What is not readily understood is the "mindstorm" that is going on inside their head: the confusion and anguish, not only about what they're experiencing, but the resentments they feel and the conviction they have that nobody really understands what they're going through. I talked to doctors and therapists and alternative medicine practitioners.
I sought the comfort and counsel of friends and family members and got through the days.
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I made adjustments in my thinking, my reactions, my expectations.
I dealt with the fear that neither my husband nor my life would ever be the same.
I was given no advice or information that would have alerted me to many of the unexpected ramifications of not only how a brain-injured person might act, but how best to respond, how best to be a partner, a family member, a caretaker to that brain-injured person. This is a shocking deficit, particularly in this era of so many brain-injured athletes and returning vets dealing with the short- and long-term consequences of this most confounding injury.
Luckily, I was referred by Pete's neurologist to a brain injury survivor from a now-defunct support group who proved to be a desperately needed and deeply appreciated source of insight and perspective that only a person who'd gone through the injury could be.
Three years ago Pete was in his car, stopped at a crosswalk waiting for a couple of pedestrians to make their way across the street, when a distracted driver smashed into him from behind at about 25 miles an hour with no attempt to brake. A man for whom music, theater, singing and the whole gamut of sensual, creative and aural pleasures was deeply appreciated.
Appropriately encouraged, he then wrote what was to be his first album, "Down from Montana," recorded in Nashville, reviewed enthusiastically online, and still playing on Montana radio and in homes the country over. A man who hiked down the Grand Canyon almost every year and trekked through the Montana wilderness pheasant hunting every fall. Sometimes Pete could barely tolerate talking, and silence became a big part of our lives. It was a brutal experience for him, for me, for our family, one that shook us all to the core. Activities with our son in the two years before college were mostly nonexistent. The pain level got so extreme last year that he hit a full-blown crisis that resulted in him leaving home for a couple of months in an attempt to quell the pain inside his head and heart.His identity as a person, a man, a husband and father, has been compromised by this injury, and that's got to just get to him.I know when I really think about it, all I want to do is cry. He needs to rest more often during the day, take breaks from activities when the pain in his head gets too intense, and often by Friday night a long conversation with his wife is not doable.It was a confusing and often a very challenging transition, but little by little, life got back to some kind of normal.