Have compassion

Listen to this post:

I had a great conversation with friends today. We watched and talked about my film, “Friending with Brain Injury!”. It was a great discussion.

One person asked what I want folks without brain injuries to take away from my films. Great question. I wish I could have thought of an answer on the spot. Fortunately, my friends with brain injuries stepped up and answered for me. I love what they shared.

Because really, why do I make these films?

Why do I want artists with brain injuries to share their stories and art?

I want people to recognize that people with brain injuries are whole, complete, awesome people. Everyone who spoke today wanted people to know we are not dumb even if we get confused or can’t express something as clearly as other people. We are not trying to cause a problem when the sidewalk is crowded, and we can’t move over fast enough to give you enough space to pass.  We are doing things the best we can.

We all wish folks could see that.

And then. One person reminded us that when people without brain injuries seem mean, rude, condescending, dismissive, or otherwise less than cool with us, maybe they don’t know what to do or how to act. Maybe they’re nervous about the disability. They’re unsure what’s the best way to talk to someone with a brain injury. They’re uncomfortable because they’re not sure if they’re doing a good job communicating or handling something difficult if it comes up. They are doing things the best they can.

So why do I want people with brain injuries to share their stories now?

Because there are attitudes that cause us deep pain right to our core. Like these, for example:

  • We won’t amount to much
  • We want and/or deserve pity
  • We lost our intelligence with the injury
  • We’re faking or imagining our struggles
  • We would “get better” if we wanted it enough and just thought positive
  • We won’t develop new strengths or find things to enjoy about our lives
  • We aren’t interested in interesting conversation because we probably can’t understand anyway
  • We have no sense of humor
  • We need and want you to baby-talk to us, pat us on the head, and praise us for things that we don’t want praise for
  • We want you to yell out “Good job!” for things we are not proud of and to say “Aw, it’s not that bad!” for things that pain us

Sure, I wish folks without brain injuries could step into our shoes for a split second so they could have more compassion and understanding of the disability and how to be supportive. But how could they step into our shoes if we don’t tell them what’s going on?

Certainly we try the best we can to get our points across. Sometimes people don’t listen. Sometimes they won’t.  And sometimes they try but just don’t quite get it the way we hoped for.

I want folks to share their stories so we can move toward a better understanding of each other, appreciate each other’s different situations and life experiences, and show some mighty fine art to the world in the process.