In a rare occurrence of whimsy at work, it was condoned for a short time that if we wanted to connect in a meaningful way to people, we would make comparisons to zombies. Needless to say, this didn’t catch on or last very long, but the idea sticks with me today as I think about brains.
Brains. We all have them. Not many of us consider ourselves smart enough to talk about them, but I think that by virtue of having one, we are entitled to our opinions.
TBI. TBI is a term I never heard before last summer. It stands for traumatic brain injury. And here all this time, I should have been much more interested in brains and how they work, but now that I know someone who has TBI, someone very close to me, the brain, and all of its magical workings, has become very important indeed.
I suppose in some sense, I am now a caregiver. I never imagined this role for myself and I’m not sure I naturally take to it, but here I am and I’ve got to make the best of it.
Sure, I could run. I could hop on a plane and scram, but my rather intact conscience would never let me escape. So there is nothing to do but face it “head on.”
What does TBI mean for my life? It means a gaping distance from my best friend. It means I understand the arguments we’ve had for years—now that I know he’s had more than 10 concussions. It means I have to be calmer, stronger, and more responsible than I’ve ever been before. It means anger and frustration for both of us. It means I have to battle my own resentments.
The fact is, people have been getting hit over the head for a long long time. And into each life some rain must fall. And every cloud has a silver lining. My silver lining is that maybe I can turn my own life around. Maybe with the knowledge I am gaining, I can take steps to improve my own chances of retaining cognitive functioning into old age. Maybe, just maybe, I can find the answers to heal my husband.
It’s been 7 months since his fall. And I know from my research that significant recovery should take a year or more. And the last neurologist gave him a horrible diagnosis, one that sent us both reeling, one that tests my faith in my own intellect. Do I dare to disbelieve?
On top of all of this, my husband has realized that he is mortal. He has realized in a very concrete way that he will die, actually die, some day. And now the midlife crisis begins.
There is an incongruence with the consideration of suicide and at the same time raging against the fact that one will eventually die. But brain injury is not logical.
In hindsight, I could have done better to log his progress. Where is he in his recovery? Language has come back. The stuttering has receded. Critical thinking is better. Decision making is still hard. I have to remember not to give him choices. This seems wrong, but the confusion and distress for him are too great. It’s better to offer him one thing that he’ll probably like. Driving is still out of the question, but going into public places, such as the grocery store, has gotten better. Household chores are still all mine. I would prefer to be the chief worrier in charge, but he worries a lot. I’m afraid for him, afraid that feeling depressed and worrying will become habitual, will become easier than feeling good and happy.
Staying on the diet is critically important and yet somehow hard to remember and enforce. More room for improvement. Ketosis is very important and needs to be maintained. Also a term I didn’t know before this started. The brain does better when it burns fat and not sugar. A ketogenic diet is one in which the body gets its fuel from fat rather than sugar.
And what about his heart?
From narcsisstic neurologists to battling nutrionists, this is the world of post TBI. A man’s life is on the line and yet we don’t know the answers.
You get hurt and everyone holds out their palms. The main thing they want from you is money—lots and lots of money. They prey upon your ignorance and your fear. They build their mansions from this money.
But this is the age of the Internet. Oh, blessed Internet, with information at the end of a thoughtful search.
Long live the socialism of knowledge.