Should I disclose my acquired brain injury? - Part 2
What if it hurts me to talk about it?
If you read PART 1 of this blog series, you will know that disclosing an acquired brain injury can be very difficult. Today, you will read about another situation in which a young man’s disclosure of his acquired brain injury was complicated by another factor – having to re-live the events which surrounded his injuries. The name and other details regarding the victim have been changed to protect the actual person’s identity.
Malek is a 52 year old male who survived a car crash which resulted in a brain injury. Malek was severely injured, and a close family member did not survive. Malek has suffered debilitating Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as a result of his crash. He avoids talking about his experience as it can trigger horrific flashbacks. Malek avoids bringing up his car crash as people often ask for more details than he is comfortable with sharing (e.g. “was everyone ok?”) He wants to appear and remain positive and upbeat, but the tragedy of his story “brings people down”.
In situations in which the death of Malek’s loved one is not shared, others are sometimes inclined to share about “so-and-so’s car accident…” Malek has experienced that other people’s car crash stories can be triggering to his PTSD and/or can make Malek feel like the severity of what he has suffered is diminished when compared to other peoples’ mere fender-benders.
Malek worked on finding ways to ease the conversations about his brain injury by speaking about topics that are in the media. Malek worked on coming up with a ways to a) keep things positive within his conversations, and to b) distance the focus from his accident. These things were accomplished in the following ways:
Malek avoided shutting out the other person with conversation-ending statements such as “I don’t want to talk about it” which were distancing Malek from others.
Malek redirected the conversation to more comfortable topics (e.g. when Malek was asked about what he does for a living, he responded, “I am not working currently. I am trying out a lot of new activities to see what I enjoy most”).
Malek re-directed the conversation to the other person; (e.g. when Malek was asked why he wasn’t working, he answered, “I was in a serious accident and have PTSD. It’s what some war veterans have when they come back from war. There’s a movie out now about PTSD – American Sniper… have you seen it?”)
Disclosing your injury might not be the right choice for you. There are sometimes ways to skirt the issue to protect yourself from the difficult emotions that may come up.
Have you experienced PTSD as a result of a car crash in which you also suffered an acquired brain injury? How did this impact your decision to disclose your injury?
Bobi Tychynski Shimoda is a Speech-Language Pathologist with more than a decade of experience working with neurological communication and swallowing disorders. She has worked in a variety of settings including inpatient rehab, acute care, community, and private practise. She is highly skilled in assessment, and innovative treatment approaches.