Wednesday, May 19, 2010


Today I want to talk a bit about brain injuries. And the things that nobody tells you. And the myth of miraculous recovery. And heartbreak.
From my perspective. Because that's what I've got.
So, fair warning.

It's been 2 and a half years since Elliot's brain injury and lots of people that he meets have no idea that it happened to him at all.
His recovery looks pretty miraculous. It wasn't.
He has had to work excruciatingly, heartrendingly hard at it.

His near-perfect word recall comes at the price of months of speech language pathologist work. Every smooth conversation now comes from a place where he was stopping mid sentence; his face tensing up in frustration, the word he wanted bitterly close but not making it onto his tongue. He'd hiss out a "god damn" or "fuck" between clenched teeth.

I had trouble NOT plucking the missing words out of his mouth and tidying them into the conversation. Because that's what I do. As his much yappier twinnie, as a person who is a social smoother by nature, as someone who loves him. Letting him battle with his recall was hard. Really really hard.
Frustration can make a person furious. Angry all of a sudden when he wasn't before. Or infuriated to the point of tears. And both of those things are symptoms of brain injury anyway.

His easygoing sigh at a misplaced word is a victory. And one I'm fiercely proud of.

Part of the trouble with how "normal" he looks is that when he does have relapses or when he does something that is symptomatic it's somehow worse.
Not just a scab peeled, but a fresh wound. A swift-kick-in-the-pants reminder of what's lost. "Oh hey, you were feeling smug about that. Have some of this so you don't forget."
And then there's grieving to be done again. Maybe that's how that works? Your heart breaks again and again but a little less each time? I hope. I hope.


  1. Erin, I am just stunned by this post. I've been admiring your writing for months. I felt a sort of kinship with you and I couldn't put my finger on it. I had previously commented on your blog under the name Abby. I now have a blog called PTSD: A Love Story. I know that PTSD is not the same thing as a brain injury. But, my husband returned from his second deployment with such severe PTSD that our lives have turned upside down. I'm not trying to make this about me, I just share your pain in that it is frustrating protecting someone from the agony of an invisible injury. From the outside they look perfectly fine. No one gets to see the intense effort that it takes to appear so normal. I am so sorry for your brother's misfortune but I am happy that he has such a loving sister to lean on. He is very lucky to have you.

  2. Emme. Thank you so much for your comment. I can't imagine how difficult an experience yours is. I've been reading your blog and your writing is wonderful. Really. Succinct and moving and your love and bravery rings through clear as a bell. Is it OK If I write a "go here, read this" post about your story? (totally OK if it's not!)

  3. Hi Erin

    I have no personal experience of anything like this. So with that in mind I'm not going to say anything like "it must be hard". That much is clear from your writing. All I can do is wish you and yours the patience and stamina needed to keep plodding on. My heart goes out to you.


  4. Thanks Affi'enia. Lots of days are brill, and I feel super lucky that my brother is here at all. But some day are... not so brill. Having someplace to vent has been really helpful for me.And you're very kind for reading the not-fun parts.


Related Posts with Thumbnails