“Hi my name is Luka and I’m a recovering “fill-in here words that bring least stigma”

Last night, I read from Rachel’s blog. It got me thinking about something that ultimately had more effect on the outcome of all my struggles- stigma. She describes two scenes. One is that of a person with a broken leg or arm. The patient is surrounded by friends or family who are signing the cast. The image I get includes laughing and talking, a discussion of how it happened, and the approximate date the cast can come off. There are some people from the team discussing that she will be missed and she is consoled in having to miss the second half of the season. When visiting hours are up, she asks for the remote and watches her favorite television show. The second scene speaks to someone with an injured brain or a disease of the mind. The image that I have is that of a person who sits staring ahead while hearing familiar voices whispering in the hall. People enter with very concerned looks but they focus on the dinner tray that has been barely touched. One tries to make light. “The hospital food looks really appetizing.” Then, the young man’s sister dares to get close. And she puts some nabisco peanut butter crackers on the night table.She acts in such a way that suggests that she’s been there before.  The others watch carefully. “What do you want me to tell the team?” “Should I tell them it’s asthma?” The patient responds, “you know Pat it doesn’t matter, it’s an adult league”. He doesn’t look towards her but she understands why. “yeah, Jake but it might matter in a month or two.” Jake nods. Strangely, he finds his voice and begins to lighten things up. He makes a few jokes about “sharp objects” and “shoe laces”. There is now laughter in the room. One has even found a chair. Jake asks questions that he has no interest in. They start to fill him in. So and so got into law school. The neighbors are selling the house. The Flyers lost in the first round. And it’s supposed to snow tomorrow. Nobody asks him much. There’s not much to say anyway. Jake appreciate that they don’t feel the need to go there. But they do tell him that the doctor is confident and that he might get a pass to go outside tomorrow. “What in the snow? In my gown?” They laugh knowing that he’s trying to be funny not critiquing what they are saying. But one of them, looks a bit puzzled even annoyed. The patient asks what he is saying to the other sister standing while wondering if he sounds paranoid. His brother hesitates and says, “you seem fine to me”. “what are you doing here?” The sister who brought the ritz can feel tension. She feels a need to defend Jake whose first authentic feeling of the day is shame. “Sam, it might be best if you wait outside now”. The other sibling looks confused. And asks, “what was that all about?”. Time jumps. Jake hears them in the hall. The one sister is saying “doesn’t he realize that Sam worked all day and gave up his kid’s time to come here”. The first sister peaks her head in one last time and says, “Jake remember nothing stays the same; this too shall pass, Good Night”. They are gone just before the voice comes on the speaker to announce that visiting hours are over. Jake looks over for the first time in hours to see if his roommate is awake. He wonders if the guy even has a family. He can’t see his eyes but the drool  from the corner of his mouth suggests, he’s not. It’s going to be a long night. And hopefully a long time until another visit.

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firstfloorluka

In 1991, I suffered a brain injury. It showed itself in a variety of ways- and baffled everyone including myself. In the following entries it is my hope that we as a people, might respect those with differences and realize that we don't know the full story. It is written also with our soldiers in mind, coming home with injuries that are misunderstood and brain injuries/ptsd that cause unnecessary suffering and to isolation. It is written for those with autistic traits who are shunned by their peers. It is written for stroke victims who have no more voice in society and the people who do not take the time, to listen. It is written to all with invisible injuries that go discounted, dismissed and discarded. Peace.

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