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Michael Foglietta's Blog

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  • Writer's pictureMichael Foglietta

The Invisible Disability

Most of us that have invisible disabilities I think struggle the most to get ahead in life. People look at us and think there is nothing wrong with us, or even faking our disabilities. We can talk, we can walk, we can think, we can generally do things on our own with little help running our daily lives.

Is it possible to have a disability and still maintain our own lives? Of course it is. But generally, people don't see that. What they see is what their eyes are trained to see, and not what they can't see. Is it possible to see someone else's pain? No. Someone might make a facial expression or their body language tells people they are in pain or we verbalize it. But we still can't feel it.

For those of us that have lived with pain for many years and have gotten used to it, there are no facial expressions or body language that would tell a casual observer that we are in pain. That does not mean the pain does not exist. Only our closest family and friends can tell there is something wrong.

What happens when you become close friends with people that didn't know you prior to your disability? Well, most of them would consider us as normal individuals because to them, there is no difference. We can tell people what we were like, what we could do, the activities we loved doing, our interests, even our daily habits. But there is no point of reference for comparison.

Most of my friends have no idea who I was prior to my accident. Most of my friends don't know the person that used to have a job, or the hobbies I had. Why does that matter? Simply because there are things I simply can't do anymore. Things that I loved doing, especially physical activities. I used to surf, snow ski, water ski, hiking, jumping off cliffs, that sort of thing. Now that I can't do those things, it limits my options when I travel or go somewhere fun.

The majority of people don't really understand what that does to a person. To say that I CAN'T do something can be a little on the humiliating side. In their minds, I look and act fine, so they don't really understand. You can't make people understand either. The brain is a fickle monster.

When our brains don't function the way they should, No one can see that either. No one can tell that the processing speed of my brain is remarkably slower than before my accident. No one can see that my brain doesn't regulate my autonomous bodily functions correctly.

One side-effect of brain injuries is forgetfulness. That's a tough one for people to believe. Everyone forgets things now and then, but people use their own forgetfulness as a way to minimize what brain injuries do to people. My memory is horrible, but people think that because they forget things, forgetfulness is a normal part of life. Just because I can create something, remember a simple thing, they think that my brain is perfectly fine. That has happened more times than I can count. And it irritates me that people try to minimize it. Someone might be forgetful, but it isn't necessarily a sign of serious brain trauma. For those with serious brain trauma, it is definitely not normal for us.

We do our best to get through life the best we can. For some of us, it is harder than you can possibly imagine.

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