I had a thought (I know, so odd): how much does social isolation, systemic inaccessibility, and opprobrium from family, friends, lawyers, health care professionals, etc. slow down recovery from brain injury and/or PTSD?
We’ve read of studies* showing positive effects on the heart of socially cohesive neighbourhoods, lifelong negative effects on children of lack of bonding as infants; we’ve heard of cancer charities successfully supporting patients through programs that are social in nature or AA working through people talking with people regularly, dependably. So we know social is critical to our we’ll being (although in how we shape our society and relationships, it doesn’t seem we believe it).
People with brain injury are marked by high rates of divorce (80% my diagnosing physician told me), high rates of unemployment, loss of friendships (no idea if 100%, but I’m sure it’s pretty close), ostracization by family members, and marginalization into day programs since the medical profession is seemingly not interested in healing brains. My father used to say to me that surgery is a failure of medicine. I’ll add that day programs are a huge failure of medicine.
One big message of the Book of Job is how unimpressed God is with friends who blame a suffering person for their unexpected woes and abandons them. Yet every one with a brain injury experiences this. I wonder: how much does that blame and abandonment retard their recovery?
When we know human beings are social animals and we know social cohesion enhances health and we know being a part of communities increases life spans and quality of life and we know social isolation destroys mental health (which is why sidelining concussed teens into darkened rooms by themselves for days is one of the stupidest pieces of medical advice I’ve ever heard), it stands to reason that people with brain injury would recover slower or not at all when you add to damaged neurons and shredded blood vessels friends leaving like rats from a leaking ship, family members pouring opprobrium onto persons’ already injured heads, spouses hightailing for the hills, health care professionals patting persons on their injured heads instead of doggedly pursuing treatments, and lawyers and insurance companies using personal epithets in their fight to deny legitimate claims.
Social workers will try and get a new social life going for their clients, but it’s a path littered with disappointments when the injury itself prevents regular kinds of social activity and many people don’t want to accommodate the sufferer. How much do those disappointments serve as brakes on recovery?
Yet resilience is a partial antidote.
Amazing resilience can allow a person with brain injury to progress in this society where answering emails and phone calls is considered too much effort, never mind staying in regular touch with a hurting person they once called friend.
But if you’re a friend who understands that friendship is much more than an annual catch-up, perhaps send the friend you care about a Brain-O-Gram and then make a commitment to enhance your own life by talking/texting/tweeting your friend at least weekly. Just a thought.
*Sorry, I don’t have links. If I had the energy, I’d go searching for them for you. But simply being able to write is an accomplishment these days. Sigh.