For Better or For Worse- The Relationship Strain of TBI

A friend asked me if it was hard to start a blog. Far from it! It was the easiest thing ever! I went to my husband and said “I think I want to start a blog.” He nodded and said “As you wish”, and just like that it was done. Okay, maybe it didn’t go quite like that, but close enough. Everyone should have their own personal tech support.

For two years my friend Marie tried to convince me to meet “this guy” Josh. For two years I ignored her. At the time I was living in Washington and he was in Colorado. What was I going to do with a guy in Colorado? While home visiting, I finally gave in and met him on January 10th, 2009. Two weeks later he came to visit me in Washington and we talked about what our wedding would be like. We were engaged 4 months later and married the following summer. My poor husband got a lemon. I don’t say that in a self-deprecating sort of way. It’s pretty much a true statement. We have been married for going on 6 years, of which I have spent a total of TWO years recovering from stress fracture, blood clots, a paralyzed diaphragm (yes seriously, I don’t recommend trying it), hip surgery, and now TBI. This means he has spent more than his fair share of our relationship playing caretaker to me.

Us - Fall 2014
Us – Fall 2014

Going through any recovery process takes a toll on a relationship. As the person who was injured, it is easy to have a selfish view of the situation. However, when a serious injury or illness occurs, the caretakers life is completely changed as well. The whole point of marriage is a sharing of responsibilities – finances, cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, home maintenance, and all of the little things that need to get done on a daily basis. When one partner cannot contribute, the other partner has to take on more responsibilities. Early on in this whole process we struggled. Knowing that your spouse has had a long day at work, it is hard to not just give him the evening to unwind. Sure, in life there are plenty of times that a person doesn’t get to have time to unwind, but it is different when I know that I haven’t done anything to contribute. I didn’t want to ask him for help, but needed him go to the store, make dinner, schedule therapy appointments, fill out some insurance forms, read emails for me,  and finish up my laundry, because I had a bad day and even though I had plenty of time to get all of those things done, I just couldn’t do anything.  Or the alternate would happen, and I wouldn’t ask for help, so I would completely fry my brain trying to get things done, and he would come home and I would be incoherent by 6pm. It took us quite a while to find a balance. He would get upset that I did too much and lecture me about resting, and I would get mad that he was telling me what to do, and try to prove I was perfectly capable of taking care of myself. Add to this the stress of losing a big chunk of our income and trying to figure out how to pay for the mortgage, ongoing medical bills , and being able to still buy groceries; let’s just say it was a mess. (FYI, health insurance does not pay for most traumatic brain injury therapy. It is all cash pay. Isn’t that fun?)

Finish of the Dirty 30, Josh's first 50K. He of course beat me, by a lot - 2014
Finish of the Dirty 30, Josh’s first 50K. He of course beat me, by a lot – 2014

We went through a couple of months of marriage counseling only to discover that the biggest problem was that we were both trying too hard to make things easier for the other person, and succeeded in making it worse for both of us.  I have finally accepted that he knows me better than anyone, and he can see when I’m getting fried even before I see it. Now when he tells me to go take a nap, I go take a nap. When he tells me to close the computer, I close the computer. I’ve realized that he is right, and is trying to help. Moreover, it is an issue of respect, because he is the one that will have to pick up the pieces when I do too much. Through it all I’ve tried very hard to make sure he has time to get out on his bike, or go to happy hour with the guys, and generally take a break from his role as caretaker. After sitting at home alone all day, this hasn’t always easy for me. But I know that if he is going to take care of me, he needs to take care of himself too. I’ve realized that him sitting home watching me when I feel miserable isn’t going to fix anything. That being said, there is also a time to say “I need you”, and simply have the comfort of his presence.

150 mile RAMROD (Ride Around Mt Rainier In A Day) 2014
150 mile RAMROD (Ride Around Mt Rainier In A Day) 2014

I miss the days of us going out for long rides on our bikes, and I hope someday we will be back at it together. The best view I’ve ever had on a bike, is the one you’ll find riding behind him. Have you seen my husband’s backside in lycra? For now, I’ll settle for him joining me on some runs, and knowing that when I make it to my 100 miler, he will once again be taking care of me, and pacing the last 26 miles.

For better or for worse, there is no one I would rather have by my side through all of this. I love you babe.

5 thoughts on “For Better or For Worse- The Relationship Strain of TBI

  1. Beautiful. I have prayed for you, and for your hubby. Sounds like you have one of the good ones! Take care, friend.

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