There was a commercial back in the 90s. Please watch it now.
There are therapies out there for drug users and if they don’t leave before it’s finished, and if they don’t do drugs ever again, chances are they will recover fully. Same thing with alcoholics. Don’t leave the therapy before it’s finished. Don’t have another drink ever.
Not so with the brain-injured. There are not chances for full recovery no matter what you do more often than not, and here is where the 4 things come into play. People say “stuff” when they come to visit a stroke survivor, and the stroke survivor, maybe glad of the company, doesn’t say what’s in his or her mind. But the survivor is thinking for sure. As long as you’re not in a coma, this is what the visitor says, and this what the survivor thinks:
Visitor: You look great!
Stroke survivor’s mind: Do you have any idea what I am going through? I feel terrible inside. What do you mean? Do I look like the last time you saw me?
Visitor: What are you trying?
Stroke survivor’s mind: Am I looking lazy? Are you keeping a tab on what I am doing? Overseeing my progress? I am stressed out over the things they make me do.
Visitor: Let’s be positive.
Stroke survivor’s mind: This injury feels like hell. I am tired of fighting it. And I need to put up some extra effort to assure you I look positive? Screw that!
Visitor: You need to learn to treat it like normal.
Stroke survivor’s mind: Come on! This is by no means normal! I am not stupid! I have been trying so hard, okay? So please shut up and stop lecturing me so cluelessly! 1
People say stupid stuff. That’s a given. But if you go and visit a brain-injured person, remember these things, and just stop. Talk about the weather. Talk about a movie or a just completed book. Talk about a meal. But for cryin’ out loud, don’t say these 4 things. OK?
1 This experiment–what stroke survivors are really thinking– comes from an exercise Daniel Gu was conducting in which Brain Exchange members had to think of what Wendy–a fictional character who is also a survivor–would think to herself when asked. Kudos, Daniel, for reporting back so efficiently about these glaring 4 things.