The time has come again to meet the holidays head on - as the holidays approach, many families that love an individual living with a brain injury being to worry about how to navigate the season.

Parties, shopping, money worries and get-togethers can disrupt a carefully balanced scaffolding of organized life that takes little to push over. The time and planning that it takes to hold life together after a brain injury is extensive - that planning often involves the juggling of so many different things that it doesn't take much to break it apart.

This known worry can cause tremendous stress for everyone in the family, and by trying to please everyone, can often just cause the breakdown that was feared the most.

Caregivers often find themselves in what feels like a no-win situation - do they try to attend some of the parties and fun activities that come with this time of year, or do they sacrifice this time and hold together what took so much time to build?

It doesn't always have to be a complete yes or no, there are ways to still  enjoy some of the parties and festivities without completely ruining the days that follow with a fatigue meltdown.

  1. Remember to set aside down time - Just like any other time in the day, if there needs to be down time as part of a regular schedule, it should continue during the holiday season. Although some flexibility may need to occur with the timing of the breaks, when adding increased socialization, noise and stimulation, it is always good to plan ahead and ensure that there is plenty of quiet time to balance out the increased noise.
  2. Don't try to do everything - Remember that you wouldn't normally pack in three or four appointments in a day, so why would you add in several parties in a day? Space out events, and find ways to be included in smaller events that won't take so much brain power to deal with.
  3.  Know that it is okay to say "No thank you" - Not everyone knows the impact of changes to the daily schedule for someone that lives best when the schedule stays consistent. By maintaining as normal a schedule as possible, life will not erode into fatigue and anger.

Be okay with using your own judgment when looking at the holiday schedule.  Only you know what will work and what won't work. It is up to all of us to ensure that the holidays remain a time for celebration and family, even for those that cannot tolerate a lot of chaos.  Keeping party times shorter, events spaced out, and ensuring plenty of downtime can create a holiday time filled with fun.

Veterans are the reason we have the freedoms that we do.

They fought our battles, they waged war in places most of us don't want to visit.

They gave their lives so that we can feel safe and secure, and have liberties that many others do not.

Today we honor those brave men and women - today we publicly recognize their deeds and heroism.

Many of our veterans return home different than they left - the battle scars, the traumatic images, the injuries - they all change a person, and for some, the change is so significant that they feel lost as they return home. Not all injuries are visible, and for some, the invisible injuries are the ones that hurt the most.

Our Veterans may also return home with brain injuries. Whether a direct hit to the head, injury with multiple traumas, or a blast injury, individuals returning to the States with these injuries face the same struggles as those facing a brain injury here, with the added components of battle experience layered on top.

Veterans need the support of their families, their communities, and their medical teams to ensure a safe and healthy return home.  The goal is to always return home to their previous life and work, but with a brain injury, that may not always be possible. Ensuring that the pathways and support systems that assist with the return of our Veterans into the mainstream of life remain open and clear should be a focus of all of us - for us to remain a strong and free country, we need people that are willing to fight those battles for us, and that they can trust that they will be cared for when they return home.

Many thanks to all of the Veterans that are in my life, and special thanks to those Veterans that returned home, only to fight the war on our streets as they become law enforcement officers in their home communities.

God Bless you all.


A Solo Partnership - those words do not really go together well, do they?

I have been mulling over those words in my head for over a week and it was finally time to put pencil to paper (or fingers to keyboard). When you see those words together, what does it make you think of? What can you imagine someone might mean when they string them together?

How can you be both solo and a partner?

This is an entirely possible situation, and one that is talked about freely in support blogs and small conversations between those that understand. Relationships that form as a partnership can somehow fragment into a puzzle, one in which the while picture is present, the pieces just don't seem to fit together the same way anymore.  What you get is a picture that looks normal, but doesn't quite work together the way it did in the past.

I often refer to my conversations with families and spouses in my blog that live with a loved one that survived a brain injury.  The conversations can go in many different directions, but one of the most common places they journey is to this feeling of aloneness, of being part of a marriage that is lonely.

Now, this isn't just a "brain injury" issue.  I think many of us know plenty of marriages where one person has checked out.  It happens - people get bored, complacent, and want to move on.

In the world of brain injury, both individuals may be present, but may not be able to be engaged in the true sense of a partnership.  Cognitive limitations, emotional detachment, fear, anger or memory loss can erode the daily interactions and play that occur when people are in a partnership.  Changes within conversational structure, patterns of interaction or just the difference in ones ability to help and plan throughout a day can impact a marriage.

These changes can go unnoticed by the injured partner, or if noticed, may be difficult to adjust. The caregiver may be able to bridge the gap between the two individuals, but eventually, a continuous pattern of compensating for that gap in communication and partnership becomes too much to continuously cross - and fatigue seeps in.

Partnership by definition needs two or more to participate - when one cannot participate due to a brain injury, the partnership becomes a solo pursuit of determination to keep it together.

A solo partnership cannot last forever.

So now you are asking yourself why bother? What stay around? Why would anyone stay when staying just makes you feel even more lonely than being alone?

I asked that question of those around me, and the answers that I got brought me to tears, and I realized the answers were true for me as well. When asked, why do you stay I am told:

I stay because when she laughs out loud in that way, I remember all the times we laughed together.

I stay because when he gets that bossy tone of voice, I remember all the times he would tell me to get things done, and give me a quick kiss and a smile as a thank you, and I knew that I would do anything that he asked.

I stay because when he thinks I am not looking, I watch him close his eyes and smile while listening to his music, and he looks just like he did before he got hurt.

I stay because sometimes, he looks at me, and really sees me again, and time goes away for just that second, and I know that somewhere he is in there.

I stay because he didn't ask for this, and for better or worse, we will figure out a way to make it work. And sometimes, he remembers to tell me he loves me, and if he can remember the love at those times, so can I.

A solo partnership - not what anyone has asked for, but what some have been given. The emotional strength it takes to survive is astounding, but the strength in those that work through brain injury recovery is equally amazing - and sometimes recognition of the strength in one another can be the bridge to carry that partnership again.

* It is important to both Frank and I that I are clear that not all conversation, situations or topics are part of our life and reality.  Each brain injury life is different, and with that, it is important to know that this blog reflects many families with brain injury, not just ours. In order to honor Frank, I want to be clear that when speaking about relationships and trials, I am not always referring to our family.