Following my brain injury, people would come up to me all the time and say things like, "I'm so glad you’re back to 100%” or “I can’t believe how normal you look!”
I totally understood why they were saying these sorts of things. It looked like I’d made a complete recovery. I did look normal. Plus, I knew all these people were simply trying to encourage me. However, none of what they were saying was even close to the truth!
I wouldn’t correct any of these well-intended people, though. I’d usually just say thanks and let them go on believing that I was doing great. This seemed to be a much easier way to handle their false, but completely understandable, observations. I wouldn’t have to deal with any awkwardness that might occur when I told them what they were wrong, that what they thought they were seeing didn’t match reality. It eventually became too hard for me to go on like this. I couldn’t continue giving these people the impression that I’d made it back to who I was before.
The truth was that I wasn’t doing nearly as well I looked. I wasn’t back to 100% and I certainly didn’t feel “normal.” The act I was putting on for everyone was getting very tiresome and was proving to be unsustainable. I knew that I couldn’t keep hiding how much I’d changed. I couldn’t keep hiding my weaknesses. I had to start telling people the truth!
To be completely honest, when I finally decided to try out this new approach, I was scared to death. I wasn’t sure what would happen. I didn’t know how other people would respond or react when I told them how I was really doing. Since I still looked “normal” to them, would they believe me when I told them that I wasn’t? Would I ultimately regret my decision? Would this decision ever come back to haunt me in any way?
Now that I stand well on the other side of this decision, I can tell you that the choice I made to start telling people the real story about my brain injury was definitely the right one. It’s a decision I should’ve made long before I finally did. It’s allowed me to live with so much greater freedom and purpose.
My hope is that it might also give others permission and courage to start telling their real stories, too!