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?
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.