Having any type of disability I’m sure comes with a series of hardships that I do not understand, but I think one common challenge (whether it is physical or mental) that a lot of us can recognize as similar, in some ways, is disclosure.
Having an “invisible” disability myself, can make opening up about it to friends and/or work colleagues tough. It is almost impossible to predict what type of reaction one is going to get when disclosing a brain injury. I mean is anyone going to know if I don’t tell them? I have learned though that not telling can sometimes end up hurting me more. But, people can be closed minded; so what do I do?
Regardless of what I or you do, I think the key behind disclosure is doing it properly, with a calm and positive attitude; and taking the time to explain. I think we can get so nervous and worked up about disclosing that we either psych ourselves out of doing it by building up all of this anxiety and fear in our heads, or we spit it out so quickly without giving enough thought to our words that it is made out to sound so much worse than it is.
Most of my life I knew nothing of my disability only that I was made to struggle with various things throughout my growing up. So how was I to disclose when I didn’t know there was anything to say. I did not know about accommodation; and I did not know how to focus on my abilities as opposed to my challenges. The first time there was any type of disclosure in my life was my mom helping me out when I failed at college, and that was probably more of a shock to my system than anything else. As I came to understand my brain injury, not just the learning disability acquired from it, I was able to see more into my limitations. So when I tried to disclose because I was faced with difficulties in certain situations, I disclosed my weaknesses and that I couldn’t get things done. And that, was the problem.
The words that I used focused on what I could not do, on how I needed help. I was not groveling or looking for sympathy, there were no tears, but my words reflected failure. And also, I was waiting for a problem to arise, even if I knew that one was coming. What I eventually learned, after falling and getting back up a few times, was that something many saw as a weakness, and something I myself was kind of looking at, or least talking about, in the same manner, was in fact something that I needed to show off as the complete opposite. Why? Because this disability is something I have had most of my life and nothing to be ashamed about. Because I have learned to adapt and grow with it; I have gone through public school, high school and graduated from college; I have obtained three separate diplomas along with acquiring a variety of other certificates; I’ve worked extra hard at a variety of things and because of it I developed a pretty awesome set of abilities and a strong work ethic. I take notes, pay close attention, focus on tasks and take nothing for granted. I have developed exceptional organizational skills and I know how to problem solve by thinking outside the box. I have learned patience, empathy and open mindedness toward all people and all situations. All of these things and more I have developed because of what some might consider a weakness.
Since coming to this realization, I have disclosed this way in the workplace, I have become an advocate and I have written quite a few articles and a book about my issues. I have to admit that confessing on a personal level is much harder for me, but I continue telling myself that it will only make any type of relationship (that is worth it) stronger and better for both parties in the long run, no matter how it turns out.
It is in my opinion that confession brings the soul knowledge and power, and sometimes even builds harmony with others. Confession I think, is a part of character.
Disclosure is different for everyone, and it can play out differently in any given situation. Regardless of being positive things may not work out. It is a personal choice. But for me, I decided that the ‘disclose’ was for me and all about showing my growth and achievements, and maybe trying to help others understand… to maybe grow and achieve along with me.
- Mark Koning