In 2012, Abby Maslin’s husband, TC, was randomly assaulted with a baseball bat after a night out with friends. The incident permanently changed their lives. Love You Hard: A Memoir of Marriage, Brain Injury, and Reinventing Love chronicles the difficult days, weeks, months, and years that followed the worst night of their lives.
Why did you decide to turn your husband’s experience with a traumatic brain injury into a book?
I started a blog about two or three weeks after [my husband] was assaulted. I realized how therapeutic it was for me to put language [to] an experience that I was struggling to understand. I started the book about a year after his assault. It took me five years to write it. This is the book that I needed at the time that TC was assaulted. I really wanted to know how brain injury transforms relationships. I didn’t find enough stories. I found some, and I held onto those dearly. But I was looking for more.
Did you always intend to offer a really vulnerable account of how TC’s brain injury has transformed your relationship?
That was absolutely my intention. We have this really glossy image of caregivers as older people taking care of other older people, but there’s a limited conversation around the challenges and the sacrifices that come with [caretaking]. A lot of my journey with TC has been figuring out when to put me first and when to put him first. I wanted to write something that spoke to the relational [aspect of caregiving]. How do you engage in a meaningful relationship with another person, one in which that person might be dependent upon you, and still maintain your sense of self and live a fulfilled life?
You decided to leave teaching and become a full-time caregiver. Were you fearful about making that transition?
Yeah, what was true for me in that moment is that you don’t have the luxury of planning the future. You’re not thinking about your 401(k) [or] how you’re going to upgrade your starter home. You’re thinking, “How am I going to survive today?” Getting quality care for TC would exceed the salary I was making as an elementary-school teacher. So there was no question that being [his caregiver] and putting my career on hold was the right thing to do. I was really, really lucky in a lot of ways. I had a pretty solid financial support system. I worked in a school system that provided me with some job protection. I had parents who were in a position [to] help financially.
What can be done to ensure that more caregivers have the financial and emotional resources that they need?
We need legislation that makes [caregiving] more feasible for families. The cost of receiving care from an outside support, whether [the costs are covered by] healthcare or Medicaid, is more expensive than a relative providing care. So, we need to [offer] financial incentives for relatives to become caregivers. Progress [is hard] to measure with brain injuries, but the second you show some [signs of] recovery, your health insurance is eager to end your care. Healthcare companies need to accommodate for injuries that don’t follow a neat black-and-white situation of, you broke your arm [and] now your arm is healed. That’s not how it works with a disability.