All I Want for Christmas

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An open letter to those in my family …

Everyone,

I know it’s a royal pain in the ass living with someone who has a TBI. I completely understand that it must suck having to accept the fact that more than likely I will forget something important at least once I week, no matter how many visual reminders I leave.

I know it must feel like I don’t care enough to remember, even though you know I physically can’t, I’m sure it still feels that way. I know you can’t count on me for much of anything because the only thing you can count on is that I won’t remember it … whatever “it” is. With all of the pain my faulty brain has caused I don’t feel like I have to right to ask for anything. Still, I hope that you’ll love me enough to hear me out.

Please, I’m at the point of begging, please, stop saying any/all of the following:

  • When I’m really excited about a “new” movie that’s finally made it to cable, please don’t say “But we’ve already seen it! Together! At the movies! Remember?!”  with a tone that suggests I’ve ripped your heart out and ground it under the heel of my boot.
  • When I want to debate the psychology of a topic, please do not say “We’ve already talked about this.” sometimes with, sometimes without, a sigh of exasperation.
  • When asking a question about your schedule or plans we’ve made please don’t say “I already told you yesterday (or whenever) when we were in the kitchen (or where ever)!! Remember?” Details don’t help and they only serve to make me feel like more of an idiot.
  • Any of the hundreds of damaging variations on the above themes.

I’ve thought about the reasons you might say these things. After reflection, I can’t fathom why you would. Stop asking me if I remember. Just stop! Obviously I don’t fucking remember or I wouldn’t have done/said the thing that caused you to berate me about it. All you are doing is hurting me. Every day, there are countless times that I forget countless things. Every single time my self esteem takes another hit. When I forget things that effect people other than myself, I pile on guilt along with the hit to my self worth, and a hefty dose of you’d be so much better off without me.

Would it kill you to simply let me believe this really is a movie I haven’t seen? You don’t even have to watch with me. Just tell me to enjoy and go watch some testosterone-infused explosion film. I get to enjoy a movie a second time and, bonus, not feel like a complete ass for forgetting about when we saw it at the theater together two fucking years ago. What could that possibly hurt?

If we’ve already had a conversation about a topic I broach, then gift me with the five minutes it takes to bring it up and make my point. For christ’s sake, you don’t even have to engage! You can just say “Hmp. Interesting point.” or some other noncommittal phrase and that’ll be it. I won’t be made to feel like a waste of skin/space/time, an idiot, and a burden all at once. Again, it won’t cost you anything but five minutes of your time.

The only reason I can possibly think of that you (collectively) would want to keep saying any of the above is because you are trying to hurt me. If you’re pissed at life for being stuck with a partner that is a fraction of what you want and the only way you know how to deal with it is taking it out on me then, sure, keep at it. Hurting me must be the only motivation as, I can assure you, pain is the only result. It’s not going to suddenly fix my memory. It’s not going to magically restore whatever thing it is that I’ve forgotten this time.

What it will do is cause me to feel bad/sad/worthless/burdensome. I may not remember why I feel that way but I guarantee I will continue to feel that bad, usually until I go to bed where I will obsess about how stupid I am. When I wake up in the morning I get to spend the next day letting down the people I love over and over again.

During the past 6 months or so, I have found myself becoming progressively more quiet. I give up during conversations multiple times per day. I don’t open my mouth because I know the only thing that comes out is stupidity. I have a constant feeling of “why bother”. I make noncommittal sounds and let everyone else contribute to fill the silence.

So, friends … family … what do I want for Christmas? Compassion. It doesn’t cost a dime. I’m genuinely sorry for being such a pain in the ass to put up with. I know this is not what you signed on for. If you can’t take it anymore then tell me and we’ll figure out how to part ways. If you’re staying, then please, could you try to go easy on me? You cannot possibly understand what this is like for me. I know you can’t and I’m not asking you to. I am asking that you don’t add to the shit pile that is my self worth. I’m not even asking you to love me enough to be compassionate every time. Hell, I’d settle for half the time.

I’m suffocating. My ability to cope is deteriorating. I’m not bouncing back the way I used to. I don’t know how much more I can take.

I’m sorry I’ll never get better.
I love you.
Thank you.

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2 comments

  1. "Whirled" Peas · December 28

    I am so sorry. I understand what you are going through, well not exactly. My wife is struggling with what I believe is early on set dementia, but the results are the same. I want to say the same things that your loved ones say to you. In their collective defense, I don’t think they are trying to hurt you, they are trying to help. What I was trying to do until I realize that it is not working is I would say “Remember we did that…” hoping that it would prompt the memory. Now I simply tell myself that it is not her being stupid, or forgetful for purposely trying to piss me off. This is a progressive disease and it is what it is. Not her fault, get on with it and love her through it.

    I am starting to enjoy watching my wife have a child like enjoyment as she sees things that excite her, unless I am a passenger and she driving then I have to keep her focused on the road and not the pretty Christmas lights.

    In a weird kind of way I it is a blessing as you get to see so many more exciting movies now! You get to have more lively debates! :).

    Like

  2. Anonymous Chick · December 28

    Thank you for your kind words of support. Neurological issues of any form are beyond challenging to cope with.

    Like

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