I have a secret: not all
is as it appears.
Most anyone living with a traumatic brain injury already knows
this. All someone has to do is tell you that you “look
normal.” At this point, you will either want to bop that
person on the head, or you’ll simply shake your own and think
that he just doesn't get it.
But I get it. I get it because I live in the new “frontier
land” that is life with a brain injury.
Since I still cycle 25 miles a day, even after my brain
injury, I know most all of the neighborhood regulars by sight.
I have given most of them odd-ball nicknames like “Dog Walking
Lady” and “The Power Walking Couple.” About a year after my
brain injury, I noticed a new walker walking in my
neighborhood. He appeared with a cane. And with his wife, ever
present by his side. They were a new addition to our landscape
of regulars. And the more my wife, Sarah, and I saw this man
walking, the more we noticed that the man's pace was
increasing and his was stability improving. “I bet he had a
brain injury,” Sarah prophesied.
One day, I found myself stopped at a corner on my bike as the
man and his wife walked by. “You are doing so well. It’s GREAT
to see the progress you've made,” I said, marveling once again
at the freedom that can come with the disinhibition of brain
My words brought huge smiles to the man and his wife.
Introductions were shared, though his name, like so many
others, is forever lost to me. From there, the conversation
flowed like water.
It turns out my wife was right. He had fallen the year after
my TBI and joined our exclusive brain injury club — the club
no one wants to join. Brain injury is indeed the last thing
you ever think about until it’s the only thing you think
“The doctors said I would never get any better, but I decided
not to listen to them,” he chuckled. I listened intently to
his story then I dropped my own verbal bomb. “My brain injury
was a year before yours and like you, my own doctor said I was
permanently disabled and not to expect much. As you can see, I
didn't listen either!”
We shared a hale and hearty laugh and went on our respective
And there was my secret again: not all is as it appears.
Think about it.
That man fumbling with his wallet in front of you at the
checkout counter no longer causes impatience. He might be
someone affected by traumatic brain injury
That driver cruising along at 10 mph under the posted speed
limit no longer makes you tap my foot. She might be one of the
3.5 million people affected by brain injury this year.
The person at the supermarket with his cart parked dead center
in the aisle as he stares at all the soups … well, you know
where I am going with this. We are everywhere.
My brain injury continues to teach me a level of patience,
understanding, and compassion I never had before my accident.
My hope is that with more awareness about brain injury, people
will remember that we are here — alive, everywhere, moving
forward step by step, moment by moment, effort by effort — no
matter how “normal” we look.
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