an accomplished police officer end up feeling like a homeless person?
Two years have passed since Joe’s accident. One day, Joe unexpectedly discovers his uniform, the one he wore dutifully for 15 years, as a proud and accomplished member of the New York Police force. Without giving it too much thought, Joe slips into his uniform. He discards the dark sheet that has been covering the full-length mirror behind his bedroom door and stares at the reflection of the police officer in front of him.
“The person staring at me in the mirror is a stranger…. I’m seeing a different person- a whole different Joe…. Since my accident, I don’t know who I am anymore?”
If you or I were meeting Joe on the street, in uniform, we would undoubtedly presume that Joe is just fine. We cannot visibly see or grasp the emotional turmoil and cognitive deficits that Joe lives with every waking moment of his day.
Joe’s entire world changed in one split second. Like Joe, there are so many individuals who find themselves in this situation. Whether it is a police officer who tragically caught a bullet, a construction worker who fell off a bridge, a dancer who was brutally attacked, a football player or a successful business CEO that suffered a stroke. Each of these individuals above was fulfilling his/her lifelong dreams. Regardless of their background, they all struggle with the same losses, frustrations and isolation.
Joe has lived the past 2 years in denial. Denial is an emotional defense that can spare a person the pain of recognizing difficulties and losses. As Joe removes the sheet covering the mirror and “sees” himself, he is flooded with feelings that he has not dealt with until now. The experience of putting on the uniform unleashed all these buried feelings.
“I’m angry inside. I feel stuck. I’ve lost everything…. I’m rusty. I don’t know what to do? I want to have somebody in my life. I’m terrified. I’m lost. I don’t belong anywhere…. I have no job, no car, no fiancé, no identity, no goals and no aspirations… I’m no different than the homeless person down the street….”
The particular circumstances might fluctuate a bit from one to another, but each individual feels like their life was gone in an instant. Each person has to mourn his/her losses and start living with a new reality.
“My life now is focused on just surviving another day…”
Joe has a long and difficult road in the process of rehabilitation for his brain injury. Each brain injury is different, and each person’s circumstances are unique.
Do you watch the show survivor? It is a popular reality television game show in which contestants are isolated in the wilderness and compete for cash and other prizes. Contestants face endurance challenges that challenge their reality and survival. Through my eyes, every person who suffers a brain injury is a survivor. Every single day they face inconceivable challenges testing their endurance, strength, problem solving, and/or willpower. Their flight is real and does not end like a reality show. They are the real survivors!
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