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!” Now, I totally understood why they were saying these things. It looked like I’d made a complete recovery and everything appeared back to normal. I knew these people were just trying to be nice and simply wanted to encourage me. But guess what? None of what they were saying to me was even close to the truth!
However, I would never correct any of these well-intended people. I’d just tell them thanks and let them go on believing that I was doing great. This seemed like a much easier way to handle their false but completely understandable observations. I wouldn’t have to deal with the awkwardness of telling them they were wrong and that what they were seeing didn’t match reality. But it eventually became way too hard for me to go on living like this. I couldn’t continue to give these people the impression that I’d made it back to who I was before.
The truth of the matter 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 growing very tiresome and was proving to be unsustainable for me. 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!
Now, to be completely honest, when I finally decided to start “getting real,” I was scared to death about what might happen. I didn’t know how others would respond or react when I told them how I was really doing. Since I still looked “normal,” would they even believe me when I told them that I wasn’t anywhere close to it? Would they question the effort I gave to get back to who I was before? Would they think I was just exaggerating my problems for some secondary gain?
Today, standing well on the other side of this decision, I can tell you that the choice I made to start telling people my real story was the right one and one I should’ve made long before I finally did. It’s allowed me to live with much greater freedom and purpose. My hope is that it gives other people permission and courage to start telling their real stories, too!