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Why I Stopped Explaining My Brain Injury

When you are a brain injury survivor, you may feel as though you stick out like a sore thumb because of the “quirks” you exhibit. We often have a need to explain ourselves in the battle to fit in and be accepted. Feeling uncomfortable in our own skin, we want to communicate to people why we do the things we do, as well as make sure others know “I was not always like this.” It’s hard to be yourself when you always have to explain why you do things you and others may find strange.

For example:

You wear sunglasses on the elevator. You wear noise canceling headphones in the mall. You always sit quietly off to the side when you are in a crowd. You shade your eyes with your hands when you are sitting under harsh fluorescent lights. You don’t get jokes when the punch line comes around. You get distracted and start a new task instead of doing what you said you were going to do. You don’t seem to be present. You can be extremely literal and unable to properly interpret what people are saying to you. You are always complaining about headaches. Or… a bunch of other stuff.

These things can make us feel like we stick out, and assume people are wondering about us or making comments under their breath. As a result, we may feel the need to constantly explain ourselves and our actions to others.

I want to testify

It’s infuriating to feel as though you are not being taken seriously, or are being judged when others can’t know the full story.  There is just so much they don’t know about, and we may feel it is our obligation to let them know.

Minor “TBI episodes” can seem major to us, and they always seem to call for justification. There are precious few situations where we feel as though we can just be ourselves without explaining and justifying ourselves and our actions to others.

The issues are in our brain may be invisible, but they are very real. How do we get someone to understand when they can’t see us for who we are? Unfortunately, there is no way to communicate our reality except through words, and the vicious cycle begins where the words we use don’t seem to matter. Then we get excited, and the more emotional we get about it, the less effective we may be.

Because of this, and because of the general state of affairs we find ourselves in, a feeling of vulnerability can hover over us and follow us like a cloud. It can feel like something we can’t escape; a general feeling of doubt and of not living up to our own expectations, never mind anyone else’s. That doubt makes us feel a little less than human, and as though we are not on equal footing with the other people we come across.

Not only can’t you be like everyone else, you can’t get others to understand why.

Stop trying to make sense

I found that trying to make sense didn’t seem to do any good. I shot myself in the foot over and over when I tried to be rational so others could see what’s going on with me.

Maybe we should try to look at it this way: it’s not what we do that is the issue, it’s that when we explain things we are giving excuses and not accepting who we are. Every time we explain ourselves, it’s because we feel as though we aren’t good enough. Although we might think we are giving a reason for something, the truth is we are using excuses to explain ourselves.

I’m not saying we don’t have very good reasons for why we are the way we are, but we don’t have to rely on them.

I saw I needed to change my mindset so I didn’t feel the constant need to explain.

I wanted to accept myself the way I was, even if I was strange and didn’t fit in. By doing that, perhaps other people would accept the way I was also, regardless of the “quirks” I exhibited

Not explaining ourselves, but just being who we are, is a sign of strength because it is a sign of self-acceptance.

This is difficult. It goes against everything many of us have always thought and assumed, and it flies in the face of what comes naturally, but I think it’s worth a try.

Remember, explaining your situation to someone doesn’t make you a winner. What makes you a winner is when you are powerful and you are yourself. Like Kermit says, “It’s not easy being green,” but he is, and he makes no excuses.

Live your life with no excuses.

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Getty image by Domoyega.