My Guide to a Support Network
As the email that my mom sent said, one of the hardest things on me was being away from my daughter. It broke my heart. But she lived on the east coast, and I lived on the west coast. I tried to move back to the east coast to be near my daughter, but living on my own during that recovery period was just an impossibility for me. There was no support network for me back east. There was no one, no friends, no family, no real way to meet people, no support network, this made life even harder. I had to go to doctor appointments alone and I was still not in very good shape.
The alternative was to fly back east to visit her. My disability benefits started (that’s a whole other issue) around 2 years after my brain explosion happened. I say it like that sometimes because it sounds funny to me. So, I started flying across the country every month or every 6 weeks or so. Plane tickets, hotel rooms, rental cars, this is where most of my money and my time went. The trips lasted a few days to a week or so.
Although I saw my daughter quite a bit, it didn’t erase the distance. Flying back and forth started to take a toll on me, physically and mentally. Physically, it was hard to fly due to the cramped nature of airplanes. Driving to the airport, picking up rental cars, checking into hotels, eating out, flight delays and cancellations, it becomes physically exhausting.
Those same stressors cause mental exhaustion. I flew into New York when my ex was living in Connecticut. Flight delays and cancellations happened often, mostly for weather. Summertime thunderstorms, winter snow storms, it was a mess at times.
Finding things to do was difficult when you’re waiting at an airport for hours or overnight and don’t know anyone. I had already been to see all of the traditional tourist sites in New York. I saw the World Trade Center site after all of the debris was cleaned up and only a large pit remained. One time I tried to go to the beach but that ended in disaster. After the subway left the city, a transit cop asked me what I was doing. I told her I was going to the beach and she said that I need to get off the subway at the next stop and go back to the city. I assumed it was a safety issue and complied with her suggestion.
Funny excerpt about subway trains
Me, my daughter, and her brother went to Washington, D.C. We were standing at the platform waiting for the train. It was a little crowded but not too bad. We had to wait for the people exiting the train. The subway system in DC is very good by the way. So the people get off, others get on in front of us. My daughter and her brother step into the train and were watching me get on. Unfortunately, my right arm and right leg made it onto the train. The doors shut and I was only half-way on the train. The kids started crying, and here I am stuck in the door. I still have no idea how it happened. If the train left with me stuck in the door, I probably wouldn’t be here today. Eventually, I shoved the doors open and jumped inside. I immediately hug the kids and tell them it’s ok. It was a weird situation, but we just went on with our day.
Usually I would go find a place to eat or find a quiet corner to sit in and relax. It’s extremely difficult to relax sitting up. Laying down on the couch or my bed was the preferrable choice. It’s honestly not because I am lazy, laying down just provides the most comfort. It has to do with how the fluid in my brain is distributed and support for my head.
Needless to say, flying back and forth began to take a toll on me. One year I flew 49,000 miles. The number of miles didn’t upset me, it was the fact that I was only 1,000 miles away from achieving Gold status with the airline. That meant more perks like automatic upgrades to first class. I was a silver member so I go upgraded sometimes. I am tall so the little seats with no legroom were horrible for me. An aisle seat was always the best. In first class, I didn’t have to worry about legroom.
When my brain exploded, I moved in with my mom and stepdad. I can’t even begin to describe how much they helped and supported me and I am always thankful. When it happened, I was 32 years old. Not a horrible age to be living with my parents. As the years went by and my recovery was slowly moving forward, living with my parents became quite an ordeal. Me and my mom butted heads sometimes, I had no private life, and who would want to date a 40-year-old man who lives with his parents? These are questions I started asking myself.
Friendship and mental health
I started venturing out with my friends after a while and slowly integrated myself into somewhat of a social life. Spending time at home was becoming mentally difficult. My parents were my network, they were who I had the most contact with. Socializing gave me an outlet and widen my support/social network. Slowly I built up a good friend network, people that I am close to too this day. I can’t begin to tell you how important it is to have friends. It really does effect your mental health.
The friendships that I developed gave me an outlet to be myself. When I was at home, I was always in my room just watching TV, or doing something on the computer. I had different projects I tried, like making surfboards. But I wasn’t very good at it and it took many months to make just one. Professionals make one board in a day or two. It gave me an outlet. The friends I have, I am very close to.
It is strange to say that most of my friends didn’t know me before my brain thing. They don’t know what I was like, what my personality was. To be honest, I don’t know what I was like either. I like to think that I was pretty much that same. We have had many adventures together. The one thing that I can say about my friends is that it is impossible to be in a bad mood around them. We are always having fun, laughing, joking, no awkward pauses. My girlfriend is the same way, I can never be in a bad mood around her. A support network is invaluable.
I’ll add a second part to this in my next post.