If your child has a brain injury…
Learning that my husband had a serious brain injury was terrible enough. I can only imagine how terrifying it must be to learn that your child has a serious brain injury. My heart goes out to you. As Dixie Coskie describes in her memoir about her son’s brain injury, such an event is Unthinkable. How do you cope?
While each family’s situation is unique, similar issues do exist for caregivers of people with brain injury, whether the survivor is a spouse or a child. So let’s look at one today.
One similarity is figuring out how to maintain our lives as individual persons. The usual behavior, at least early on, is to put everything else on hold to care for our loved one. This is necessary during the crisis. When Ken was in the hospital and rehab, it was nearly impossible for me to do much of anything that didn’t deal directly with him and his care. And, with all those stress hormones flowing, I could hardly eat or sleep for weeks, so my self-care was poor.
But what about in the long term, after the initial crisis is past? How long can you sustain yourself with poor self-care? Ken needed a lot of help for several months after he came home (for others, this can last for years or a lifetime). Unlike our life together before his injury, my life revolved tightly around his need for care. I was (mostly) happy to do this, and it was necessary, but it was damn hard. And it took quite some time before my life felt normal enough so that I could release my fears and stress. If your child needs ongoing care from you, how will you maintain your own life and care for yourself over the long term? Remember that if you don’t care adequately for yourself, you cannot give your child your best care, either.
Some basic suggestions: Consider counseling with a therapist familiar with brain-injury issues, or join a local support group for families dealing with brain injury. Find some resources on the Internet—there are many (see some in the column at the right). Find some ways to have fun and relax—you’re not a bad person if you do. Whatever route you choose, get support for yourself. You need to do this!
And tap into your own inner wisdom with journaling. Give yourself the gift of a few quiet moments a day, or even once a week, where you can sit with your journal and write your way to better self-care. See the prompts and exercises below to get you started.
If you would like to share some ways you care for yourself, please go to the comments just below this post. Thanks!
Upcoming Workshops in Tucson
• After Brain Injury: Telling Your Story
Wednesdays, May 26 – June 30, 4-5:30 p.m. NEW DATES!
HealthSouth Rehabilitation Hospital of Southern Arizona
1921 W. Hospital Drive, Tucson, Arizona
For more information, click here and scroll down to the third workshop.
Today’s journaling exercises
If you’re ready to do some private writing in your journal, choose one or more of these prompts to get started. Try to write for at least five minutes, and I encourage you to write for 20 minutes if you’re able. Remember, though, if the topic feels too uncomfortable or scary, don’t force yourself to write.
If you’ve had a brain injury:
• Just for fun, try this prompt – My favorite food is (name the food) and I love it because… (think about the way it tastes, or what it reminds you of, or a special event where it was served to discover why you really love it)
If you’re a family caregiver:
• I know it’s important to take better care of myself, but it’s hard because…
• I won’t let anyone else care for my child because…
• It’s important to find more support in caring for my child because…
• Five small things I can do to care for myself are… (Schedule them on your calendar—you deserve to keep appointments with yourself.)
• I promise to keep these five appointments with myself because… (list at least three reasons for each)
• Writing an inventory of your life can give you a perspective you wouldn’t otherwise discover. Look at these major life areas: health (physical and mental), relationships (write about them as a whole or individually), spirituality or religion, recreation, finances, and work. Add any others that are important to you. Now, for each one, write about the current reality, what you would like the future to be, and three or four action steps you can take to reach that desired future. You can write about life areas one at a time over a period of days. Feel free to go back and adjust.
• Consider how much you love your own injured child. Now think of yourself as your child and pour out your heart in a letter (that no one else need ever see) about why it’s crucial and permissible to take good care of yourself.
• Think about one special activity you reserve for yourself. Do you sing in a choir? Have a weekly or monthly night out with friends? Just take an occasional solo walk in the park on beautiful days? Now, sit quietly for a few moments and remember the last time you did this activity. Let all your senses remember what it felt like. Then journal for at least five minutes without stopping about what you remember.Brain Injury, Family Caregivers, Journaling and Writing for Healing comment below, or link to this permanent URL from your own site.