In August 2007 I wrote this 4 part series. In lieu of what transpired with Natasha Richardson and the subject matter of traumatic brain injury being discussed as an invisible disability — on ABC Radio San Francisco KGO AM 810 March 18, 2009 — I decided to reprint this 4 part series in its entirety.
My Struggle Living with an Invisible Disability
My interest is to empower individuals who are also living with an invisible disability — due to a brain injury or due any other type of organic, medical, psychological or mental health condition. May you find the hope and courage — by reading through this 4 Part series — to both love and accept your reality and yourself.
The perspective that I share with in this series is from what I have experienced while living with an invisible disability for close to 42 years. My goal is not to affix blame on anyone — as that does no one any good — but to share what has helped me in my process.
In my experience, denial kept me isolated and alienated from myself and other people — for many years — until I was able to begin to accept myself and my reality.
And now for part 3
In the 3rd part of this series I share from an experience that I encountered living with an invisible disability. The events are not shared to affixed blame on anyone for their lack of acceptance. The events shared below are solely given to illustrate my awareness and one the struggles that I have encountered while living with an invisible disability.
In the spirit of wanting to be helpful, I committed myself to helping a family member move across the country, prior to having all the details concerning the move. These are the events that led to my being in an awkward position. Nevertheless, in the process, I learned some valuable lessons about the parties involved and myself.
After the individuals made the decision to move I assumed that the trip was going to be made several months sooner than was in the mind of the mover. The first lesson learned: Ask questions and get more information before committing. I said I would help them move cross-country before I knew how long the total trip was going to take. When I found out that the people I was now committed to moving were planning on taking 6-7 days to move across the country, I started experiencing some anxiety.
The expectation was that I spend 8-9 days at one location visiting prior to then taking the 6-7 days to travel across the country to the destination where they planned to move. The expectation was that once I arrived at the second location that I would spend additional 4-5 weeks. As I did the math that would mean I would be away on the road for 7-8 weeks.
As my anxiety increased due to the expectation of time, I attempted to logically share my concerns with the people who I was going to move. I attempted to explain how the damage to my right frontal lobe predisposes me to become emotionally and physically fatigued, especially when I have to spend extended periods of time with people. I also sought to help the parties involved understand that when I have to spend extended periods of time with people I become stressed, fatigued and anxious.
Based on past experience, when I am overly stressed, anxious or fatigued my ability to monitor my interactive skills significantly diminishes. What a non-brain injured person does involuntarily, I have to do monitor voluntarily.
The injury to my right frontal lobe impedes my ability to read subtitles and social nuances, so I have to adapt on a conscious level. As a result of having to work overtime to compensate for the damage to my brain, I become fatigued and depleted. Practically speaking, as I fatigue my stress levels increase significantly, which in turn leaves me depleted emotionally, mentally and physically. As I become depleted my ability to interact effectively with people progressively diminishes.
Therefore I have learned to limit the amount of time that I spend interacting with people. Through limiting the amount of time that I spend with people, I am able to relax and enjoy the time I do spend with people. Prudence has taught me that when I limit the number of my interactions, along with the amount of time I spend during those interactions I am able to maintain healthier relationships. Through my awareness, I am capable of having functional relationships.
Concluded in Part 4.
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