Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Beginning 2012

We are starting a New Year and yet it seems too familiar.
As I think back over 2011, Doug has increasingly struggled to maintain his life of joy and "mission". Whether it was the change in medications earlier in the year, or just the length of time he has been on so many drugs, their efficacy has changed and life has been more difficult.
 There has been change in memory, balance, and mood. But probably most significant to Doug's quality of life, there has been a change in focus. How much I realize the importance of purpose, as I  have sadly watched Doug lose his ability to encourage and engage friends thru a weekly phone call and ministry of sharing a Bible passage. It has been his passion to speak into the busy lives of about 40 friends each week, and he has been faithful to that for almost 13 years now. It has defined his days and filled his hours - from after breakfast, sometimes into the evenings, 3 or 4 days each week. What a blessing to him to feel needed and engaged regardless of how the brain injury has removed his ability to enjoy simple things like a good book, a TV program or a drive to the store.
In the past 2 months Doug has been hospitalized for 2 weeks for depression. Again, just before Christmas, the doctor was checking if there was a bed available  for him. In the morning he rises refreshed, but a cloud descends before we finish breakfast, and he retreats to bed to hide from the day. Without the desire to phone he seems empty. If he does engage, what spills out are worries and needless fears. He knows he is depressed but can seemingly do nothing to help himself. He resists my attempts to activate him until about 4:00 pm when he will get up, dress, and have supper. After supper he stays up until 9:30, but always needs to be led to do something. Otherwise he wanders aimlessly or sits with his eyes shut.
This tale is nothing new to those who have lived with depression. It is part of a scenario we endured before, between 1997 to 1999 after his brain injury, until his medications were successful. Perhaps the miracle is that those meds were effective for so long.
I know I have changed in those years as well. I see both hope and fear now. 15 years ago, there were few stones we left unturned in the fight to regain life and purpose. I had motivation and desire to beat this thing. I saw chemistry work a miracle and psychiatry forge a base on which to build a life. But I am now too aware that  brain injury can accelerate the effects of aging - physical and cognitive. Perhaps too, even though the desire is still there, I am more quick to realize my own tiredness and my own vulnerability in the face of mounting odds.
So as we move into 2012, we face an uncertain dance with time. Our future lies once more where God alone knows the outcome - between the wonders of modern medicine and  the cruelty of brain injury. As a caregiver, I'm OK if I take it one day at a time. "Day by day, and with each passing moment, strength I find to meet my troubles here."  I think I need to go to that piano in the living room, page 334, I think it is.....