by Amy Zellmer, Editor-in-chief
I first became a Citizen’s Advocate with the Minnesota Brain Injury Alliance (MNBIA) during the 2016 Legislative session. All the noise and stimulation at the Capitol was a little overwhelming for me at first, but by 2017, I became a regular fixture for “Tuesdays at the Capitol.”
During one of our Tuesdays, several members from the MNBIA were present to help us create our mask for the “Unmasking Brain Injury” project. I was hesitant at first because I just wasn’t feeling very artsy that day. But I knew it was an important project and made my way to the room to work on my mask.
As soon as I started painting my mask with some pink and purple (my two favorite colors), and then added some sparkles to it, I was having a really good time. The art project actually became a bit therapeutic. I had been a writer and a photographer all my life and was good at expressing myself through these two art forms; however, creating the mask opened a whole new chapter for me.
In February of 2017, MNBIA had an exhibit at the Capitol for “Disability Awareness Day” and a reporter from Channel 5 News briefly interviewed me about my mask. My take-away message was that while my injury may be invisible, I am NOT! This has turned into my mantra, and I even began an awareness campaign of my own because of it: #NOTINVISIBLE.
The project gave voice to survivors who may not be able to express themselves more clearly than through art. It gave the public an opportunity to pull back the curtain and see what brain injury means to those living with it every single day. Through the unmasking project, I hope we are able to create a bridge between those living with brain injury and the community at large to help them better understand the daily struggles of life with a TBI.
Moral of the story: Always be willing to share your story, whether that’s through writing, art, speaking, or even creating your own mask. The process can be deeply therapeutic, and you never know whom your story may touch.