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Look for the invisible in the visible world

Many of us may have a side that we keep hidden from the public. We are all very unique, regardless of the challenges we face.

A Brain Injury is an invisible disability, and often results in very unique challenges for a survivor, making it difficult for a survivor to fully participate in society.  Coping and managing the activities of daily living can be a tremendous challenge for a Brain Injury Survivor. This often results in very little energy for other things that the rest of the world takes for granted. 

I want to emphasize that someone who sustained a Brain Injury is able to make a meaningful contribution to society. Many Brain Injury Survivors are able to engage themselves in work (paid or volunteer), with their families, and with leisure and other activities. 

More often than not however, you may never know if someone has sustained a Brain Injury.  I am frequently reminded of this when people question how I sustained a Brain Injury since I look normal. 

Unfortunately, many people in our society often place great emphasis on what they see and will judge others based on their misperception. This attitude could frustrate many who might appear to be unable to do something, when in fact, they are perfectly capable and willing.

Stigma and discrimination are often major barriers in the recovery of a Brain Injury Survivor.  Self-stigma can also be a big problem as it is the shame that a Survivor places on themselves after their injury.  In the early stages after my accident, I felt like an outcast and frequently battled horrible feelings of shame and low self-esteem, often leading me to isolate myself.  

This is when I discovered the benefits and joys of volunteer work. 

Since 1999, I have been a dedicated volunteer in the Neuro-Trauma Intensive Care Unit (NT-ICU) at St. Michael’s Hospital, in downtown Toronto.  This is the same ICU that witnessed my miraculous recovery after I came out of a very deep coma following a horrific motorcycle accident. 

I volunteer in this ICU to give back to St. Michael’s Hospital for giving me the gift of a Second Life and a Second Chance. It is my volunteer work that gave me a sense of purpose and a new direction for myself following my accident.

I  am now very aware of stigma and discrimination and take actions to deal with this in myself and with others. Imagine what we could all achieve if we lived in communities that were much more sensitive to people with disabilities. 

One way of reducing the stigma associated with a Brain Injury is for Survivors to help educate others about their experiences. 

Volunteer work is a great way to educate others and to experience positive interactions with people who may not have an understanding about Brain Injuries. This will help to raise awareness with others. Volunteering connects you to others and it is good for your mind, body and your spirit. Giving to others may open new doors for yourself and it could also help you to learn new skills and discover new interests. 

Many of the problems that we face are due to our resistance to changing the way that we’ve done things in the past. Realize that there is an invisible energy inside of us that will not die and it is constantly changing. 

Learning to be mindful while you silently observe your experiences will provide you with a tool for problem solving. 

The following poem may help you see that we are not the objects of our experience, but rather the silent observer within the experience itself – ‘The Invisible inside the visible.’ 

I AM – By: Mary Lou Van Atta

The “I” that is me – you cannot see

You see only the form that you think is me.

This form that you see, will not always be;

But the “I” that is me – lives eternally.


By: Dr. Wayne Dyer



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