You Can Have Both

(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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6 Comments on "You Can Have Both"

Profile photo of Maria
Apr 15, 2014

Welcome to! This a wonderful community filled with lots of support!

Profile photo of G-J
Apr 16, 2014

Welcome! This is an incredibly supportive community of people. I hope you find it as helpful as I have. I feel like I’ve been around so long (here since June 2010) that Denise may kick me out soon!

The really, really short version of my story is that in December 2009 my husband (then 55) was diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment (MCI), a possible alzheimer’s precursor, was put on disability and had to retire a year later. Fast forward to now when our only child is a high school senior and Steve is relatively stable.

Like you, I can say that this journey has exposed me to a variety of things I would not have otherwise encountered. I have met so many people that have become good friends because of this, most of them through this website.

Please let me know if I can assist you here! Welcome! :)

Profile photo of Denise
Apr 16, 2014

Hi Laura–I’m sooo glad to read what you wrote!! I think the inclination is to put life on hold during caregiving and that just makes life soooooo much harder. Life can go on and I think it’s awesome you’re going to tell us how it does. :)

Looking forward to getting to know you, your brother and your family better.

Thanks so much joining us–it’s great to have you here.

Profile photo of Trish
Apr 16, 2014

Hi, Laura! Welcome to this extremely caring and supportive site. I also care for my brother but he has had life-long intractable epilepsy. He was able to live independently for many years but his seizures, brain injury from numerous falls and overall decline has necessitated me taking him in and he now lives with me and my husband (@kreisler). Even though his condition has been life-long, the decline was fairly slow so he was just a regular kid and young adult who just happened to have seizures. He is no longer able to care for himself but maintains a wonderful attitude (except when on a new medication!). We’re in a different situation than you but I think you will find that even though everyone’s situation is different, we go through many of the same emotions, struggles and joys. Happy to have you here.