June is Brain Injury Awareness Month
Stepping in Someone Else’s Shoes
By Dhara Joshi
“There is no way of knowing what someone’s life story is, unless you spend a day in their shoes, so we should all treat each other with kindness, compassion and humanity.”
My name is Dhara Joshi and I have a brain injury – but I am also a daughter, a fur mama, a sister, and a supportive friend.
My name is Dhara Joshi and I am a contributing member of society, having worked for various not-for-profit organizations, including the Canadian Cancer Society, the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, and the Heart and Stroke Foundation.
My name is Dhara Joshi and my injury does not define me. I am so much more than that – I am so much more than a diagnosis.
One catastrophic life event does not make me who I am. It does not dictate my life – it is simply a part of me. Just as my scars don’t define me – they are simply battle scars that tell the story of how I got hit by a truck and lived to tell the tale. My scars, and the resulting titanium filled legs make me the coolest aunt in town – even cooler than Iron Man since my a** does not rust.
All jokes aside, we shouldn’t let a diagnosis define us, because should it even really matter? We are all just human beings at the end of the day. Everyone has their own hardships, trials, and tribulations. Whether that is depression, anxiety, domestic violence, losing a job, or failing a test, whatever it may be, the list goes on and on. Any particular diagnosis or life event shouldn’t define us. We are so much more than that. We have so much to offer. Everyone should be treated with kindness and compassion because you simply don’t know what someone has been through. Without stigma, or judgment, or any requirement of explanation, we should be patient with one another, since we really don’t know someone’s life story.
Instead of telling me I need glasses because I took a few seconds too long to sign a receipt, we should practise patience. The cashier really had no idea that I have a brain injury, which has manifested in vision loss. All she saw was a slow customer holding up her line. She didn’t see (or rather, couldn’t see) the brain injury, or even my very visible glasses for that matter. No, she simply saw a way to relieve some of her work frustrations onto a “slow” customer. How is that fair? We all go through things, we all have our own unique stories, and we should all be kind to one another. I simply smiled at her and pointed out that I was already wearing glasses. She really didn’t stop to think that there could have been countless reasons as to why I took a couple of extra seconds – from a bad day, to a migraine, or a vision impairment. It really doesn’t matter what the reason is and sometimes the need for patience is even more transparent than an invisible brain injury.
Sometimes it is as transparent as a giant brace encasing my entire leg from ankle to thigh. The crotchety older man I encountered on the staircase clearly didn’t think so as he proceeded to yell at me for being too slow and hogging the handrail. He either didn’t see the leg brace or perhaps just didn’t care, and honestly, it really doesn’t matter why I was slow.
I don’t feel the need to justify myself or apologize for being “slow.” It really doesn’t matter if I have a visible or invisible injury. I could be in a wheelchair, I could be deaf, blind, or I could simply have had a bad day. Either way, it really doesn’t matter. There is no way of knowing what someone’s life story is, unless you spend a day in their shoes, so we should all treat each other with kindness, compassion and humanity.
I can honestly say that these instances don’t affect me and the way I choose to live my life. To this day, I still prefer to use the staircase over an elevator or escalator, and still unashamedly take my time when signing receipts or papers. However, I strongly believe that we, as a society, need to be kinder and more patient with one another, because I do know that if someone else had been in my shoes, these comments may have discouraged them from wanting to use the stairs again, or wanting to sign a receipt by themselves.
How is that fair? Why should anyone’s opinion impact the way someone chooses to express their autonomy and independence? What really matters to me is my own growth, independence, and recovery, whether that means that I take a few seconds longer to use the stairs instead of opting for the elevator, then so be it. We should all be more patient and understanding. That doesn’t mean I want special treatment. Hell no. All I want is for people to treat each other the way they themselves would want to be treated – with some humanity and patience. It’s as simple as that.