Brain injury is a silent devil; a thief in the night stealing away the characteristics of a person, leaving them isolated and bare. For my husband, brain injury stole his self-confidence.
My husband was a man’s man. He was rugged and strong and confident. His confidence first drew me to him. With him I always felt safe and secure.
He used to fight forest fires. That was his thing, taking on fires so much bigger than him.
His confidence was the first thing to go.
Now he worries a lot.
Is the world laughing at him?
Do they think he’s stupid?
Will he understand this movie? This book? This conversation?
For five years now he has lived at the mercy of his own brain.
Will it fail him?
Will it cooperate?
Will he succeed?
His confidence to walk with his head held high, knowing without a doubt who he is…is gone.
Many of us don’t realize our confidence is there, until it’s not.
He can’t trust his own brain anymore. It fails him on the easiest of tasks, the most mundane skills in life, that even the simple things take concentration. Watching a movie with a difficult plot line (if he can even stay awake), reading more than one page of a book, having a conversation in a crowded room.
He is left to live a sort of half-life.
However, months ago he proved that when it matters most, his brain still works.
While having a garage sale on June seventh, we heard a loud scream coming from the backyard. We live in a neighborhood full of children including our own, so we had grown immune to the screams that serenaded the street. However, this scream was different.
It was desperate, terrified…chilling.
I ran to our backyard not knowing what I would find, when something caught the corner of my eye. I looked up. There, over our fence to our neighbor’s yard I saw our four year old neighbor, Bryn, hanging head first from her second story window. I screamed.
My husband came running at the sound of my voice and saw her hanging there, her face red with fear.
So there we were my husband and I, watching a four year old losing her battle with gravity and the only thing standing between us and her was a six foot high fence. I tried to get over the fence, but couldn’t. My flip flops kept slipping on the smooth slats of the wood. I looked to my husband.
This is when, on a typical post-injury day, his brain would have shut down. Instead, he gripped the top of the fence and hurled himself over in one bound, breaking the board along the way. He raced to the window, looking up at Bryn, who stared back down at him with one tiny hand amazingly still clutching the window sill. Both her legs were already out as she hung there in a sort of head stand toward the ground.
My husband said, “Let go and I’ll catch you, I promise.”
Bryn screamed, “NO!”
But seconds later, she had no choice. Her tiny fingers gave way and her body plummeted head first toward the hard ground. My husband reached out his arms, hoping to catch her.
And he did.
He bent down to soften the fall, his knuckles grazing the ground, but she was there, safe in his arms.
I ran around to the front door to alert her mother who had been in the shower. When my husband rounded the corner, he held a crying four year old in his arms with a relieved smile on his face. And for a brief moment, I saw a glimmer of what had been lost so many years ago.
I saw his confidence shining through him.
So much of my husband’s days now consist of the inner battle between him and his brain injury. Of trying to be who he used to be, and who he is forced to be now.
But when the moment counted, when he truly needed his brain the most, it worked.
He said “no” to the local news station for fear of his brain failing him in the interview, but the local newspaper did finally get a story out of him.
There was no mention of his brain injury in the article. He said he didn’t think it needed to be a part of the story.
To read the article, click here.