Posted on April 29, 2008 · Posted in Brain Injury

EDITORS NOTE: Continuing with this week’s theme of the emotional impact of brain injury, I have another post from a TBI advocate/survivor I want to share. Kimberly was referenced on our blogs a few weeks ago with respect to seizure dogs and she started following our blogs at that time.

Hello, Mr. Johnson:

My name is Kimberly Carnevale, founder of Canine and Abled, Inc. You wrote about me and my program in a recent blog. I’ve since followed your blog, and was happy to learn that you are educating about the “invisible” nature of brain injury; something that I struggle with everyday.

When I first was injured, I would try to “hide” my impairments from others. I was confused at how to React to other’s reactions to my injury. To be honest, I think I was very surprised and disheartened at people’s lack of support/understanding of my deficits. I fed off of other’s discomfort at my differences. I felt guilty at the behavior I had trouble controlling, was embarrassed when I couldn’t remember things I knew that I knew, and was self-conscience living in a body that “looked” fine, but as it’s captain, I knew was anything but fine.

Everyone used to say, “you look wonderful!”…but that’s only because on the days that my cognition was impaired, I would retreat into my shell, not emerging again until I felt fairly “normal” again. I felt as though people only accepted me when I didn’t show signs of my disability, and were uncomfortable dealing with my cognitive issues; and so I locked them (and myself) away until they subsided. It was a very solitary and depressing way to live.

If you have a broken bone, folks are prone to be more compassionate because they can see the cast, or limp or other physical sign. If you are brain injured, no one but you experiences the overwhelming anxiety of trying to manually process the environment and deal with the wide spectrum of emotions that overtake you at any given moment.

It wasn’t until I gained much-needed support through TBI groups, that I started to feel differently about my disability. I found that I wasn’t alone, and didn’t need to be embarrassed by my deficits any longer. While I once was apologetic about my service dog (the ONLY thing that made my confusing and overwhelming life bearable), I now hold my head high and am proud to be accompanied by the noble friend who offers assistance, safety, and never-ending emotional support.

I would like to personally thank you for educating people about hidden disabilities, and thank you for telling my story in your posts. If I can ever be of assistance to you in any way, please do not hesitate to ask.

All my best,

Kimberly Carnevale
Author/Motivational Speaker/Disability Advocate
President, Canine and Abled, Inc.
“Taking The Dis Out Of Disabled”

Kimberly’s is a success story, but only because she was able to move past the emotional and adjustment issues that plagued her.  And my take is that her dog helped her make an emotional connection that greatly assisted in that process.  There is something special about the connection between the canine and the human.  Maybe it should be at the cornerstone of all brain injury rehab.

About the Author

Attorney Gordon S. Johnson, Jr.
Past Chair Traumatic Brain Injury Litigation Group, American Association of Justice :: 800-992-9447