As I sit here to write this, I am hesitant. I have music playing. It is the play list for when I feel this way. One of the ones that hits deep into my heart is “Learn to be Lonely” form Phantom of the Opera with Minnie Driver singing. In essence that it what I have had to learn as the song so harshly puts it:
Who will be there for you
Comfort and care for you
Learn to be lonely
Learn to be your one companion
The hesitation is because there are probably some that know me personally that this will be uncomfortable to read; however, it has been on my mind – no, my heart to share with those going through the pain of having a spouse with TBI and care giving.
In our story, because each one is very unique, my husband is void of emotions. I have presented that prior to this blog, but I want to share deeper. Being void of emotions means so much more in an intimate way. We used to talk about our love tanks. We would ask each other, “Where is your love tank?” It was a non-confrontational way for us to either express how wonderfully we were feeling loved or to let each other know that we needed more love. I do not know if he created that himself or if he got it from somewhere else, but either way it worked.
I was thinking about this during this past week as I work through the trials of the “new normal” and it brought me to the ground in tears. When I actually thought about my love tank, I had to search through my heart and soul to even find the crumbles of what was my love tank. I have people that love me. But this love tank is a special compartment for intimacy and love, not just sex, but that intimacy even where you can look into each other’s eyes and see pain, fear, love, lust and all of the other marvelous emotions that partners share. My love tank, is not just empty, it is crumbling and rusting away held together only but the memories of what was.
John is incapable of emotions. That is one of the areas of his brain that was damaged. Now when I look into his eyes, there is not fire or passion, not that type of love. There are not tears, there is not the man that I married nearly 13 years ago. You see, he knows he should love me based upon memories he has of prior to the accident. The reality is that now he is literally incapable of loving me
emotionally. The TBI ripped that from our marriage. As he has put it, he knows he loves me based on memories of the past, he knows he should love me, but there is just no feeling in his brain that connects to those memories.
As the spouse that still has feelings, needs, and desires, this can be more than hard to deal with. At times, as a woman, this can make me feel like throwing in the towel. It can keep me up all night with anger and sadness that is so deep you can at times almost feel like your heart is literally ripping in to pieces. It is ugly. It is sad. It is maddening. It can set you on the edge of a cliff that in the moment you think it is the only way to escape the torture. It is raw to the deepest part of our humanity. It is not a void that friends or family can fill. It just there, always. That love tank tries to steal from the other tanks that are filled with family, friends, experiences, and life. However, those are only partial fixes for a deeper human need.
I wish I had a pretty package that included a solution. I do not. All I know is to say if you are reading this and experiencing this, please just know you are not alone. It helps to work toward accepting that this is what it is and to not have a false hope that one day, bam, it is all going to just come back. It helps, but it neither cures the problem nor the pain. All I can offer is to hold onto the hope that we are not alone in this despair.
Most of all I want to encourage those that have the ability to fix their broken love tanks. Fix them! Set aside the pride, control, anger, or whatever the symptoms may be. Trust me when I say, this kind of loneliness, is pure hell when it rears its ugly head. If you have a chance to get out of the darkness by working through the core of the problems with your partner – DO IT! Do not waste the gift of intimacy and love you have been given by our loving God above. Love your partner. Hold them longer and more passionately. Figure out their love language, pour into them. Sometimes this love is literally stripped from you in a fleeting moment, so while you have a choice do not give up on fighting for it!
The last thoughts I have this morning, I again hesitate, but I want to be real with those reading these posts. One song that has recently been released just reminds me of how wonderful the intimacy in a relationship can be between partners. I am not endorsing the movie that this song is in but of you just close your eyes and listen to the lyrics. Take it out of the context of the movie. It says a lot about the gift of intimacy that is so wonderful that only God could have designed it to fulfill our hearts here on earth.
(WARNING: This video does have clips form Fifty Shades of Grey. For those that do not want to see that, I would recommend just minimizing the screen and just listen to the lyrics and music.)