Continuation from February 16, 2014, Survivor—Nich Sorensen’s Story
Written by, Jamie Sorensen
From the time of the car accident in 1999, Nich has gone from one job to another. Having a brain injury makes it extremely difficult to do even the most mundane jobs. He can “land” the job, but keeping it is a whole different story. For the last 5 years, he has been our stay at home parent, while I work outside the home. There are days he struggles with the fact that he can’t work. He’d love to be able to provide for his family and goes through ups and downs of feeling helpless. As often as I tell him that being a stay at home parent is more demanding than most jobs, he still has a hard time realizing he can’t hold down a normal job, or work a regular 40 hour a week job – it’s not physically or mentally possible. Having him stay home with the kids has its definite advantages! One of the side effects of his brain injury is OCD; it comes in handy when he does the cleaning! To me, his “job” is priceless.
Emotional insecurities are another struggle. Almost everyone that Nich was close to at the time of the accident, are now gone. People have a difficult time understanding what he goes through and deals with on a daily basis. When you look at my husband, you see a “normal” looking person; nothing stands out, or screams “I have a brain injury!” They are quick to judge, quick to think that he is lazy or unproductive, quick to think that he is ‘normal’ and should be doing everything a ‘normal’ person is doing. Many think his brain injury miraculously healed because they can’t see it. It’s hard for people to remember what he went through, and what he will be dealing with for the rest of his life. Since the accident, Nich sometimes doesn’t know how to feel, and has a hard time expressing grief or sadness. There are times when he knows he should be sad, or cry, but he can’t. There isn’t a day that goes by, that he doesn’t think about the accident, or about his best friend Melissa. It’s taken Nich years, to try and learn how to deal with his emotions of grief, sadness, loss, guilt, anger, and resentment. It’s still a work in progress, but he’s making improvements.
Life feels lonely and secluded at times. So many people have refused to take the time to understand what happened to Nich, or care about what is currently going on with his brain injury. Sadly, the people in our life (with the exception of his sister Amanda – who has remained such a close friend to Nich) have failed to remember the trauma that Nich’s brain and body went through; that it is something he will be dealing with for the rest of his life. We have ourselves, our three amazing children, and Nich’s fantastic neuropsychologist (who has been a true lifesaver time and time again). We don’t have outside help. It’s very exhausting at times, both emotionally and physically. I wish I could quit my full time job, stay home with the kids, and be a full time caregiver for my husband. Then I wouldn’t worry and stress so much when I’m away, and could be more helpful around the house. I also wish I could help him realize we will never abandon him and he will not be alone. My goal is to help others realize what he deals with every single day, and understand that his brain injury won’t just magically go away.
Our kids have had to grow up a little faster than we wanted. They know their Dad’s brain isn’t like everyone else’s, and he struggles with things most people don’t. They have to be patient and explain things more than once. They can’t always go outside and play when Dad has an “off” day. If I’m at work, they have to stay home and play inside, so they can keep an eye on Dad. Because he can’t drive, they have to walk a lot in the summertime (a good thing!). They know that Dad doesn’t remember things (no short term memory), and has A LOT of doctor appointments! Sometime they wonder why Dad isn’t laughing with them when they watch movies and something funny happens. When we go on vacation, they feel bad, because Dad can’t always participate in everything (like ride all the rides at Disneyland); he has to sit on the ‘sidelines’ watching.
The kids know Dad loves them and would do anything for them. They have him wrapped around their little fingers! If they ever want something, they ask their Dad first; if they have any problems they deal with Dad, rather than wait for me to come home. Dad is the fun parent. When he’s feeling okay, he’s the one who will play basketball, video games, walk to the store to buy treats with them. Dad is the one who begs and pleads with me to let them stay up late, and go to school late on occasion.
Having a brain injury has completely changed my husband. I can’t honestly say that the struggles we deal with have gotten any easier over the years—they’re just different struggles now. Even with his injury, he is an amazing, wonderful, astonishing husband and father; I couldn’t hope or want for anything more. Knowing all that I know now, I’d still marry Nich in a heartbeat.
I just want to send a quick THANK YOU to Ann, Amanda, the BIAU, Barbara (for this amazing opportunity), Melissa (in our thoughts every single day), the Benson Family, and to all of you out there who are taking the time to read this story. Hopefully there will be something in our story you can relate to, or help you understand what someone else is going through with a TBI.
Thank you Jamie for sharing your thoughts and feelings. Nich truly is a survivor!