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FRIENDSHIPS IN SURVIVORSHIP
Last week, I wrote a blog about the loss of independence and feelings of isolation that are often felt as a brain tumor survivor. It seems fitting that this week, I came across a blog written by a young adult, Elizabeth Hovde, living with a traumatic brain injury from a skiing accident – although her article was mostly about facts of TBI’s, her opening paragraphs gave a humorous perspective to the other side of being a survivor of serious illness - which is the camaraderie often felt among people who have gone through similar things.
She met her best friend while recovering in ICU – her friend was being treated for a brain tumor. She shared a story that I think many survivors can relate to:
”My friend Christina and I went to a concert recently. We were in a long line waiting for the restroom when a friendly person came up and suggested there was another restroom we could go to. She proceeded to give us about five directionals.
We thanked her. When she left, we looked at each other and both said something like: ‘Poor thing. She has no idea who she's talking to. I did not follow that.’ “
The feeling of belonging felt among survivors is incredible. As a person who felt close to very few people my age for most of my life, I find that the similarities that survivors share creates a bond that is one of the most difficult to break. Once I began to join CBTF in more events and programs, I found that I felt closer to some of the survivors that I only saw once or twice than I did to many people I went to school or grew up with.
Sometimes it’s as simple as being able to find humor in something that other people don’t know how to respond to when the subject comes up.
I remember the first event for CBTF that I ever attended at Ripley’s Believe it or Not. It was the first time I ever came to the city by myself and was very nervous because I didn’t know anyone. Once I arrived at the train station, and being notoriously bad with the directions, I had the option to take a left or a right after leaving Grand Central and the rest of the walk was on a straight path to Ripley's. I was supposed to take a right. I turned left. I finally figured out my mistake and ended up at the right location. When I started to talk to another newcomer, I told him what happened and how I am very bad with directions. He just shook his head and said, “You’re not the only one!” I’ve been a part of CBTF ever since!
When somebody else just doesn’t get it, it can be very hard to connect to them. Even something as simple as forgetting directions can be embarrassing when other assume that because you're young, you have a fantastic memory. Having somebody to bounce difficult feelings off of or even laugh at an embarrassing moment with you is needed to feel that sense of belonging that everyone needs. Although it's difficult to find someone to share these things with when you feel so different yourself, it is important to realize that by building a community with people who DO get it, you can create relationships that are much more meaningful than what you've experienced before.
To read Elizabeth's Hovde's blog about traumatic brain injury: http://www.oregonlive.com/hovde/index.ssf/2012/04/brain_injury_brings_a_new_unde.html