HeadStrong for Life is our newest sponsor

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We are so very proud and excited to announce the newest sponsor of “Who Am I To Stop It” is HeadStrong for Life!

Check out the post on this blog from April 9, 2014 about when I got to be part of HeadStrong’s presentation on meaningful projects and activities at the Washington State TBI Conference. It was a huge honor to be asked to be part of the presentation. And I have to say, as Desirèe Douglass went through the presentation, all I could think was wow, we were made for each other. We simply have got to work together again. And so here we are.

Let me tell you a bit about HeadStrong for Life’s work, starting with the non-profit organization’s vision:

“HeadStrong helps young survivors of Traumatic Brain Injury to access support for the best recovery possible, secure a meaningful place in their communities, and live with dignity and respect.”

Within this, HeadStrong has a number of programs such as camps, family events and dinners, putting together totes of essentials for families when their loved one is in Harborview Medical Center, and youth mentor training.

Here’s part of the description of why they do Youth Mentor Training: “It is well known that one of the most damaging experiences after brain injury is the change in participation in society, isolation, and loss of friendships.”

But I’m not sure that’s widely known outside our brain injury community yet. See, when I meet new people who aren’t familiar with TBI, they tend to focus only on my gory personal details and impairments and me as an individual.

Did it hurt?
Was it traumatic?
How did it happen?
What kind of care are you receiving now? (Yes, I get asked that over 4 years later when I’m out in the community.)
Did you know you are sooooooo brave to be out?

These questioners don’t realize what Desirèe and the rest of the HeadStrong family and supporters do:  the personal experiences should not and cannot be taken out of the context of the community. We ourselves are isolated enough because there is so much stigma and shame around cognitive and social communication impairments, as well as a lack of accessible options and difficulties with transportation. To ask questions about our injuries and our “problems” is a great way to make us into Others. It’s also a wonderful strategy for ignoring the way that losing social contact, being misunderstood by family and friends, losing our jobs, failing at school, and feeling overwhelmed by people’s poking, prodding, and laughing at our differences all play more of a role in our lives than what scores we got on a memory assessment or how far we flew before landing on the ground.

I honestly believe that people mean very well when they ask questions and take an interest in us. They’re not going out of their way to objectify us. But the lines of questioning we receive–which are so often not followed up with any kind of support or reciprocation–simply highlight society’s notion that we are broken and that it’s OK to interrogate us about very vulnerable, often emotionally painful topics out of the blue. People are doing the very best they can to show interest and compassion even if it doesn’t feel good in the moment. It’s groups like HeadStrong for Life doing education and advocacy work that begin to let the public know that we are so very much more than our impairments and the gruesomeness of our wrecks.

Please consider ways that you can support HeadStrong for Life through volunteering, doing education and advocacy in your community, and donating to the non-profit. This film–and I personally–are indebted to this organization for the work they’re doing to challenge stigma, provide support, and foster creative and artistic works.