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!
Very touching. These are also the problems that people with mental illnesses have. They look well but can’t deal well with the problems of every day living. Sad wrenching situations.
I am Barbara’s cousin, Scott. I don’t have the type of struggle you are dealing with, but I want you to know I empathize with you, and wish I knew Nich. I hope that you have a good support group from Church or other places, and that they understand him as you described him. He sounds like a great guy!
Thank you so much for your thoughts Wanda and Scott – it’s so nice to hear others warm wishes and concerns; they really do go a long way! 🙂
Dear Barbara, After reading the story on Nick, I was so touched by this. I totally related to the brain injury and I have also had many good friends leave me as well. It is really hard for some people to understand brain injuries and I so appreciated reading his story because it made me realize that other people are dealing with this too. My heart goes out to Nich and his family. Will you please let them know how much I was touched by this. Thank you for posting this story!
Cindy Oliver Sent from my iPad
Your comments are so touching! Thank you for taking the time to read our story. My goal in agreeing to post our story, was to reach at least one person who might be experiencing the same things that we are, and to realize they weren’t alone. There are so many days that we feel alone in what we are going through, but it’s nice to hear that other people are going through the same challenges in life. I’m sorry that you’re having to go through it, but just know that there is support out there! Thank you again for the kind comments!
I have been thinking about responding to this story for over two weeks now. I finally got the courage to do so. Thank you for posting this story. Our situations are kind of similar. I met my husband in elementary school when we were very young. He sustained a TBI several years after we met. We were reunited back in 2010 and have been married for almost 3 years. It is reassuring to know that there are others out there having some of the same struggles that we live with everyday. We are in our late 20’s and we have a long time to figure out how this all works and how to adapt to the changes that are constantly happening in our lives. We are in need of a support group online or in person for couples that have married into situations such as ours. Do you have any recommendations for these groups or any other blogs such as this? I am so thankful that you wrote this story! Your story really touched me and helps me realize there are other couples out there just like us!
Thank you so much for your thoughtful response. I’m so grateful that you were able to gain the courage to leave a comment. I completely understand what you’re going through. We’ve been married for 6 years now, but things are still constantly changing. It’s definitely difficult at times, but it helps to know there are other people out there who are dealing with the same type of situations. Sometimes it’s hard for me to believe that someone else could possibly be going through all that we are. You are right, you have plenty of time to figure out how this all works 🙂 and to adapt to the constant change. This is the first type of support information that I’ve found. The yearly Brain Injury Alliance of Utah conference was a great help to us! This is where I met the creator of this blog. Their website also has some information you might find helpful: http://biau.org/support-groups/ or there is also an online forum I found: http://www.traumaticbraininjuryforum.com/index.php?PHPSESSID=4kra8pp40j10op9ocqp5l3l586;wwwRedirect
Where do you live? If you have any questions, or just want someone to talk to, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you for your suggestions and getting back with me so quickly. I am currently living in South Jordan.
Are you going to the BIAU annual 5k this year?
Thank you for your email- I will definitely keep it. It is difficuly to talk with people about what is going on if they don’t understand. It is encouraging to know that I will be able to talk with someone with a similar situation. I will keep in contact.
Yes, we will going to the BIAU annual 5K in May; we’ve gone the last two years, and my husband actually had the opportunity to design the tshirt for the BIAU last year 🙂
That is awesome that they let Nich help design the t-shirt. I bet that was a lot of fun. My husband and I will be going to the race again this year too. Hopefully we will cross paths while we are there 🙂
There is a Caregiver Alliance Group that meets the third Thursday monthly from 7-8pm. Next meeting is tonight at IMC 5171 So. Cottonwood St. in Murray, UT. South Office Building #1, Transplant Conference Room. Tonight they will be discussing Locating Community Resources, by Ken Kraudy, Outreach Coordinator for the 211 Help Line. To be added to the email list contact email@example.com. I hope this helps. Thank you for your comment and let me know if you’d like to share your story on Uniting Caregivers.
I think that a support group would be of great help to us. We will try to make it to the next one.
Your blog has helped me a lot in so many different ways. Thank you! If I have more questions I will send them your way.