To watch and listen to a video presentation of this article, click on this link. Challenged by Family and Friends after Our Brain Injuries Video Presentation
When I began to confront my own denial after my brain injury, I found myself challenged by family and friends with the message of “its”:
“It’s just up in your head and if you just…then you would not be impacted by your brain injury”.
What was becoming apparent to me, was resisted by what could not be understood or accepted by family members and friends created pain.
This conflict left me both sad and frustrated because I was shamed and blamed for what I could not and was powerless to change.
By shaming and blaming myself for what I was powerless over and could not change I bought into the notion that I did not just make mistakes, but that I was a mistake. By believing that I did not just make mistakes, I focused on trying to disprove the impact of the traumatic brain injury. As a result, I spent many years trying to disprove the notion of what I was told “was all up in my head”.
If you have also heard this phrase, “It’s just up in your head and if you just…then you would not be impacted by your brain injury”, I would encourage you to read on. I would also encourage you to accept what you are powerless to change, so that you are able to discover the possibilities that exist within that acceptance.
Overcoming the Notion that Brain Injury is All up in My head …and if I Just..
In November 2014, I wrote an article Living with an Invisible Disability — Accepting Ourselves when Other People Can’t to share what I discovered about denial’s impact upon my life. In this article I shared how I became aware of the impact that denial was having upon my life and well-being. In my experience, I stayed in denial for many years because I internalized what was denied and defended surrounding the impact of the traumatic brain injury that I experienced when I was 10 years old.
As I shared in yesterday’s article, once my external wounds healed, the impact of the traumatic brain injury was no longer considered relevant.
Validating the Denial System by my Actions
Because I bought into the denial system, by my actions; I engaged in validating and defending the denial system that kept me striving in my attempt to overcompensate for what was not seen or understood. As a result, I found myself engaging in a cycle of justifying, answering, defending and explaining in my attempts to avoid being blamed and shamed. Nevertheless, I strove to do more, to be enough in an attempt to defend what was being denied and to justify what was expected of me. This cycle created a lose/lose…
A lose/lose relationship with denial, myself and others that held me captive to a system that “promised” me freedom, but kept me deceived and trapped.
Let me explain:
As I became aware of my traumatic brain injury, I remember my Dad telling me, “It’s just up in your head and if you just…. then you would not be affected by any brain injury”. So for many years I strove to to get over what was, “up in my head” so that I would not be blamed and criticized for the difficulties. The difficulties that I encountered because of what needed to be denied so that changes did not have to take place in the way of what was perceived to be up in my head.
Because, I bought into this message; that it was my fault for not getting “it” right”, I strove all the more to over compensate for what was,”all up in my head”.
Florida Department of Vocational Rehabilitation
Because I had no idea how to “get over it” I continued in my attempts to not be impacted by “what was up in my head”. I did so in my striving to compensate for what was being denied. This continued until after being employed by the Florida Department of Vocational Rehabilitation as a vocational rehabilitation counselor I disclosed to my supervisor that I sustained a brain injury when I was 10 years old.
My supervisor, then disclosed what I had shared with her to the DVR manager, who in turn told the DVR District Supervisor. The results of my initial disclosure resulted in my being made a client of DVR, while continuing as a DVR counselor on probation. Several months later I was terminated as a DVR counselor. After becoming a client of the Florida DVR I underwent an EEG and a neuro-psychological exam.
The results revealed how the injury to my brain impacted the difficulties that I encountered through out my life time in educational and work settings.
Dad Denying Reality
After receiving the results from the EEG and the Neuro Psyche I shared the results with my Dad, and other family members. My Dad then told me that the neuopsychologist, who did the neuro psyche evaluation, did not know what he was talking about. That the findings from the neuropsychological evaluation were wrong. Other family members tended to side with my Dad, which led me to continue to believe that, the difficulties that I encountered were just “up in my head”. Consequently, I just needed to get over “it” to not be affected by the open skull fracture and traumatic brain Injury that occurred some 25 years earlier at the time.
Although I completed the voc rehab process in Florida. as a client, there was no suitable job placement. For the next 5 years I continued to buy into the notion that I should be able to get over “it” and not be affected by what was in my head.
Could no Longer Deny the Impact of my Brain Injury and Invisible Disability
The proverbial “last straw that broke the camel’s back” resulted from a series of events that occurred after being recruited to begin a job in North Carolina as a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor. I was fired from that job 4 months later, had an unsuccessful job search, applied as a client for services to the North Carolina Department of Vocational Rehabilitation, went through their evaluation process and then told that I was unemployable. Shortly after being told that I was unemployable my 3rd application for SSDI was approved.
Continued to Struggle with “it”
Although I had a long history of not being able to work, the Department of Vocational Rehabilitation deeming me to be unemployable, the Social Security Administration determining that I was disabled and finding myself on a fixed income, I still found myself struggling with the notion that maybe, “it was all up in my head. That if I just tried harder then I would not be impacted by my brain injury and invisible disability. But then I remembered the emotional and spiritual pain that I had experienced over the course of 38 years.
A New Beginning
With the emotional and spiritual pain, I finally admitted to myself that I was indeed powerless over, “what was in my head”.
With my emotional and spiritual bottom, I realized that I could no longer validate and defend the denial system that held me hostage for many years. I realized that I needed to confront my denial and begin a process of grieving “what was in my head”. A grieving process that helped me to realize and accept that I was not making excuses and that I was powerless to change the impact of my traumatic brain injury.
With my awareness, I gained acceptance that gave me the ability to get into action through the power of choice. And the power of choice gave me hope.
With this awareness and my acceptance I began to realize that I needed to let family members and friends believe what they needed to believe. I needed to accept, that I needed to let go of the notion that, “it was all up in my head” and that I was making excuses. I needed change the things that I could to enhance the quality of my life and my well-being to be able to get on with my life. I needed to stay focused and run my own race.
“Regardless of your lot in life, you can build something beautiful on it.” Zig Ziglar
Avoiding the Lull
I realized that I needed to guard myself, lest I be lulled back into the denial system that kept me in a lose/lose relationship with myself and with other people. I realized that I could no longer attempt to fit into the “mold” that the denial system wanted me to fit into because of what was “in my head”. I realized that I needed to break free from that “mold” to create my own “mold” because of what “was in my head”.
In the process, I realized that I could learn how to excel beyond the deficits and limitations that resulted because of “what was in my head” — my brain injury.
“Everyone is a genius. But it you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”
“I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do.”
“I realized the I needed to guard myself, lest I be lulled back into denial.”
Craig J. Phillips MRC, BA
“What happens to us is not as important as how we respond to what happens to us.”
Craig J. Phillips MRC, BA
My Encouragement to You
In the event that you have been told by family and friends that “it” is all in your head”; — that you are making excuses — please realize that you are doing the best you can. Stop beating; shaming and blaming, yourself for what you can not to do. Grieve what you are no longer able to do and through acceptance create your own mold. Discover what works for you and go for “it” because of what is in your head, your brain injury.
For more detailed information about my process and journey click on this link: Detailed About Page.
For more insight into what you may be experiencing, please click on this link: Traumatic Brain injury and the Identified Patient.
For resources that have empowered my ability to learn how to thrive because of what is in my head — my brain injury — click on this link:
In August 2007 I wrote a 2 Part article and a 2 Part video presentation of the article to share what helps to keep me from being lulled back into denial.
I would invite you to read this 2 Part Article Series by clicking on the below links:
I would invite you to watch and listen to a 2 Part Video Presentation Series by clicking on the below links:
Living with an Invisible Disability — The Consequence of Denying My Reality — Part 1 Revisited Video Presentation
Living with an Invisible Disability — The Consequence of Denying My Reality — Part 2 Revisited Video Presentation
As you listen to, watch or read my articles and questions come to mind, please send those questions to mind. All questions are good questions. In the event that you would like to leave a comment, I would love to hear from you.To do so, please use the below reply.
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