You don’t look disabled

Earlier in the week I got home to a letter on the doorstep. My brain injury identity card had arrived – a little piece of plastic that lists the day to day struggles I have with my brain. 

The Brain Injury Identity Card is part of an initiative launched by Headway called the Justice Project. Launched in 2017 by Prince Harry, it’s designed to ensure that people with brain injuries are treated more fairly within the criminal justice system. 

People with brain injuries far worse than mine very often have symptoms that lead people to believe that they’re drunk, inappropriate, or otherwise disruptive. We’re not used to noticing people with hidden disabilities, so instead we find a different, more common, explanation for people who behave outside of our comfort zones.

A discomfort that could lead to someone’s arrest.

Having an identity card listing the ways behaviour changes due to brain injury means that survivors can show the card in times of trouble and be treated more fairly.

The card is also useful for brain injury survivors who need a little extra help in going about their day. Asking someone for help that you need because of a disability is hard when their response is “You don’t look disabled”. Having an identity card makes it clear what help a survivor might need and why.

I found out about the Brain Injury Identity Card way back in April, but I didn’t apply for one until August. There was one thing stopping me. My identity. I felt for months that, in applying for an identity card, I was letting my brain injury become my identity.

In some ways, it is my identity. My brain injury has changed so much of me, physically, mentally and socially. It’s changed how I talk, how I walk, how much energy I have, my ability to concentrate, how much time I spend with my friends and family, how much time I set aside for myself and so, so much more. I think you’d be hard pressed to find any person who has gone through as much trauma as I have in the past year without having some major life changes along the way. 

However, what I’ve come to realise in recent months is that my brain injury is not my whole identity, just a small part of it. Thankfully, my brain injury isn’t so severe that it drastically changes my behaviour to the point of acting disorderly, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t affect me. I’ve written previously about fighting the tide of my fatigue and my problems with balance and coordination

Most days, I can get by without people noticing how my injury is affecting me, but sometimes the affects of my injury are far more noticeable. When I’m having a bad day, I struggle with simple things like stringing a sentence together… but, while my having a bad day might mean I don’t want to go out, I try not to let it stop me. I’ve come too far in the last year to let my disability stop me living my life to the fullest. 


So, having decided that I can be so much more than my disability, I made the decision to apply for a Brain Injury Identity Card. It’s so reassuring to know that I have that little bit of support in my purse if I’m having a bad day and need a little extra support to go about my day. It fills me with confidence to know that next time I’m struggling with fatigue and need a seat on the bus, the bus driver might be more understanding and come out with something more helpful than “You don’t look disabled”.

The justice project is just one of the many Headway initiatives that improve the lives of brain injury survivors such as myself on a daily basis. I’d love it if you could support my journey by making a donation to Headway. If you’re not in a position to donate, that’s okay – you can still support me by sharing this post on social media. 

Thank you for reading,



2 thoughts on “You don’t look disabled

  1. I didn’t realise there was a TBI card system outside of the UK. I’d love to read more about it if you could send me a link! I hope your card is boosting your confidence as much as mine is for me ????

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