Vindicated

“It’s not fair to your teammates if you don’t put your all into it.” I could feel the heat spread across my cheeks. I was both humiliated and furious by the coach’s words. How dare he accuse me of holding back, of not giving it my all, of being lazy? I poured more into my paddling than many on the team.

I was still fuming at the coach’s accusations after practice. “That was totally uncalled for,” I ranted to Joyce.

She chuckled. “I could tell from the back of the boat that you were really pissed off—the back of your neck got red, and your scars really stood out. They always do when you get upset.”

I was so startled, my fury subsided almost instantaneously.

I felt vindicated.

Vindicated? About what?

Unlike a broken arm, brain injury is invisible. Some of us brain injury survivors have visible scars, others, like me, don't. I've only seen my scars in photos from shortly after the surgery, and from later, when my hair was buzzed. I can feel them, but for a few years, it wasn't really enough.

The intangible nature of the injury often leads to self-doubt among brain injury survivors. Am I imagining things? Am I malingering? Am I an attention seeker? Perhaps I'm just being lazy. Perhaps I'm not trying hard enough. It doesn't help that outsiders, not seeing any obvious signs or symptoms, often have trouble accepting that our difficulties are real.

Knowing that my scars were visible, at least when I was angry, validated the existence of my bloody injury. My difficulties were not imagined. My compromised balance was not a call for attention. My ADD issues and lousy short term memory were actual issues directly related to the surgeries. My post injury depression was not merely a sign of inadequacy on my part.

I was not a head case. Well...