Sunday, July 1, 2012

Get real

One thing about traumatic brain injury is it's (mostly) invisible. That can be a plus for casual interactions. I can go to a party and dress in nice clothes and talk like the Queen of England. Curl my pinky finger. No one will ever know the difference!

People who spend time around us day in and day out, that's another story. They notice the little gaps and repetitions and inefficiencies, partly because they remember how we used to be. And it's different from how other people operate. How many of your friends have lost 5 pairs of sunglasses this year? There are tangible gaps, pretty easy to pick out over time. The same piece of music played by a different artist.

Not everyone has the luxury of time to figure out what's going on. As injuries go TBI is inconvenient and less than straightforward. You might be faking it. How would they know? They need a lot of data points, more than they have. So it's pretty much guaranteed that at some point, someone at work or in your family or in a doctor's office or at an insurance company will question whether your brain injury is really real.

It's still a tree, right?
Thursday I was in tears talking about my brain injury and the aftermath. As a life chapter this one has truly sucked. Because of this and since I was irritable for months after the accident, someone suggested that I am depressed now (3 years later). Clearly I need treatment in the form of antidepressant medication. This felt like such a bastardization of events that I got more emotional. Which of course seemed to confirm I was depressed! Excellent.

It's possible to be so fast off the line you drive right past the truth: the multiple double espressos needed to chase away the brain fog at that time. Irritability was a side effect of my medication, if you will. Now I'm only irritable when people get things wrong ;-) Tempts me to go all Lisbeth Salander on them. Ride a motorcycle real fast. Carry handcuffs and video equipment.

I would like to thank this person for the motivation to ride 90 hilly miles on Saturday and fold all the clothes on my dresser. Pack most of my things for Super Tour. Host a barbeque. And empty the compost.

To anyone else who is going through a similar process I offer encouragement, the Girl With the Dragon Tattoo books, and this list of fallacies. When experience tells you one thing and someone else puts it together differently, feel free to stick to what you know to be true.

It all comes down to whether they're inclined to believe you. Here are the rationales I've run into out there, the ones for avoiding the real story:
  • Ego - need to prove they're smarter/better than you
  • Ego - professional reputation or promotion on the line; not sure they believe you
  • Money - lose money if injury is real
  • Jealousy - have to work while you receive disability
  • Jealousy - impatience with long recovery times and care required
  • Denial - something they're attached to would be threatened
There must be more and different ones, too. Your input goes here.

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