By Ian Hebeisen
As of October, my family officially passed the eight-year anniversary of the car accident causing my mom’s traumatic brain injury. That’s eight years of doctor’s appointments, chiropractic care, restless nights, back exercises, visual therapies, and legal battles. It’s been eight years of trial and error, bouncing from treatment to treatment, trying to gain an inch of healing and sometimes losing a foot of progress. It’s been a challenging journey that we continue to traverse.
A week or two ago, Mom needed some assistance with a few chores around the house. As I helped her clean a few dishes, she admitted that she found this year particularly difficult. “This time, I’m having trouble staying positive or seeing the bright side,” Mom confessed. “Can you think of any good that’s come out of my accident?”
It took a bit of reflection, but I actually could think of a handful of positive changes. One of the first things that came to mind was how our family united to help Mom. We adapted the structure we knew for ages to accommodate Mom’s new needs. Whether she needed a ride to an appointment, or required an extra set of hands to fold the laundry, or wanted someone to provide an arm to lean on while out on walks, my dad and my brothers all stepped up to these requests. If we could grant Mom a little bit of ease in her life, we happily provided.
I also noticed positive shifts in Mom’s demeanor, despite all the hardships she faced. First and foremost, her tenacity increased tenfold. She’s been dealing with nerve damage and pain for eight years, and she continues pushing forward. With every new treatment, she pushes her boundaries a little further, holding onto hope all the while.
Mom’s faith grew stronger after the accident. In fact, I attribute it in part to her increase in tenacity. Her church proved a valuable resource for her. She often talks with the pastors, and would turn to them for advice and positive words when times grew especially difficult. Mom and her prayer group often pray for healing, and since she has improved since the initial incident, I’d say it’s helped.
Another interesting change for the better? Mom grew more aware of her limits and now knows when to throw in the towel. While this certainly leads to some frustrating moments, I believe this honesty about her limitations overall improves her quality of life. By paying attention to her body and how she’s feeling, Mom can avoid potentially exhausting herself and setting back her progress.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to glamorize Mom’s TBI in any way. What happened to her drastically impacted our lives, hers most of all, and I would love nothing more than to prevent the accident from ever happening in the first place. She lives with pain from damaged nerves every day, and if we could reverse it entirely, we would in a heartbeat.
But dwelling on how much changed for the worse would keep us in a trap of despair. We become what we believe, so believing in any positive changes we can might benefit Mom, her recovery, and our family. Maintaining positivity certainly proves a challenge on its own, and we face it every day, but it’s a necessary one for asserting a quality of life.
For any caregivers reading this, try and record any positive event you might come across when helping someone with a TBI. Kind words and reflection will provide a much-needed moral boost. Even if they’re far and few between, try and focus on the glimpses of good, for your sake and the sake of your loved one.