One of the aspects that have come because of this blog is that a lot of people confide in me about their pain. Friends, acquaintances, strangers who stumbled upon the page, TBI survivors, other caregivers, all sorts of people have reached out to me to ask how I deal with my pain. The truth is, I have no plan. I’ve never had a plan. It’s not like you go through life carrying around an emergency backpack of how you’re going to mentally get through something if nothing bad has ever happened to you before. Crap is thrown at you when you’re least expecting it, and from there you come up with a strategy.
Let me start out with where I was mentally before this hell began. Pre-Sherrin, I was a very care-free and happy person. I had never really gone through a tragedy. I mean sure, I had grandparents, other relatives, and some friends of friends pass before, but none of it was really a tragedy that really shook me to my core. I never thought that bad things could happen to me.
I think this is why the accident caught me so off guard. Here I was, a normal 20 year old college sophomore who didn’t have too much responsibility other than getting through school. Then Sherrin happened. I had to throw my carefree personality out the window and swallow reality: and the reality was that my sister was dying. I just couldn’t fathom that I might be one of those people that would lose their sibling or that my parents would be one of those parents that lost a child. It felt as if life punched me straight in the throat without any warning.
When the accident happened, I lost myself. I didn’t realize it has happening for a few months, probably because I was numb to all thoughts other than wondering if my sister was going to wake up. I didn’t really find myself again for about two years. I cried at least a few times a week, mainly from stress of not being with Sherrin all of the time. Every decision I made
I thought was wrong. If I wasn’t spending time with Sherrin or helping my parents, I felt guilty. People would tell me not to feel guilty because I still needed to have time for myself, but I couldn’t help it. The guilt consumed me. And the time that I was with Sherrin I felt like I was wasting my youth. I just wanted to be a normal college student again who went out on the weekends and hung out with friends after class.
Everyone saw this. Everyone around me knew about my stress and my guilt. I wasn’t that fun person anymore. I was angry that I couldn’t be a normal college student and I was frustrated that I couldn’t dedicate all of my time to Sherrin. I just couldn’t win; something always had to give.
My guilt dwindled down when I moved home after college to take care of Sherrin. Not because the fact that I’m there is making things easier, but because Sherrin is happier because I’m there is making things easier. Sherrin and I are extremely close and we make each other incredibly happy, so when she’s happy, she tries harder… and she gets better. Seeing Sherrin’s progress from the time I’ve moved home and now brings me peace. I finally feel like I can maintain a balance, with work, friends, and being with Sherrin, which is why I feel strong enough to write this post now. I’ve been living at home for about 6 months, and when most people say moving back in with their parents is annoyance and they miss their freedom, I finally feel like I can be myself again. I feel freer than ever.
A good friend of mine recently told me, “You’re finally coming back, Kac.” This is a friend that was there before the accident and was there through all of the horrible aftermath. Her saying that I was coming back made me realize that I am coming to peace with myself- that I’m finally figuring out my equilibrium and that everything isn’t so miserable. If you can’t tell from some of my initial posts on here, I used to see the world so darkly. Now, not as much.
So my answer as to how I deal with the pain? Time plus Sherrin’s happiness. It took me a while to realize how much I contribute to her progress and the fact that I can now be there for her all of the time adds to her happiness brings me strength. You can get through nearly anything with time.
I hope for those that read this post for trying to cope with their own tragedies find something useful in it. I can’t say that this is a universal full-proof plan of coping mechanisms, but it’s worked for me.