Kara Swanson's Brain Injury Blog

June 14, 2014

Damaged Brains: In The End, It All Ties In With Fathers’ Day

Filed under: Uncategorized — karaswanson @ 1:06 pm

We tend to think of Traumatic Brain Injury as my injury…as so many others…

The insult, assault and damage left behind after a car crash, a beating, a shaken baby, and any of the thousands of ways people’s lives have been so catastrophically changed when their mighty, precious, spectacular brains are hurt.

But I’ve been thinking about more subtle brain damage…

In the wake of statistics this past week revealing that, since the Sandy Hook school shooting, the United States has averaged roughly one school shooting a week.  A week?????  Could this be possibly true?

Stops you in your tracks.

The other night I went to watch my nephew play ball.  He’s at an age now where the kids pitch and there are more walks than hits and probably more runs due to errant throws.  But you can see, each summer when they return, that they stand a little taller.  Their throws are a little stronger.  Their swings are more purposeful.  They are getting it.  They are ball players. 

As I watched the game, my niece was off with her friends.  She returned from time to time, perfect in her tie-dyed shirt and dirt-covered shorts. They threw baseballs and kicked soccer balls and giggled and ran.

The night was as perfect as can be.  What we knew and what they still know.  And should.

Innocence.

Safe innocence.

As I’m sure many of you have, I’ve wondered often how, in recent years, gun violence has infiltrated our society with alarming results.  It feels very real, very scary and very close.

This topic makes its way into a blog about brain damage because brain damage makes us not think the same.  Not think as we did.  Not think as intended.

I believe that brains working well and in a healthy way do not conjure up shooting as an answer to any of the problems we are seeing on the news each night:  a failed love affair, a lost job, a lousy school experience, an item wanted… 

There’s a lot of people out there not thinking right and I wonder why their brains are damaged.

It’s too easy to blame.  We blame a different society.  We blame computer games and violence on TV.  We blame gun rights’ activists.  We blame little leagues where every kid gets a trophy.  We blame social media.

We do a lot of blaming.

They do a lot of aiming.

I watched television and movie characters shoot guns as a kid.  I was made fun of though, thankfully, not often.  I was molested for years and the most of the cutest boys never looked my way…

But it never occurred to me to shoot any of them and, if you put fifty guns in my house right now, I would simply ask you to remove them.  I don’t want any part of them.  They scare the bejesus out of me.

The frequency of gun violence is so alarming and so disturbing because, it seems, there isn’t a code anymore.  Nobody plays by logical rules.  There used to be certain places for guns and none of them were in schools, on the playground, in students’ backpacks, in fights between supposedly loving people…

Parents usually make their way to me and seek me out after something has changed.  Something often dramatic that has left symptoms and new tendencies.

I submit that maybe it’s time we all start thinking that something has changed in all of our lives.  In all of their brains.

You would look for symptoms if your child struck their head after a fall or in a game or after a car accident.  Maybe it’s time now to take one step further and see if their brains have been damaged by desperation, misguided thinking, hopelessness, naivite, or impulsivity.

After all of these mass shootings, people go back and find clues and hints and changed behaviors that now make sense.  Moments they didn’t realize were symptoms.  Subtle actions they didn’t realize were screaming red flags.

We all know someone trying to remake their own childhood through their kids.  They dress like their teenage daughter.  They hang out with teenagers or turn their affections towards them.  They get way too involved in their kids’ little league game to the point where it’s no longer the kid’s experience-it’s the parent’s.  There’s a lot of examples…

I think we need to stop living our childhoods and start living theirs.

Our childhoods don’t look much like that of the kids of today and it’s up to us to stop just lamenting, stop simply blaming, and get busy saving these kids.

Saving them from brain damage.

There’s no helmet against desperation.  It’s time we stop teaching them simply how it used to be and start learning from them how it really is.  Their symptoms are there.  They are.  A kid who loads a weapon and takes it to a public place and starts murdering innocent people didn’t just arrive at that point the second they started pulling the trigger.

It’s Fathers’ Day weekend and we are safe in the simple, comfortable traditions of neckties and barbeques.

But there are a lot of people out there who aren’t going to celebrate being a dad or having a dad when some damaged person went and shot their loved one to death in a mind-boggling surprise.

Let’s get small.  Let’s stop blaming all these big things and get really small around us.  There’s no use in teaching them how to live in a world that no longer exists. Let’s use this great big Internet to research behavioral changes and desperation and hopelessness.  Let’s learn from these young people about guns.  Not our understanding.  Not our interpretation.  Theirs!!!  Let’s talk with them a thousand times and more about real life and how it is different than what they see in games and on TV.  Not once.  Not assuming they know. 

Like the thousands of brain injury survivors who have come my way and told their story, let’s stop thinking it can’t happen to me.  To us.  In our neighborhood.  In our schools.  It’s not enough just to ban our kids from anything.   It doesn’t matter if you refuse to have weapons in your house if you don’t realize your kid’s best friend has access to a case full of rifles.

We weren’t told once as little kids that we need to look first before crossing the street.  It was pounded into our heads.  Over and over.

Let’s not cheat any of these kids by continuing to think, “My kid wouldn’t do that.”  They need more from us.  They need us to step up our game and get them to adulthood.

Let’s save them.  Let’s save them for all these dads out there who want a bad tie and a hamburger on the grill this weekend.

Let’s identify symptoms of brain damage that doesn’t come only after a header in a soccer game.  Let’s treat this changing world, this changing society, the same way we’d look at a blow to the head.

People thinking clearly, in a loving, hopeful, healthy way, do NOT load guns and blow people away.  Let’s treat the brain damage spreading silently before it’s too late.

My brother deserves a great Father’s Day every year of his life.  So do all of the fabulous dads out there.  A chance, too, to honor and remember those, like mine, who passed down great tools to successfully live by before they had to go.

Let’s do more than blame.  Let’s do more than just hope it doesn’t happen or pray it doesn’t happen.  Let’s do more than just curse the Internet and lifelike games.

Let’s not look back after it’s already too late.  Let’s look forward before it is.

 

 

 

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