by Amy Zellmer
Throughout the course of my TBI journey I have learned numerous lessons that perhaps I never would have learned otherwise. While some people may look at their TBI as the worst thing to ever happen to them (or their loved one), I choose to consider it a blessing that keeps on giving.
One of the lessons I have learned is that a hidden or invisible disability is challenging for others to accept, and to believe you “actually” have a major health issue.
In the early days after my TBI, I was told things like: “It’s just a concussion, get over it,” or “It’s been six weeks, I don’t understand why you’re not back to work yet,” or “It’s not like you have cancer or something.”
Those words came from people I thought were true friends, friends that would be the first ones to bring me soup when I was sick. Apparently a concussion doesn’t count as being sick … as friends provided better care and showed more concern when I had a minor surgery or the flu.
While I have always considered myself an empathetic person, I have come to have way more empathy for anyone who is struggling … whether it’s with illness, injury, mental health, or from plain ol’ daily life challenges.
I remember having days where I considered buying and using a cane so that someone might hold the door for me at the grocery store, as then it took ten times more energy for me to carry a bag of groceries than it did prior to my TBI. I would often require a nap—before I could even begin to put the bags away after carrying them in from my car.
Now I will go out of my way to hold the door for people, as you never know what kind of day they are having or what sort of “invisible-ness” they are dealing with.
The moral of the story: have empathy, be compassionate, and never assume you know the full story … everyone is going through his or her own personal struggles—and a warm smile or holding the door open might truly make his or her entire month!
Amy Zellmer is an award winning author, keynote speaker, and TBI survivor and advocate. She is Editor-in-chief of The Brain Health Magazine, and also produces the Faces of TBI podcast series, as well as TBI TV on YouTube. Additionally, she manages Amy’s TBI Tribe on Facebook.