I just received an email from the Brain Injury Association of PA, (BIAPA) to notify me that my submission for presentation at the state conference has been accepted. I believe that my TBI is a badge of life that I am proud to wear. The title, “Beyond the Badge” is important to me because some of the things that plague survivors and caregivers of TBI are similar to the things that can plague emergency responders, and the military.
Survivors tend to seem recovered to most once the physical recovery is complete, for lack of better words. What cannot be seen is what lingers in the background for a very long time, and possibly forever, time will tell. Those who wear the badge, and our military are strong and respected, in most cases, what lacks is looking behind the uniform to see what lies within the person.
The physical recovery, or the uniform are signs of strength, and that is good, it can seem that when the smoke clears from physical injuries, and the uniform comes off things are back to normal. The storm has past, what people don’t see is that the storm has just begun. Memories, dreams, situations, pride, lack of self esteem, guilt, depression, and many more are hidden from plain view in an effort to please the people around us, and give ourselves the feeling of strength.
The stigma that is associated with admitting we may need some support stops people from extending our arms for help. The results from this lack of reaching out can have catastrophic consequences, including the taking of ones life. The support is there, tap into it. Family, friends, co-workers and mental health professionals are all options. I am not going to say that any one is better than the other, but it a starting point.
With that all being said, I am a firm believer that the people around us, especially the mental health community can learn a lot from the person behind the badge. Learning by book is a needed and important tool in the education of professionals, but in my opinion learning from the ones that have experienced it, that are willing and able to articulate it, can be just as if not more valuable. The thought process and reasons for thoughts or emotions could be used to assist other clients by adding a new tool to the tool box. The information learned could be applied to care plan objectives leading to a faster, and or better outcome for the client.
I may be getting a little of course here so I will end this now. The takeaway from this is that if you are in the weeds and feeling lost, reach out for help, I did, and made a substantial difference in the quality of my life. Do not be afraid or embarrassed, either the people around you will agree and accept your willingness, if not, maybe they aren’t the people that you want in your circle to begin with.