Thursday, July 25, 2013

Marriage after brain injury

I am a television junkie. I use the word junkie because I'm way past addict. The good thing is so far no one has died of an overdose of television. One downside is that when I do interact with off-screen people, my contribution to conversations is often references to something I watched. I start with "Do you watch blank? No? Well so and so said blah blah blah."

Once my daughter asked "What's new?" and then qualified it with "and I mean with you, not the Real Housewives." I suppose she has a point. Having television friends is great though. They never seem to mind if you don't understand them and have them repeat themselves over and over. It's no problem if you don't pay attention to them or occasionally yell at them for being so stupid.

The best piece of advice I got was from television. It probably saved my marriage. A couple years after my surgery, as it was becoming apparent that my brain injury might be permanent, my relationship with my husband was very tense. We were fighting constantly. I knew I had changed but I was struggling.

Eventually, we sought counseling. It cost us $200 a week and we mostly just took turns complaining about what the other person was doing wrong. At the end of each session, our therapist told us it was apparent how much we loved each other. It didn't help. We just kept fighting. I kept telling him he should just leave me. I could hardly stand being with myself so I was certain it was unbearable for him. Weeks went by with no change. We were approaching a breaking point.

Then one night we were watching television. There are very few shows we watch together but Criminal Minds was one. A child had been kidnapped and the parents were screaming at each other. JJ, an FBI agent, interjects. She says, "After a crisis, people often look for someone to blame. It is easier to focus that anger and frustration on a person rather than to accept that something bad just happened. Now is not the time to blame each other. You need to be able to lean on each other to make it through this."

My husband and I looked at each other. It was a revelation. That was exactly what we were doing. My brain injury was nobody's fault but we were both so angry. We quit therapy a week later. Now when people tell me I'm so lucky my husband is so supportive, I say "Do you watch Criminal Minds? No? Well, JJ said ..."