Imagine you were the driver of the car pictured here. You’d probably be more than a little upset at that damage right?
Now imagine taking this car to the mechanic and having your mechanic take a look, ask about the accident and then say “ Well there’s that one patch of rust over the rear passenger tire, I can definitely fix that up and you can drive home.”
You’d probably be ….less than impressed right?
Imagine how you would rant to your friends and family about the ridiculous mechanic, how you’d describe the damage to your car, the sound at the impact, the tow truck that took your car away. Can you even imagine your irritation if these were among the replies:
“ I had a flat tire once too, it wasn’t that bad”
“ It probably just needs to go through the car wash”
“You knew you had to get a new car sometime anyway”
It would be a little ridiculous. It’s hard to even imagine people being that obtuse when presented with proof of a terrible accident. In fact if you had visible evidence of this damage I doubt you would ever hear those replies. When people can see the damage I find they are much more likely to accept it.
Unfortunately brain injuries are invisible (http://www.changedlivesnewjourneys.com/hidden-disability-after-brain-injury/) and we got variations of these replies constantly. Jason was bruised and bleeding in the first weeks after he was attacked but once those healed most people seemed to feel that his brain had healed too.
Within a few months Jason’s doctor was encouraging him to “man up” and get over the brain bleeds (FYI this was HORRIBLE and nothing can force brain recovery). He did grant some work from home days for Jason when what was really needed was time off and a rehab program.
Friends and even some family, often answered our stories about symptoms with statements like “I get tired too”, “you’re just getting older” or my absolute least favourite “just be happy you aren’t dead”.
I believe that each time people replied that way they were unaware of the effects of brain injuries and were trying to be positive. They thought we really did need them to offer upbeat responses. Unfortunately the reality is those answers pushed us away and made us feel like we were considered overly dramatic. We were struggling to get through each day and when we discovered we couldn’t be honest about our troubles we just felt more isolated.
It’s hard. I know it’s hard. And it’s easy to want to imagine that your friends and family aren’t hurting as much as they are. But speaking as someone that lived through these awkward conversations for months, it doesn’t help to minimize the struggles. The same way giving advice on fixing a flat tire doesn’t fix the truck.
Do analogies help you? Check out these links for similar conversations about invisible injuries
http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.ca/2013_05_01_archive.html (the fish are dead analogy)