Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Our wedding: the sequel

Here we are, back in New York after 5 years, three of which have been fairly interesting!

For those of you not that familiar with our story, let me share a quick overview.

5 years ago Jake and I travelled from the UK to New York to get married, in Central Park.  I can't really remember why we chose to do it this way, just that once the thought appeared, it was a decision that made itself.  And what a great decision!  It was a magical day and a memorable holiday, both in New York and then California where we ended our trip with a blissful, schedule-free, 10 day meander up the Pacific Coast Highway.

Fast forward two years and 15 days to the 26th October 2011, the day that everything changed; the day Jake was knocked off his bike by a careless driver and sustained a severe brain injury.

The effects of that injury have been pretty comprehensive and devastating, but one of the hardest (and I suspect weirdest) changes for Jake has been the damage to his long and short term memory (see previous blog: remember this).  

This meant he didn't remember most of our relationship, my name, our home, our cat and, heartbreakingly, our wedding.

If you follow this blog you'll know that Jake has made a truly extraordinary, against all the odds recovery.  He, and therefore we, is still challenged everyday by a range of complex deficits, but there is no doubt that we have been very, very lucky.

So, what else could we do to celebrate and embrace this luck on our fifth wedding anniversary? Yep, we're going to do it all again, 2:30pm tomorrow, back in Central Park, in the boat landing by Bow Bridge.  We're going to the same restaurant to celebrate after ( - can't recommend it enough) and wonderfully our wedding party has almost doubled since Our Wedding: the Original.  Honestly, I can't quite believe we're here.  As SIL tweeted this morning; small miracles.

Tomorrow is an opportunity to draw a line under the last three years and look forward to a different but happy future, full of opportunities. Whatever you're doing tomorrow please think of us and smile; wonderful things really can emerge out of all the crap stuff that happens in life, you just have to choose to look for the silver linings!

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Caught in the embers

Apologies if you come to this blog for a shot of positivity, but here's the thing; I'm depressed.

I'm lucky that my depression is related to the stress and trauma of the last three years and isn't the lifelong malaise that some battle.  I'm hoping this means I can conquer it.

How have I found myself in this land of sadness and confusion?  One of the best things about brain injury is that I have been lucky to connect with many men and women in the same position as me, caring for, supporting, cheerleading, providing therapy to and loving someone with a brain injury.  The shared tales of my contemporaries mean that I know I'm not alone in my current state of depression; it is part of being a warrior wife / husband / partner / son /daughter / sibling.

A common theme seems to be that the mental strength of the one doing the supporting depletes in direct correlation with the recovery and progress of the one with the buggered brain.  As the one we love slowly rises like a phoenix from the flames of their injury, we find ourselves sitting amongst the fading embers, covered in ash and wondering how the hell we got there.

For the last three years I have, quite rightly, put my life on pause.  I have embraced my warrior wife role and all focus has been on building an effective rehab team and creating an environment to give Jake the best possible chance to make the best possible recovery in the context of his complex, devastating injury.  I am proud of this and what we have achieved.  My gladiator husband has seized this opportunity and defied all the odds.  I don't doubt he will continue to do so, I'm just a bit worried about how useful I can be to him at the moment.  I don't really know who I am anymore and what my purpose or worth is.

Useless, worthless, purposeless; that's how I'm feeling right now and that alone tells me I'm not where I should be, out of focus, out of alignment with Charlie at her best.

I don't like this version of Charlie very much.  She drinks too much, overreacts, makes dubious choices, says and does selfish stuff and generally adds little value to anything.

Clearly I need to do something about this.  Firstly I'm going to up my happy pills again.  I had been reducing them, but the reality is I that I still need them at the moment.  I am imagining the sharp intake of disapproving breath from some of my readers; if that's you I would ask you to take a little time to do a little research and find a little empathy. 

One in four people will experience some kind of mental health problem in the course of a year ( Antidepressants are a crucial tool in managing clinical depression and work by increasing levels of a group of chemicals in the brain called neurotransmitters; they help you to manage the extremes of your emotions so that you can cope.  If you have a sore eye you might get some eye drops, but you'd let it heal on it's own; however, if you have impaired sight you wear glasses to correct this and enable you to function normally. If your mood is low because you've had a bad week then you might have a night out with good friends and probably feel a lot better, but if it is chronically or clinically low then you take antidepressants to correct this and enable you to function normally.  You should feel no more ashamed of taking antidepressants than wearing glasses. 

I do know that I have a responsibility to not just rely on these tablets though and I am also exercising more (yoga helps immensely) and have had some excellent counselling with a neuropsychologist.

The much anticipated 'Wedding: the Sequel' in New York next week followed by a second honeymoon in Antigua will undoubtedly help too.  Our brain injury won't go away though, so I shall continue to ask for help, keep looking for my worth and purpose and endeavour to grasp hold of Pheonix Jake's tail feathers, hopefully shaking off the embers and ash as we go.