If someone is in crutches or in a cast, people can visually see that they are physically injured. They automatically know they will struggle with various daily life activities; they will struggle simply trying to take care of themselves. The various associative traumas that stem from head injuries, on the other hand, are not visible. You can’t see depression, or sadness, or grief. When someone looked at me, they didn’t see any injuries, so they’d assume I was okay, or normal. In reality, I was suffering from an invisible injury. No one could see that I woke up exhausted and drained every day. No one could see the frustration I felt internally about losing control over my emotions. No one could see how I was triggered by something that shouldn’t have been a big deal. Because they couldn’t visibly see my injury, they didn’t understand why I reacted the way I did. And because they didn’t understand, I started to hide my true feelings. I put a lot of pressure on myself to try to appear a certain way, which only made things worse.
Then one day, I sent my boyfriend a cartoon called “How to Take Care of a Sad Person” to try to shed some light on my feelings and how he could help me, even if he didn’t understand. Here is part of it:
How to Take Care of a Sad Person
Lay out a blanket.
Put the sad person in the blanket.
Roll them up like a sushi roll.
Sit sushi roll on the couch.
Hug sushi roll close.
Put on sushi roll’s favorite TV show.
Bring sushi roll a snack.
A few days later, I was a miserable mess, all pent up and angry, sitting on the couch fuming. My boyfriend was puttering around the house when he came back with a blanket. Without saying a word, he spread it out on the giant ottoman, picked me up and put me in it, wrapped me up, and sat me back down on the couch. That kind, thoughtful gesture didn’t stop my crying—in fact it kicked it up a notch—but now I was crying because he was making an effort to comfort me in the way I needed to be comforted.
With his acceptance, I slowly started spitting out words to describe my inner landscape, to try to give him some idea of how I was feeling. “I’m just frustrated,” I’d say. “I’m overwhelmed.” That didn’t begin to communicate the intense feelings of grief and loss I was experiencing, but it was a start.
For more on my story, pick up You’ve Got Some Nerve.