Often when there isn’t really an answer to a subject, many of us have a habit of referring to well used phrases. (And yes I admit I have done the same all too often as well.) I’ve often taken issue with how people can describe children with cancer for example as brave. Why are they brave? They are just getting on with life, what else are they supposed to do?Just like them, I haven’t chosen this situation, but you only live once. Or would it be “normal” to give up once you sustain a brain injury and just wait to die?
Not sure I fit the definition of brave.
Possessing or displaying courage; able to face and deal with danger or fear without flinching.
I mean if anyone believes I don’t flinch, they are kidding themselves. Whilst it has improved, I still get startled extremely easily. So embarrassing! If I’m not looking at you and you go to start a conversation when I’m concentrating on something else, boom, I almost hit the ceiling.
Not matter which definition of strong you choose, I’m not it.
Having strength or power greater than average or expected.
Well I’m no different than any other brain injury survivor. We all have extremely difficult days, and during that time there can be a lot of self doubt. So believe me, I am only average. It’s just that those who haven’t faced a brain injury don’t know what “average” is for us.
Of good quality and condition; solidly built.
I’m physically weak, and totally out of shape. I know people might mean mentally I’m strong, but they’re wrong. At this stage I doubt my mental health will ever be perfect. Just that currently I’ve just not got a date set with the self destruct button.
Not faint or feeble.
You only see what I allow you to see. If you saw me trying my best to be “brave” when entering the jungle (otherwise known as the supermarket) you’d think differently. As I struggle to contain my anxiousness about all the people, I rarely manage to complete the visit unscathed. I need to calm down with a cup of tea and deep breathing once it’s over. I imagine one might have a similar expression when they have been walking through scorpion infested tunnels. You can read why it’s so traumatic for me in 7 Executive dysfunction challenges after brain injury.
If being brave is the absence of fear, then I’m not a good example.
I have been frightened of everything. I’ve even been frightened of that there is something I have forgot to worry about! Sustaining a brain injury for me, has meant living in survival mode. At times I have tunnel vision and can’t begin to look to the future. I just have to live in the here and now.
Am I brave for discussing my experience of brain injury?
Not really. It would only be brave if there was something to be ashamed of. But seeing as I was just the casualty of an unfortunate accident, why should I be ashamed? But even if it was because I had been in a fight, should I be ashamed of the result? No. The cause would not be something to be proud of, but having any disability is never something to be ashamed of.
I don’t want your pity.
I don’t write about my experience of brain injury because I want everyone to say “Oh poor you.” If I stopped any random person, I’m sure when asked they would be able to name at least one ailment they have to manage. So if having to cope with not being perfect is brave, that means we all are. Those of us who are trying to raise awareness of a condition don’t need to be patronised. You don’t have to hear what I have to say, but if you choose to listen, have an open mind.
So I’m sorry if this comes across as ungrateful, as I know people use the words brave and strong in a well meaning manner. But when good intentions are approached the wrong way, they rarely end in a positive result. Actually sometimes I would rather people acknowledge how fragile I can be. There’s nothing wrong with admitting you struggle with something. Often that’s the first step to finding a solution. So in my opinion we should stop reacting like it’s unusual to talk about these things. All that does is add to the feeling that we need to bottle it up and pretend we are OK.
Other related articles:
- Heat exhaustion compounds symptoms of brain injury.
- Brain injury brain fog.
- Why you must mind your head after brain injury.
- Clearly lost, the snag of brain injury.
- Genuine positive changes after brain injury.
How would you like to be described after your brain injury? Do you feel understood when you’re called brave?