Should I disclose my acquired brain injury? - Part 1


The answer to the question, “should I disclose my acquired brain injury?” is complicated by a variety of factors including ones’ plan to return to work; return to school; return to the dating world; and/or return to one’s social life. Navigating these challenging situations following an acquired brain injury can be daunting, and the additional complexity of communicating in the digital world can add insult to injury. There is never an easy answer to questions of this sort. A disclosure that feels comfortable to one person might feel extremely awkward to another.  

If you have an acquired brain injury, you might feel as though people will not accept you, or may look down upon you if you disclose information about you injury. You might be concerned about being passed over for promotions or be concerned about a teacher marking you more critically (or more easily). You may be concerned that potential dates or romantic partners may prefer a “normal” person.

In this four part blog series, you will meet four fictitious people and the issues each of them faced around how to disclose his or her acquired brain injury…

Alana's Story

Alana is a 24 year old female motor vehicle accident survivor. She has an acquired brain injury. Her injuries are invisible as she is physically capable of doing most tasks in her daily life. She has been trying out a popular dating website for several months. On her profile, she notes her occupation as “it pays the bills”. In reality, she is not working, and devotes most of her days to rehabilitation efforts (physiotherapy, occupational therapy, and speech-language therapy). Allana is evasive when her ‘matches’ ask her what she does for a living. When conversations progress to the point that additional disclosure about the nature of her day-to-day activities is necessary, she alludes to a number of “appointments” which involve people coming to her house. The matches incorrectly assume that she is the one providing a service to these patrons. Over time, as her story shifts and turns to obscure the true nature of her appointments. Some matches become ‘fed up’ with her vagueness and feel like Alanna is hiding something. 

Within her treatment sessions, Alana concluded that being honesty from the very beginning would be the best way to start a relationship. She determined that some people would “shy-away” from someone in her situation but those would not be the people she would be with in the end anyway. Revealing small, truthful pieces of information at the beginning on her online conversations resulted in a greater degree of trust and acceptance from the guys she was meeting. She started telling the guys that asked about her job, “I’m currently working hard at recovering from major accident but I’m not comfortable with talking too much about the details of it”. This tended to be well received and sent a clear message that she was not ready to talk details about the accident itself, but she did not have anything to hide. She found that she felt good about discussing some of her rehabilitation efforts, and how far she’d come once the ice was broken. The men she met were impressed by her inner strength and resilience. 

Every situation is different and Alana’s decision to disclose her injury was discussed at length with her Speech-Language Pathologist. Initially, she was uncertain how to proceed, but once she tried the new approach, she was convinced that honesty was the best policy.  
Have you had difficulty disclosing your acquired brain injury or another uncomfortable topic when meeting potential partners? If so, how did you decide to handle it?



Bobi Tychynski Shimoda is a Speech-Language Pathologist with more than a decade of experience working with neurological communication and swallowing disorders. She has worked in a variety of settings including inpatient rehab, acute care, community, and private practise. She is highly skilled in assessment, and innovative treatment approaches.