61: Project DownRange

61: Project DownRange

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Recovering from Traumatic Brain Injuries

Project DownRange

The cruelest lies are often told in silence.

~Adlai Stevenson

We were two weeks away from Christmas and a divorce. My husband was an American veteran, proudly serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom from 2003-2004 when he sustained a traumatic brain injury. If either of us had known about that diagnosis, it might have saved us both a lot of heartache. But that information was not passed along to me, his next of kin, and my husband thought the appointments he had been faithfully going to were simply to help treat his post-traumatic stress disorder.

During the eight years since his return from service, my husband had turned into a man I did not know. Once my beloved high-school sweetheart, he was now the spouse who told me eight times in one year to move out. Something told me I should stay.

My husband one day asked me to go into our safe and retrieve his military health records. Before I handed them over to my husband, I gave the documents a perusal of my own. There, right at the top of the twenty-page file, was his diagnosis from November 2007: “Traumatic Brain Injury. Post-concussion Syndrome.”

Because I had some medical background, I understood exactly what those words meant. The anger. The personality changes. The inappropriate behavior. It all suddenly made sense. At that moment I realized that the myriad health issues we had been dealing with for years were attributable to a TBI. It wasn’t that my husband no longer loved me like I once thought. It was that his TBI was changing him in ways I hadn’t understood before.

Now, two years later, we live on five acres, away from the triggers of the impact zone. I am now able to take care of the needs of our family without the stress of the unknown. Learning not to respond to his unfiltered comments was hard. Some days were harder. Reminding myself that none of us asked for this helps ease the daily struggles. Finding peace within myself during the silence of the day is how I find my inner strength. I am far from perfect but our family is strong enough to survive the battles of brain injuries. Our daughters are understanding when their father’s symptoms are heightened and they are compassionate about his memory issues, fatigue and other frustrating symptoms.

This injury might be a hidden wound of war, but in our family it is far from hidden. But it will not define us. In fact, it will only make us stronger. And that’s why I started Project DownRange to help educate other military families about the existence of TBIs in their returning heroes.

~Sarah Jenkins

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