Brain Injury and Divorce
Brain Injury and Divorce
Do you remember the nursery rhyme….Humpty Dumpty?? You know the one where all the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put Humpty together again?? Well..that’s what I felt about Dan’s brain.
Brain injury is one of those terms that mean “whatever” to “whomever” does the interpreting. It’s one of those diagnosis that can have a stigma with it that evokes fear or pity or an “I don’t want to know” attitude in others. The first time I heard those words were in the hospital a few weeks into Dan’s state of coma back in ’91.
I was standing beside his bed and the Doctor gave me the report. He told me how Dan had suffered 2 contusions to his frontal lobes and 1 contusion to his brain stem. He said how grateful I should be that Dan was alive and how the “least” of my worries was the “Head Injury”. We had rejoiced at the fact that Dan had moved his body which meant his contusion to his brain stem had not left him paralyzed. We had rejoiced that he was breathing again on his own, even with a tracheotomy. We had rejoiced that he would be moved to a rehab center. But, the fear in the pit of my stomach stayed with me…wondering what “TBI or traumatic brain injury” meant.
Dan was in the hospital and Rehab center for 6 months. When he came home, he remembered who we were and his long term was intact, he still had his sense of humor, and could walk…even though he couldn’t walk a straight line. He had made a remarkable recovery and was regaining his strength every day. But, Dan suffered inside. You could not see it. He had sustained a contusion to his frontal lobes that messed with his personality, his state of reality, his ability to remember short term, his self-control, his thought processes,and in turn…his marriage and his family life.
For the next 8 years, Dan was hospitalized several times. There were times when I had to have police take him to the hospital. I watched him suffer “internally” and I could do nothing about it. I tried taking him to the best doctors, hospitals, praying, reading, researching, hoping, and never realizing a cure. The counselors would tell me that 90% of couples divorce after a brain injury. I was appalled at them even suggesting that. There was no way that I would become a statistic.
But, the brain is a mysterious thing. One cannot diagnosis it, treat it, or prognosis it. And yet even more thought wrenching were the questions….”with all the healing…why God… why did you not heal his brain?”
The doctors would prescribe what they called “cocktails”. It was a mixture of drugs, for paranoia, delusions, memory, drugs for side effects from the drugs…it was a circus for years. By this time, people didn’t know how to handle the diagnosis and all it’s complications. Friends began to pull away from us. The church couldn’t put God in a box for this situation. So, they put us in one….the one where you feel like a “leper”. Stay away…for there are no answers. I felt so abandoned. And then Dan began to have delusions about me. His fears became “reality’ to him.
When the “episodes” got so intense and there was violence in my home, I knew that I had to let go. Even though I suffered emotional and physical abuse, I would also face “survivor’s guilt” for moving on. But, I had to leave. My kids needed me and a stable home environment. They needed safety.
Yet, Dan continued to live within his “dark brain injury” alone.
For the past 11 years, I have raised my 3 kids alone. I have suffered loneliness, fear, confusion, and pain deeper than what can be explained. The thing about brain injury and divorce is that the “grief” is hard to resolve. You still have kids together and each life event is to be shared. This is where it was difficult for me. Within these past years, I have still cared for Dan…not like a wife would…but like a friend.
As a family, we would help him…getting an apartment for him, cleaning it, helping him get help, advocating for him, visiting him in hospitals and jails, welcoming him at our family events, encouraging him…and riding the journey of brain injury with him…the ups and the downs.
My kids have loved their dad …and always will. Brain injury and mental illness are not pretty. It can be scary watching a person talk to themselves or swear at others, live in an unkept place, drive a car full of items and trash, talk about a bizarre world, or just “look” different. But, one thing we understand is that “brain injury” does not define Dan. He is still their father, a brother, a son, and a friend.
These past 2 years, ’09-’10, have been very hard for us. You can read about it in my post titled “homeless”. Dan has been missing for over a year. He has not contacted us and we can only imagine him living homeless on the streets somewhere out west. The law protects Dan and his individuality. He cannot be mandated to take medication, accept social security disability, or help. Because of all of his “protected choices”, we have suffered with the discontinuation of any financial disability support for the kids. Our family now faces new challenges of living life and those “moments” without him. It is another unknown pain we face. We continue to search for him and let go. Can you do both?
In the midst…I have found “butterfly moments” of hope and faith and love. These are the moments I hold onto. They give me courage to move daily and see “life” in the midst of pain. My daughter graduated just two weeks ago from MSU.
After the divorce, in ’00, I swore I would never were “gold” again. I exchanged my beautiful diamond gold wedding ring for silver. Silver is for the average person…an affordable jewelry…one that I now love. I look at these rings and am reminded of their meanings….I twirl them on my finger and I panic when I think I might have lost one of them. For some reason, they bring hope to me.
There are 3 separate rings…each printed with words…faith…hope…love.
It’s like.. I am not alone…like God has not left me even though I do not understand him…even though I could not save my marriage or ….save Dan.
I have to believe …I want to believe…I do still believe…in faith…hope..and love.