(Editor’s Note: Today, we welcome a new blogger, Laura, who cares for her brother. You can connect with her on her profile page: @bro5wt.)
I’ve started this blog about 50 times in my head but every time I sit down to write the first post nothing comes out. I feel like there is so much to say I just don’t know where to start. I suppose the best place is why. Why am I even doing a blog in the first place?
My younger brother Dave was in a car accident in March 2005 leaving him with a traumatic brain injury (TBI) and a long list of mental and physical disabilities. Over the years I have gone through a wide range of emotions and a definite process of learning how to cope with the changes that this event brought to my life and what my future would hold as a result of it. At various times I have looked for support and education and have found limited resources available for the family, specifically siblings, of those with TBIs. Although I know it is not true, I have often felt alone and that I was stumbling along in the dark.
In nine years I have gone from a single woman in my early twenties, working as a newly graduated registered nurse to a married thirty-something, stay-at-home mom of two young children. This is a time even in a “normal” person’s life that brings great change. I also had the task of adding in Dave’s recovery, our changing relationship, and how it would possibly affect the path that my life took and the people who entered it.
I looked for information about how others before me had handled these milestones, like dating, marriage, and children, and came up empty handed. There was very little and it wasn’t easy to find. What was available tended to be targeted at helping school-age children process the change in their sibling or was written by middle age adults as they navigated becoming the primary caregivers of their sibling. I also frequently found things targeted toward the siblings of people with lifelong developmental disabilities, like Down Syndrome, but few for those that had a traumatic, life-altering event. All of this was great but not what I needed and I figured there must be others like me.
After the accident I hated the saying “Everything happens for a reason.” I just couldn’t comprehend what reason existed to take away a young college student’s independence and function, to take away his future. However, I was only seeing the tree, and not the whole forest. I now realize that people have come in and out of our lives who we may never have met if it weren’t for the accident. These people have held our hands as we cried, laughed with us, and provided direction through the foggy maze of life with a TBI.
I have also become more certain, especially as I repeatedly came up short in my own search for guidance, that I needed to tell our story. I am by no means an expert in anything, especially TBI, caregiving, and how to make that all work with a family of my own, and I’m sure I’ll make mistakes along the way.
But maybe, just maybe, telling my story will help another young adult looking at a future of caring for a disabled sibling, see that you can do both. You can live your life. You can date and go out with friends. You can get married and have kids. You can also be a really awesome brother or sister while doing all that. It doesn’t have to be one or the other. You can have both. It may not be easy, but you can do it.
So, please join me as I attempt to merge my chosen and unchosen paths and do my best to make sure Dave, my husband and I, and our children all come out on the other side relatively unscathed.
Dave and I, circa 2007.
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