The days have been hard lately. So very hard.
I’m tired again. Tired of not understanding my brain injury as well as I would like, tired of answering people’s intrusive, often well-intentioned questions about whether or not “you think you have healed as much as you’re going to” or if “you think you will ever be back to normal”. The answer to the first one is I have absolutely NO idea. No one does, but statistically speaking, 2 years post brain injury is a pretty good indication of where I will be forevermore.
I know that I am not able to do these things; I can’t work, I can’t maintain a solid schedule without running late and becoming overwhelmed, and I can’t live by myself successfully. I have lived alone for the first time since the accident for the last several weeks and I would love to say that I’ve done it with ease and I’m killing it. But I haven’t. I’m not and it’s slowly killing me. I am so incredibly grateful that my dad will be coming to stay with me soon.
What I do know:
I can walk
I can talk
I can think
I can love.
The answer to the second question, I am “back to normal”. This Sandra is my normal. My normal will never be the same normal as before. My new normal will always have something missing from it and I am okay with that. I have to be. There is no other choice.
Some days of my new “normal” are hard, though. They are the kind that stop you in your tracks. Literally. I spend time each day just sitting at the top of my stairs, thinking through the day and mustering up the energy to see it through. If something is thrown into my daily routine, it is never easy. I thrive on routine. The extra trip in my car or unexpected time on the phone, exhausts me. I need to take a nap each day, even when I try to make myself believe I don’t. I need thinking breaks and quiet. I don’t want them, I need them. If an ambulance siren is loudly resonating in the air, my eyes instantly fill with tears and my heart beats faster. I don’t remember the accident at all, but I believe my body does. I know that my body does.
Lately, I have been most tired of keeping it together in front of my kids in those deep, dark moments of grief. I have always been open with them about grief, how it comes quick and that it is okay to feel sad. However, when we are all in that place at the same time, I’m the one who needs to hold it together, who is supposed to keep it all together. I’m the adult, the model for grieving and man that sucks. Seriously. When your son’s heart is breaking, all you want to do is break with him, lie down next to him and totally fall apart. Roll around on the ground, kicking and screaming in hopes that it will make the grief leave your body too. Tell him that all of this is stupid and awful and unfair and maybe throw in some anger directed at life and at God. Instead, you take a deep breath, give him a second, and then gently rub his head as he begins crying. He lays his head down on his father’s headstone and you feel your heart scream. You ask him if he needs anything and when he says, “I just want to see him”, you choke back the tears and say, “I know baby, me too. Can I hold your hand?” He puts his tiny little hand in mine and my heart exhales deeply. A few silent minutes pass. He keeps his eyes closed and grips my hand. The debilitating grief passes and he begins to talk. He says he knows he can’t see him. But I know that it just helps to say it. To wish it out loud. Then he gets up and we finish the flowers, trace his name with our fingers and say “bye”.
We leave these moments. We go back to life. Some would say that we go back to normal, but that’s not true. These experiences are our normal. My children walk around with these scars each and every day. They are strong children. They are resilient children. They are happy children. But they will forever be different. We all will be.