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by Abigail Van Buren

Wife Is Caught in the Middle of Family's Rift With Husband

DEAR ABBY: I have an invisible injury -- a traumatic brain injury that occurred when I was struck by a car when I was 10. People don't understand my symptoms. When I stumble when I walk, people have accused me of being drunk. When I haven't been able to answer a question right away, I've been called an idiot. Kids have made fun of me in front of my daughter while their parents looked on and smiled in approval. It taught my daughter to be a more understanding and compassionate person.

My injury has made it hard for me to make friends. My memory is shot. I forget names but remember faces. I have tried explaining to people what happened only to be accused of lying. It hurts. I have quit trying to make friends because it's just easier to be on my own.

I guess I'm writing to you hoping to remind people that just because you think you know what's going on with someone does not mean that you do. -- MISUNDERSTOOD

DEAR MISUNDERSTOOD: I'm printing your letter because it is an important one. Many people suffer from hidden disabilities. That you have been subjected to the kind of abuse you have received from these insensitive, rude individuals makes me wonder about the intelligence level of the people you are surrounded with. You might feel less isolated if you affiliate with a brain injury support group. You can find one by contacting the Brain Injury Association of America. The toll-free number to call is 800-444-6443 or visit biausa.org.