Guest Blogger Carole Christie on the truth in TBI art

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I recently met Carole. I want you to meet her too. Remember that story on this blog about the taxi driver who blurted out to me his deep, deep knowing that people with TBIs can’t do anything. (And we’re the impulsive ones and bad communicators?) I didn’t verify where he got his undeniably sound, scientific knowledge. But I suppose it only takes hearing a stereotype once or misunderstanding one person to come to a conclusion like this.

And here’s why I say “misunderstanding.” Too often we–with and without brain injuries–devalue all sorts of things that peers with brain injury do.

“Oh, that wasn’t good enough.”

“That wasn’t as good as how she could do it before.”

“I used to be faster.”

“He used to make a bunch of money.”

I get why we do it.

One goal of this documentary is to highlight the many ways that people with brain injury disabilities do, in fact, have value, worth, drive, and contributions to society. I want you to start with that premise. When you’re driving your taxi and someone tells you they made a movie about people with brain injuries, all you need to do to begin our community’s transformation is to say: “People with brain injuries? How interesting. What kinds of things do the people in your movie do?” Then, our conversation is proactive and affirmative. It’s not defensive, angry, or trying to prove something that really folks, we don’t feel like we should have to prove all the time.

So Carole Christie, come check her out on Pinterest. And now please take a moment to meet her and find out about the many, many things she’s doing.

Carole creates artwork with images of hearts. This represents the hearts of the many people who experience TBI and PTSD from abuse, as she does.

Three hearts in black ink, each filled with swirling shapes, lines, and textures

[Image description: A sketch of a woman huddled with her knees pulled to her chest. She looks frightened. The entire canvas is covered in thick, dark, red and black lines that are either hiding her or trapping her.]

[Image descriptions: Three hearts in black ink, each filled with swirling shapes, lines, and textures. A sketch of a woman huddled with her knees pulled to her chest. She looks frightened. The entire canvas is covered in thick, dark, red and black lines that are either hiding her or trapping her.]

A profile of a woman with extremely long hair swirling around her face. The image is colored to look like highly intricate stained glass.

[Image description: A profile of a woman with extremely long hair swirling around her face. The image is colored to look like highly intricate stained glass.]

Carole is doing what people with any kind of disability do. It’s called the hidden work of being disabled. While her impairments are too great for her to hold a full-time, regular job, her time is filled with the many and daunting tasks of applying for disability benefits on her own while maintaining her own household. Have you tried that? Without a cognitive impairment or PTSD? She must do what she has to do to stay safe. She has to work hard to control her emotions, especially when people tell her that TBI is something she uses as a crutch because well, she looks fine. The “you look fine” line is not a compliment. It sets up barriers and sends us the message we are not wanted here as we are.

Carole brings to life the reality that abuse, PTSD, trauma, fear, and brain injury are very common and very lonely places to be. As Carole says, “It is a hard road for any survivor. I hope my images will help others understand that this is a hard life for some of us survivors proving and defending our disability because it is invisible but very REAL.”

Go find a brain injury survivor who felt upset and lonely at some time–if you aren’t one already–and ask them what they would have wanted in those moments. Do they want to know that other people with brain injuries are making enough money to take out a mortgage? Or would they want to know that other people with brain injuries exist, understand, have been there too, want to reach out and lend support? There’s a point where people might want to know about the job thing or the mortgage thing. But in our heart of hearts, we want to know we’re not alone with this.

Thank you, Carole. Your heartfelt, beautiful, and unique artwork has made that very clear.