The Stress and Strain of Caring for a Brain-Injured Son

Dear BR and Health Journeys,

For eight months, I was a full time caregiver to our severely brain-injured teenage son, after six months of hospitals and a dozen surgeries. He is now confined to a state mental hospital by court order, because of the dangerous behavior caused by the TBI.

When he was home, caring for him was constant, and felt so lonely. I worried no one else could do it as well – and also that he would feel abandoned if it wasn't me there looking after him.

I never got any real rest, because I had to get up every couple hours to check the breathing equipment. I tried to eat well, but I’d end up either overeating junk or forgetting to eat altogether.

I constantly felt inadequate, because I was tired all the time, and craved some kind of joy again in my daily life. I also felt terrified he would die. And of course I worried for my other children, and had trouble letting them out of my sight, for fear they’d get hurt too. 

While I knew I needed to arrive at a "new normal", I was kind of on "autopilot" to get through the day, waiting for something to change. It took time and thought to learn to own my own life again and there were not very many people willing to talk about it. 

People think that you are lucky he is still alive, and don’t see that you’ve suffered a huge loss, but have no outlet to grieve it. You feel selfish for feeling that way when you still can hold him, but you so miss the way they used to be.   

I would get upset with myself for feeling impatient at times. Guided imagery kept me from getting completely down on myself. The Grief and the General Wellness audio programs especially.  When my self worth starts to take a hit, I listen to them more often. It does help tremendously - especially when I compare it to the intensity and length of these bouts of self-diminshment prior to my discovering this tool.

And it helps to remind myself that I haven't given up, regardless of how tough the past years have been. I’m glad I’ve set that example for my children, too.They know I continue to seek out resources that strengthen us as a family.

I believe we are all stronger for it. We don't take much for granted, that’s for sure.  We love one another and tell each other the things we need to say. 

I am really glad for that gift.  I would never wish this experience on anyone, but there have been rewards, personal growth and greater closeness as a family – very precious things.  Thank you for the gift of the guided imagery – it got me through many a dark night of the soul.

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