The Elephant in the Room

A voyage through the horror that is Traumatic Brain Injury

Like Tears in Rain

with 2 comments

I really resent what’s happened to me.

Yes, I said it. Self-centered of me, huh? Note that I didn’t mention I resent what happened to my wife or my family. I’m deeply resentful of what this whole mess has done to me. I’ve lost opportunities to advance my voiceover career, I timed my exit from an incredible job with great benefits about as poorly as is possible to do because I didn’t know what was coming, and now we’re limping along with terrible insurance that barely lets us keep afloat (still better than the alternative, don’t get me wrong)… it’s all about me!

Of course, that’s not entirely true. Obviously it’s not all about me- it really is about Robin, her injury and her recovery from it. However, if you’re the significant other of someone injured by TBI or some similar catastrophic event like cancer, it’s not OK to be unhappy about it, except in the most vague way. You’re not really allowed to say “This sucks! I hate that this happened to me” because that’s being selfish. I mean, I’m not the one with the injury, right? I’m not suffering through the trauma of dealing with losing 50% of my ability to plan, organize and remember things. How can I possibly be so self-centered as to put my needs and wants ahead of the person suffering?

Except that she isn’t the only one suffering. I’m in terrible pain watching what this has done to my wife. She’s literally not the same person I married. I’m having to meet this new person who is almost, but not quite, like my wife- except that she is my wife. This isn’t what I signed up for. This is not the person I fell in love with! But it’s not OK to say that. Of course, something like 85% of all TBIs that happen to married individuals ultimately result in divorce, and I’ll tell you why: Because in addition to having to deal with the stress and caring for someone fundamentally changed, you’re not allowed to even express that you’re unhappy about it! (Edit: More recent studies show that divorce rates actually are lower for couples where one has had a TBI, so I may be off-base on the 85% thing. I can tell you it doesn’t make marriage easier!)

It took me a long time to come to the realization that yes- it is OK to be angry and I don’t care if people don’t like it- judge me all you want, but pray to whatever god you believe in that you’re never in my shoes. We’re doing a lot better and while I’m still bitterly resentful of what happened, I no longer direct it at the people who don’t deserve it. It’s allowed me a lot of leeway to see the things that really are important. I still love my wife very much- that never changed, and never will. But I’m not going to smile and say it was easy.

I finally realized was that I was making it worse on myself by trying to quash my feelings of resentment and that made my relationship with Robin more strained because I was projecting my resentment at the situation onto her personally. By internalizing all that and just keeping a brave smile on my face all the time, I made things a lot worse until I had the epiphany that yes, I should be allowed to be unhappy about this situation. While it’s true that life isn’t fair, it’s also true that it’s OK to be irked about that. Then you can get it out and move on.

In a sense, recovering from a TBI means going through the standard process of grieving- denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.  I was stuck on anger. In some ways I still am- but knowing that makes it easier to manage. Once I realized that my feelings were valid, it got a lot easier.


Written by Corey

September 3, 2012 at 8:37 pm

Posted in Emotion, TBI

2 Responses

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  1. hell yes, you are allowed to be angry. This kind of trauma affects everyone in the vicinity. Just know that you have support both local and distant. Don’t let this bottle up.. keep finding support wherever you need to. From here, all I can do is voice my concern and send my best wishes winging your way for Robin and you and the kids.


    September 4, 2012 at 2:17 am

  2. […]    Now my oldest son Corey is dealing with TBI, the result of his wife having had a stroke a few years back. It has finally been diagnosed after years of frustration, but it came with its own overwhelming set of problems. It reminded me  again of how hard and harrowing that journey back is for caregivers. I need to pick up my “pen” and write what I know, what I learned. If I can light a candle for one single person to see their way a little further down that dark tunnel, its worth it. […]

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