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What Does Your Scar Tissue Look Like?

Comments [13]

Kara Swanson, Brain Injury Blog, March 11, 2011

What Does Your Scar Tissue Look Like?

One of the most ridiculous things about brain injury is that it’s, for all intents and purposes, invisible. I call it the Invisible Monster.

Many of us have no proof that we are injured because so many brain injuries occur without the courtesy of leaving an imprint on a CT or PET Scan. The lack of something to look at, to pour over, to show to friends and loved ones, is often frustrating because people seem to prefer, even need, proof.

Insurance companies, employers, suspicious friends and family…Some start to look at you sideways and whisper behind your back because, as they are so happy to say, “You look great!”

What could possibly be wrong?

Not many of us have props. I use a cane and, sometimes, a wheelchair. But it’s not like I have a big old cast on my head. It’s not all wrapped up in ACE bandages. I don’t have any scars to show on my scalp. Except for the too-frequent bad hair days, my head looks fine.

So, how do we convey to those in our lives we most need to believe, understand and accept us? These people we want so badly, not to understand (that would require their own injury) but simply to try…..

What this is… What this means…What this feels like… In the absence of proof, how do we paint a picture you might get of what it feels like when, in an instant, what we knew of normal will never show its face again?

Brain injury is the first moment you walk into a funeral home and see someone dear to your heart lying in a casket. It is the daughter who gets pregnant at 15. It is the addicted brother who is now homeless. It is the best friend whose doctor calls and tells her she needs to come into the office to discuss her test results. It is the neighbor who walks away from the home they’ve lived in for forty years.

Brain injury is the first time you get your heart broken. It is the spouse who tells you the affair didn’t mean anything. It is the any time you’ve put a beloved pet down. It is the call from a child who has just been arrested. It is the moment a parent starts to forget things.

It’s not so hard to understand the unseen when you have felt those same feelings. The same loss, fear, dread…It’s like any bad news you received over the phone. You didn’t have to see it to believe it and to feel its pain. 

And, for those of us with the pain, how long is it supposed to last? If you can’t even see it, how are you supposed to know when it is over? When are we done being hurt?

Rose Kennedy:

It has been said, "time heals all wounds." I do no agree. The wounds remain. In time, the mind, protecting its sanity, covers them with scar tissue and the pain lessens. But it is never gone.

So, what does your scar tissue look like? 

What do you cover your pains with in order to go on? To return to the well, the living, the soaring?

I was talking to a friend of mine yesterday who had burned herself pretty seriously and we were discussing our scars. I was looking at my body, counting them, recalling them, returning to the moments that caused them.

The bike kickstand that split open my shin. The thin line on my face from my cat’s claw. That slide into second base. That fall from the fence. That slip of a carrot peeler…

Each fading from red to pink to white. Each softening over time.

I imagine my brain is scarred. But, in the absence of proof, of some battle-weary badge of honor to display, I know what the scar tissue looks like. I know what I’ve used to cover my wounds.

My scar tissue is a great cup of coffee, a simple perfect brownie, a tender, juicy steak. It is college football and Autumn leaves and cider mills. It is cherry blossom trees in Spring and the smell of rain coming through the window in summer.

My scar tissue is a dozen jobs I’ve done since my injury using abilities new and old. It’s day trips and vacations and long drives along the water in a vehicle specially equipped for me. It is doing the Twist in pajamas and watching movies in the middle of the night. It is friends on-line and a phone call away.

My scar tissue includes all these incredible young people in my life whose futures I can’t wait to witness and share. It is the music friends play, the pictures they take, the stories they tell…

My scar tissue is falling in love. Laughing so hard I’m crying. It’s curling up on a winter’s night with one cat next to my head and the other one pushed against my leg. 

What is your scar tissue? What does it look like? Feel like? Taste like?

What have you chosen to cover your wounds, your pains, your Invisible Monster?

Your answer determines when your pain ends and when your life resumes.

Cheering for you!

From Kara Swanson's Brain Injury Blog. Used with permission. karaswanson.wordpress.com.
 

Comments [13]

I have survived two separate TBIs from auto accidents. I have written a poem entitled "My Identity", which addresses the "Who am I now?" issue. www.AMosaicOfTheHeart.com tells of my heart to art journey after TBI and TIA. That is my scar tissue...

May 23rd, 2013 3:43pm

I was hit head on in my car in 2005,3 cars were totaled. I went through procedures,surgeries , and therapy for neck and shoulder injuries. Now the pills , shots,and treatments to control migraines. The 2 failed tries at killing myself. Just last night someone said " remember,I told you that a couple hours ago" I explained that the use of the word "remember" he answered his own question ! Steve

May 23rd, 2013 10:15am

Beautifully written. Little things sure become treasures, and all the other "stuff" is just that. With limited brain capacity only the treasures have room to stay. The bad stuff gets buried, and the beauty of life shines thru once more. Rest in this and know that it is truth. Thank you for sharing your scarring with us.

May 23rd, 2013 9:43am

As someone who is told repeatedly that there is no way I could have a Brain Injury because I act and speak so normally. As someone for the past 6 years who has struggled with losing part of his frontal lobe, 5 other stroke injuries and the numerous side effects from the meds, I can guarantee you that I will never be anywhere close to who I used to be in many ways. I now volunteer with the disabled community when I am able because they are my new family and are really the only ones who truly understands what the struggles of a TBI survivor are. God is gracious but I just wish more people were too.

May 22nd, 2013 8:31pm

My son's scars are all over his body from the many times he has fallen from passing out, seizures, not being steady on his feet...not to mention the ones that will be found on his brain after he dies and BU studies his brain tissue. I see the scars (visible and not) every single day. I don't need proof and shame on anyone close to him that does!

May 22nd, 2013 3:21pm

I know that it is invisible. I have completed 8 years of this invisible journey. And as I read this story, I was confused. Confused because it was eloquently written and I can't seem to get the point. It seems as though I just continue making scar tissue if that makes any sense. I can walk and talk and many other normal things, but I can't be out in public. My brain goes to mush, I can't handle the multiple inputs of noise and I have to get out of anywhere that has multiple points of sound. No restaurants, no movies, no gatherings, etc. etc. etc. So all of the above events are impossible to me. I couldn't go to my grandmother's funeral, or my daughter's graduation from high school, or, or, or. So instead of these things you mention helping to ease the scars, they just keep making new ones. I think I finally get the point of the article.

May 22nd, 2013 1:37pm

Kara...beautifully written and an encouragement to anyone living with brain injury. I live in ND and specialize in work with mild TBI. I shared your article on our business Facebook Page. www.facebook.com/onwordtherapy Thank you for encouraging others! Nan Kennelly MS CCC Onword Therapy Fargo, ND

Nov 16th, 2012 2:08pm

Thank you - I am a teacher who last October a student tripped me (it was an accident). I fell hit my head on the corner of a desk and then the hard tile floor. I have been diagnosis with Post Concussion Syndrome. I have Chronic Migraines. The comments I received are - A concussion only lasts a couple of days, you should be find now. I was also diagnosis with memory loss. I am still teaching and as long as I make list and no longer multi-task I am okay. However, I told someone let me right that done or I will forget their response \"You are still milking that\". My lastest MRI is showing more scar tissure, we have some room for concern. I usually have to miss one or two days a week of work begins the Migraines put me to bed. Its the snide comments that get to me the most. I almost want to carry my MRI results to show everyone. Thank you.

Apr 4th, 2012 6:53pm

Kara........you are a godsend for us TBI Survivors. My Scar Tissue has left me with a big open heart <3

Apr 20th, 2011 9:32am

I hang around people who aren't real smart and that makes me feel better about myself. That is my scar tissue.

Mar 24th, 2011 10:03pm

This is fabulous. Thank you for pointing these things out. I also look normal. I cannot "perform" my injury. A second MRI seven years after my stroke shocked some people (including my ex)because they thought a stroke "went away". Brain damage is forever. Thank heavens we now know and can take advantage of the brain's plasticity. Now I know some of the other ways of healing the scar tissue. Thank you--my tears are gratitude for you. :)

Mar 24th, 2011 3:16pm

How poignantly written....thank you.

Mar 24th, 2011 2:42pm

When i was at the first of my "nursing home" after my getting shot in my head, many of the visitors and staff wondered why i was in the facility because i was so "normal" looking and acting

Mar 23rd, 2011 8:07pm


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