced this new component to his life. It looks like an enclosure meant for animals or small children, not renewable energy analysts with master’s degrees from Duke. We argued about this safety issue for a good hour (most of his argument was not clear, but his body language certainly was). Eventually, I threw my hands up and said, “Listen, we have limited energy here. We can’t afford to get worked up about this. Your energy goes into your therapy and getting better. That’s it.” He threw his hands up in return and a truce was called.

Because TC has such limited memory of the past few weeks, it’s extraordinarily difficult for him to observe his own progress in recovery. He feels like an invalid, even though he is a million miles away from his original state of incapacity. In all the reading and research I’ve done, I’ve been astounded by the plasticity of the brain. I KNOW that TC can regain all that was lost in his assault. As his personal cheerleader, it’s now my job to keep him motivated in his recovery. I was really inspired by the documentary below. I plan on watching it with TC today and would recommend it for anyone affected by brain injury or stroke. It’s completely fascinating from a child development perspective as well.

11 thoughts on “Coping

  1. Be strong! You can break down with us whenever you need! I wish I could give you my number and be a completely anonymous whipping post for you, to let you get it all out and then be the cheerleader, nother, wife and student you need to be. We are all here for you!

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  2. I don't pretend to be a doctor or know what I'm talking about, but I was just curious if music therapy has been thought about for TC? I remember seeing a special on TV about how it helped Gabby Giffords in regaining her ability to talk:
    http://abcnews.go.com/Health/w_MindBodyNews/gabby-giffords-finding-voice-music-therapy/story?id=14903987#.UFsoCZZ41K0

    Not trying to step on anybody's toes, I just wanted to mention it just in case you hadn't thought of it, just in case it helps!

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  3. I just want to say is your are very admirable. My father had a severe brain injury. He was in coma for weeks. Woke up and his speech was gone, memory loss, and had animalistic characteristics. He had to go through therapy, to relearn everything. But he overcame everything. His memory at times fails him, but you would never know he had gone through what he has. My mother was his cheerleader too and at time had toddler too. From what she has told me, it was tough but she overcame the obstacles too.

    I do not know you, but I follow your blog. And I believe in your strength as a wife, and mother. And I believe in TC too. You both will over come this obstacle like my parents did, to only be stronger in all aspects.

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  4. I found your blog through my friend Maura, and while I have never met you or TC or Jack, and probably never will, I am rooting for you all! Your journey has been both heart-wrenching and inspiring. I can't imagine how difficult and stressful your world has become, but I hope it helps to know that there are lots of people out there pulling for you guys!

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  5. Abby, You don't know me…my name is Christine and I went to Bucknell and found this blog thru Facebook. I read the entire thing end to end this morning (tears running down my face…I'm sure I look great in my cubicle now!) and cannot begin to imagine what you've been through. Your strength is incredible! Wishing you lots of love and patience as you and TC reccuperate and restore your lives.

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  6. Hey Abby! I saw your story on a Duke basketball site. Wanted to let you know that I'm thinking of you and your family, and pulling for TC's recovery. My aunt had a stroke when I was in college, and she also suffered from expressive aphasia. I know it well. I remember one time when we asked her what she wanted to do, and she wanted to go see a movie at the theater, it took about 10 minutes for us to figure it out (kind of like a game of charades where the person who knows the answer can only give a few hints). It was so frustrating for her.

    But with lots of work, she got better. She got to the point where she could drive, and talk to us. It was amazing how much progress she made. And the doctor told us of many people who improved even more than she did. Bottom line – this can be done.

    Everything aside, your support and dedication are beyond admirable. Hang in there!

    Matt C. Duke, Class of 1990

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  7. Just remember/keep telling yourself that soon TC will have an outlet for his frustration thru PT. And based on the man youve described I am sure that focus and being able to put some of his well being and road to recovery in his own hands will be really empowering for him, and hopefully lend a little bit of relief to you as well. I have a feeling he will be like a Wounded Warrior I recently read about who would sneak back into the rehab room becuase he didnt feel like his regularly scheduled hour of PT was cutting it. Hang in there! Remember even a little set back here and there only means the next step forward will be an even bigger one. Sending you and your family lots of love, prayers, and strength!

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  8. Hi Abby, I have never met you but live near Eastern Market and have been following yours and TC's story. Just wanted to say that while you are TC's cheerleader, you have a mountain of people cheerleading and pulling for you and your entire family. I cannot imagine the strength it takes just to get out of bed every morning but we're all pulling for you, for TC and for Jack. Sending you all strength, hugs and positive thoughts!

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  9. Abby –

    Your stamina is really inspiring. They say “90% of life is just showing up”… Your circumstances require you to do way more than “just show up”; you have to give and give constantly, even when the tank is empty. You're a testament to the fact that God's grace surpasses our understanding.

    Hang in there and don't lost heart, you have an army of people pulling for you. You're in all of our prayers!

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  10. Each day T.C. will improve, your life will settle down eventually and the stress will be less and less. God will take over, he never gives us more than we can handle.
    I keep your family in my prayers always. Much love, Katie's Mom.

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  11. Abby, I saw some of your videos on Youtube and then found your blog through BrainLine. I hate to say this, because I wouldn’t wish this life and these struggles on anyone, but I am so thankful to find someone that is going through a similar situation. Lately I have struggled with being resilient, struggled with coping, struggling with the stress and hopelessness. My husband’s heart stopped in November 2015 while at home. I performed CPR for 20 minutes until the EMTs arrived. He was in a coma and the oxygen deprivation to his brain was severe. They said he wouldn’t make it or come home. Eleven days post coma he became responsive. Almost 2 years later, he is still a different person because he lost all memories from before the accident. Our weeks are still filled with speech and physical therapy. Life is so much different and it feels like it will never be the same. I love reading of your optimism. I am struggling to get back to that. When the man you loved seems to be gone forever and progress is slow to non-existent it’s hard to keep that positivity going. Working on getting it back 🙂

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