My Struggle living with an Invisible Disability — Part 1
Posted by Second Chance to Live on August 14, 2007
Welcome back to Second Chance to Live today. I am happy you decided to take some time to visit with me. I am honored to have you here. Today I am going to process some of my personal struggles with you. Before I was aware of this particular struggle I believed I deserved to be abused and berated. I typically do not like to label or place people in stereotypes, as labels can be very limiting, however in this instance I will use groups to illustrate my struggle.
As a person with an invisible disability I have interacted with four different types of individuals over time. The first group involves people that are completely oblivious to my being a traumatic brain injury (tbi) survivor or for that matter do not care. The second group of individuals who hear that I am a tbi survivor, but because my disability is invisible believe that I am somehow using my invisible disability as an excuse. These individuals treat me with contempt, either overtly or covertly because I am unable to satisfy their expectations.
The third group of individuals know that I have am a tbi survivor, and that my brain injury has affected me in some manner, but still want me to function as an individual without a brain injury. The individuals in the third group also believe that I use my brain injury as an excuse when I tell them I am unable to fulfill their expectations. The individuals in the third group refuse to accept that I have legitimate limitations and deficits.
When I state that I can not do something because of my brain injury — or what some people refer to as a “head injury” — individuals with in the third group blame me for reminding them that I have a brain injury. The fourth groups of individuals thankfully realize that I am a tbi survivor and that my brain injury interferes with my ability to work with people, especially with those in the first three groups. They also understand that I am not making excuses for what I can not do and accept and value me as a friend.
With the fourth group I do not have to be more than I am, nor do I have to continue to convince them that I have an invisible disability.
The second and third groups of people give me lip service when they tell me they understand and accept that I am a traumatic brain injury survivor. Nevertheless, when I interact with the second and third groups of individuals I feel less than because I can not measure up to their expectations. Nothing I can say or do can convince them of my predicament –being disabled despite not appearing to be disabled. When I interact with the third group of individuals, I feel like I am between a rock and a hard place.
The second group blatantly chides and ridicules me with disdain while the third group has a degree of awareness and acceptance until individuals within the third group want me to be or give more than I am capable of giving. In my experience, when members of the third group have an expectation of me — which I am unable to achieve — I also receive ridicule and covert contempt from them. When I tell these individuals that I am unable to be more or do more they want me to buy back into their denial system.
Their denial system includes manipulation through shame, guilt and emotional coercion. I have spoken of this denial system dynamic throughout Second Chance to Live.
I have spent countless hours attempting to disprove the reality of my disability. For many years I internalized the impact of my disability as a reflection of my being. I shamed, blamed, berated and criticized who I was because of my in ability to perform as an individual without a traumatic brain injury. I allowed my Dad to treat me with contempt for many years because I did not know the significance of my invisible disability.
Per your information, I have only recently –in the last 5 years– come to accept that I am a traumatic brain injury survivor, who has an invisible disability. Several months ago I turned 50, so for many years I was led to believe that the severe injury to my brain injury –which occurred in August of 1967– had little to do with my limitations. Rather than supporting and encouraging me through my process, my Dad criticized my attempts to overcome my deficits and limitations. Good was rarely good enough for him during many years of his life.
Currently, I have the above third group dynamic taking place in my life with members of my family. Although my Dad passed away January 10, 2007 I am continuing to be affected by the legacy of his denial.
Some of my family members still want me to do and be more than I know would be good for any of us. My family still has unrealistic expectations of me, despite my reality; however, I am no longer willing to allow those demands or expectations rule my world. Even though I have spent a lot of time logically explaining to them why I can not fulfill their expectations, they continue to be angry with me. In essence, my family members want me to again buy into the notion that I should not be affected by the injury to my brain.
I have reached a point in my life where I am unwilling to buy back into anyone’s denial system. I spent too many years of my life berating who I am because I did not measure up to someone’s unrealistic expectation. Today my good is good enough. I am OK with me and I accept myself as a man with an invisible disability.
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This entry was posted on August 14, 2007 at 4:02 am and is filed under 12 Step Recovery, ABI: Acquired Brain Injury, abuse and neglect, abuse and trauma, Acquired Brain Injury, Adult Children of Alcoholics, Adult Children of Alcoholics living with traumatic / acquired brain injuries, Bob Woodruff, brain injured soldiers, Brain Injury, Brain Injury Associations, Brain Injury Education, Caregivers, Caregivers for people with traumatic / acquired brain injuries, celebrities with brain injuries, cerebral vascular accident, Children of Trauma, Closed Head Injury, Codependency, combating brain injury isolation, Department of Defence, Department of Veteran Affairs, Desert Storm Veterans, Empowerment and Inspirational Speaker, Families impacted by brain injuries, family, Friends, Fulfilling your Destiny, Gulf War Veterans, head injury, Invisible Disability, Iraq veterans, Iraq War Veterans, Learning, learning disabilities, Life, living life on life's terms, living my destiny, living with a brain injury, Living with a Disability, Living with a Invisible Disability and feeling shame, living with a traumatic / acquired brain injury, Living with a traumatic brain injury and feeling shame, Living with an Invisible Disability, living with meaning and purpose, messages of hope and inspiration, Mild Traumatic Brain Injury, Military Personell impacted by Traumatic Brain Injuries, Military Traumatic Brain Injury Support Meetings, Motivaional Speaker, Motivational / Inspirational Speaker, Ophra Winfrey, Overcome Being Bullied, Overcoming Societal Stigmatization, Parents of children with Acquired brain injuries, Personal, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, PTSD, relationships, Religion, Revealing your Destiny, Romance and Relationships, self-esteem, Self-Respect, shame, Soldiers and Marines who sustained traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injury, stroke, Subdural Hematoma, Suicide and Hope, tbi adults, tbi children, tbi families, tbi veterans, traumatic / acquired brain injury, Traumatic / Acquired Brain Injury and Anger, Traumatic Brain Injury, Traumatic Brain Injury and being Bullied, traumatic brain injury and frustration, Traumatic Brain Injury and Hope, Traumatic Brain Injury and Significance, Traumatic Brain Injury and What is my Destiny?, Traumatic Brain Injury and You, traumatic brain injury feeling alienated isolated, traumatic brain Injury in adults, Traumatic Brain Injury in children, traumatic brain injury in schools, traumatic brain injury Iraq, Traumatic Brain Injury Self-Esteem and Self-Worth, Traumatic Brain Injury Support Groups / Meetings, traumatic brain injury treatment, Veterans Living with Brain Injuries, Veterans of the Iraq War, Vietnam Veterans, Virginia Tech Shootings, What is my Destiny?. Tagged: denial systems, Health, Hope, Invisible Disability, Politics, World. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.