Redefinition, Reinvention, and Stumbling on the “Old Me” Who is Still There

In many ways, there are injuries and events that change who we are. I could write about TBIs and all the changes that occur physically, emotionally, behaviorally, and more. However, I am going to slant this outside of the medical world before formally venturing there.

Twenty-six years ago I was a waitress/server. After I became pregnant with my oldest, I quit work so I could be a stay-at-home mother. After that, her father and I eventually visited the restaurant franchise where I was a server. Even though I was not in uniform, my mind and emotions took on that role, as if I was on shift at that very moment. I heard the orders being called to the cooks, the salad bar’s containers that needed to be refilled and more. I could not relax. Here I was a server and could not be a leisurely patron at this restaurant. I even found that at many restaurants I would still mentally be working. It was void of being able to relax.

After a while, I thought to myself how ridiculous this was and how I should place myself in the role of being a patron/customer. It developed to the point that every once in a while I request the server for something I would prefer, which took some gumption, as I always saw it as making the server be put under more demands and stress. In other words, I had to reinvent how I saw myself along with my actions at a restaurant. I have always been independent and have never reveled in being served. That waitress is still in me.. the older version of me is still there. I stack the plates, etc. when my party and I are preparing to leave and pay the bill.  Actually, it is comforting for me to do this for the server. I have had that sort of job.

So, I have a new me, whether I want her or not. When you have had a brain injury, things change. For some, there can be loss of limbs or ability to move a portion of their bodies in the same way they could. I have that a little but not as much as emotional, psychological and behavioral changes. I used to keep my thoughts and feelings totally to myself. I still do that some; however, I don’t do it all the time. I have come to learn that some of these changes are healthy for me, whereas “stuffing” all thoughts and feelings may be more amiable to everyone else, it is more unhealthy for the person doing this. So, the first step is to see the good sides in the “new hand” that life has given.

My injury took place August 24, 2014. My battle for the “old me” unknowingly began around October 3, 2014, as that was the day I was released from the hospital. I did not know I was fighting until around May 16, 2015. All I saw for so long is everything I am not anymore. It is as if anything I appreciated about myself seemed to be gone. HOWEVER, this is not true. I was a daredevil from the time I was a little girl. I pushed the bar with the restrictions with my return home. Yes, I know that going beyond what is recommended/advised by the medical field is not the wisest choice. I wanted to be free, and felt like all of these rules were caging me. Upon a recent conversation with my husband, I revealed all the different ways I have crept beyond the line or attempted to do so from decades ago. These are all fun moments to remember BUT NOT ONLY THAT! Just speaking about them HAD ME REALIZE SHE’S STILL THERE!!! Sure, I’m more vocal and I see how that can be frustrating. Yes, my daredevil side is there; however, THAT’S PART OF THE OLD ME! What that means is I’m not an alien to myself. Sure, there are facets about me that have changed, but I have loved music and singing since I had a gym set. I have been a daredevil for most all my life at least a little. So, I have changed. The grief is a lot less coming to grips with the facets and characteristics/traits of me that HAVE NOT CHANGED.I am not saying all my “old ways” are the safest or even advisable to maintain; however, there is more inward peace and acceptance of myself between the combination of understanding the good things that have developed and the fun ones that are still there.

The other beauty in this is the ability to dream and not only be redefined by the event itself but also to reinvent oneself. Part of my reinvention is to write about such things to help others.. not for accolades, just to help others in ways I may or may never know. In the past, I only had hats relating to my family (friends are family too) and not others. Now, I have invented the idea of creating a firsthand voice and responding to those I know and do not know. I would not be writing about anosmia or all these changes if it were not for that TBI. However, there is NEW compassion and NEW comraderie along with a NEW zeal to write my positive experiences to help all those others out there fighting their own battles. As aforementioned, no accolades are sought. Giving with no expected results is quite wonderful.

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Overcoming CoDependence Regarding My Parents

I have not lived with my parents in over twenty-seven years. I remember the day I was made to leave.  It was February 14, 1989, with a  verbal “Happy Valentine’s Day” wish from my mother.

I was never allowed to have my own thoughts or feelings when I was with my parents without being chastised. It was considered “disrespectful” EVERY time. This is not to mention all the forms of abuse that occurred in their house.

My family consisted of my brother who was seven years younger than I along with my sister who is two years younger than I. When she was born, she was a normal, cognitive baby girl. However, nine months into her life, she had a TBI before it was as well-known as it is today, causing her to be both autistic and mentally retarded. She does not even know me or recognize me. My mother was caring for her at the time of this… “accident.”

When I ventured on my own, I craved my toxic mother and passive father, who had his own means of administering abuse. I cannot tell you why I missed them. Maybe because I wanted approval. I WANTED and CRAVED to feel loved by them, and that dream did not come true.

I am a military brat, although my father did live a civilian life for about five years. Within my eighteen years, I lived in four states and eight residences that I remember from the ages three to eighteen (there were more relocations before this, but I do not remember the houses or even the names of the towns).

When I was fourteen, we moved from Georgia to Alabama. Sadly, it took me until the fourth  year to adjust to Georgia, and it crushed me to move. I even begged for my parents to let us live there until I graduated, as it was spring of my freshman year of high school when we moved. At this time, my emotions were already on a downward spiral. That summer, I lost my virginity, and my mom walked in on me at the end of this act. In essence, MY PARENTS KNEW. About half a year or year later, we moved into another house in the same town. Between the move and what seemed to be my father not giving me attention at all, let alone he’d wipe my kisses off his face, it caused me to feel very unloved.. that he didn’t love me. My response was an occasional cry-out to my mother asking her if he did. She would always say “yes.” I never really believed it.

Around the age of sixteen or seventeen, it’s been too long to remember exactly when, my father finally started giving me attention. At first, it was innocent. I would get to sit by him in his chair while watching television. Then, it slowly changed. He was giving me the wrong kind of attention, as fathers should not do. I was quite confused. I craved and craved and craved to be loved, and now… it’s wrong. It’s the wrong kind of love shown. But how was I to stop his caresses and kisses? How? How could I turn down attention from this man who was my father, when I pined to be his daughter emotionally for two to three years?

One night he tried to take things too far. He wanted more than to caress me. The blouse I was wearing wound up with a button popping off of it, and I never repaired it. I could not. I told my father to leave my room. I think he understood this was passed the bar of weakness. To my recollection, he never made another advance at me.

A short time later, my father had to attend an NCO school, as the military aim to keep their enlisted educated. At that time, I wrote my father that these sorts of things would never happen again. On top of that, I told my mother what occurred. Eventually, it was blamed on me.

When I was eighteen, three months and three days old, I was banned to live with my parents and brother. Again, I would crave them. I would crave time and conversations with them. I have eight children, and I craved this relationship to be something wonderful for over two decades.

Recently, I had a dream that my youngest child, my son, was violated. My husband and I then talked about my father and my mother. My mother has tried full force to prove to the state of Florida what a bad and unfit parent I am with every claim being “Unfounded” by the representatives who investigate. Within our many conversations, my husband and I have deduced that my father has “covered” for my mother regarding my sister becoming brain damaged. My mother has covered for my father with his indiscretions (if I was at fault, why would I ever tell my mother and not just “keep quiet”?) He then told me  how I have placed my parents on pedestals, perceiving them to be “better” than they are. He talked of how unhealthy this was and how foolish it is for me to keep hanging on to them.

I take walks every day Dan works. It is an outlet. It is a way of “finding myself,” especially since my TBI and also to help me stay even keel emotionally. On the next day’s walk after his insight was bestowed, I settled on letting my parents go. After all, if my father loved me, THAT would have never happened. Also, IF MY MOTHER LOVED ME, she would have defended me. She would not defend the perpetrator, my father. She would EVEN understand the boundaries I placed upon my children, her grandchildren, regarding them not being alone with my father. HOWEVER, that never was the way it was. LOVE is not only sweet little words. It is actions… As my mother taught me, “Actions speak louder than words.” Their actions were not full of love. Even though I still, for whatever reason, love them, I am no longer going to emotionally be connected to them.

This story is not written out of spite. There is much humility that I felt before deciding to write this. This is for those cases THAT DO HAPPEN to adolescents, as they have enough battles with love and acceptance, let alone THIS SORT. I have not come across any stories regarding adolescents and family members and the emotional struggles it causes that young person. Adolescents are considered to be “young adults.” I agree with this; HOWEVER, EMOTIONALLY, I do not. This is based on a firsthand experience that I wish I had never had. I think it would have been easier and less befuddling if my father had never displayed such unacceptable behavior and, instead, just shrugged me off and have me keep feeling there was no love. I am not saying it would be a cake walk to live that life either; however, what I endured without even understanding from an adult perspective what transpired on emotional level, not including my own mother saying it was my fault, I have battled guilt off and on. The truth is I never wanted that sort of attention from my father. I wanted innocent hugs and pecks on the cheek.

It is sickening to think of how he heard I didn’t feel he loved me and then that being what he considered his “open door.” It’s sick that he would always make jokes that I was attracted to Charles Schwab, who was born in 1937… 9 years before my father was born. He would do this in front of my mother every time a commercial for his corporation aired.

My point is for readers to understand that adolescents are not emotionally adults. Loving one’s child has the above not even consideration, whether it’s blaming the child or preying on that child… NO MATTER the child’s age. That is still the parents’ child!!!!

I’m letting go, and I hope if there are any victims of this out there that you can let go too!

Appreciation Vs. Loss

I was released from the rehabilitation center for my TBI on October 3, 2014 after my accident happened August 24, 2014. Since that return home, there have been many battles. The primary battles have been regarding loss and change. TBI survivors often acquire Alzheimer’s or dementia. A local chiropractic neurologist linked that to depression. Upon talking to my husband, he stated that when one is depressed it takes all that person’s attention and that person becomes forgetful of everything outside of the topic causing depression. Ironically, patients with Alzheimer’s are better with schedules. They become adapted to the schedules and even less accustomed TO CHANGE or the feeling of LOSS.

I have not appreciated my husband enough lately. I have not tried to show this; however, I have pined and longed for “how we were” and “how Dan was.” However, how can Dan be the same? He almost lost his wife. He had to play both the mother and father role suddenly without his wife for about six weeks. I cannot be the same even if I try, at least not totally. How can Dan be the same? Why should I pine for something that cannot happen?

Amidst all this pining, appreciation has been diminished. Many TBI couples divorce. That TBI survivor does not act exactly the same or maybe that survivor cannot physically do what he/she did, whether math, see, smell, taste, hear, read, move, etc. Surviving such a thing and having cognitive skills with no new reference markers to who and how we are, there is a slower understanding of changes to the survivor. There is a slower understanding of to whom and what our loved one/s have lived and adapted.

Today, I talked to a friend about my fall and how my husband had to plan meals, be the business secretary again (I proudly took that role early in our relationship), adjust to a more confined, smaller house in the middle of the chaos while not knowing i I would keep breathing or have cognitive skills. I then relayed how I miss “that look” he would give me and some of “the feelings” that seem to outwardly be gone. They’re not gone.. they are changed.. in a new light, but they are not gone. However, without “the look” it has felt that way. However, coffee on the porch, calls when he is returning home, and even a milkshake now and then on his arrival.. those scream the love is still there and is shown in ways and methods that were not there in the past; however, back then, he did not have a job away from home. My point is I am on a path to regain appreciation of the “changed” Dan due to the “changed” me. I’m more outward with my feelings, and he is more outward with his. It may feel worse; however, if he stuffed his emotions like I had my whole life, THAT WOULD BE WHAT IS WORSE.

It is saddening to know I accidentally took him for granted and have not appreciated him as much as I can (and should).  Maybe I don’t give him a certain look and will give it again without ever knowing it was there or gone. Regardless, appreciation is a much better focus than on things and relationships that cannot return to how and what they were.