Invisible Injuries and Illness

Welcome to the first post in this new series, called Pockets Full of Lavender. My name is Connor Macklin and I run Hardstylin’ Photography. I suffered a Traumatic Brain Injury (and a bunch of other injuries) from a car crash on September 9th, 2013. I’ve spent the last 10+ years learning about living with an injury no one can see. When you look at me today, you won’t see scars from deep lacerations or burns. I don’t walk with a limp anymore. Tubes no longer keep me alive by pushing food and air into my body. The only lasting noticeable change in me is my tracheotomy scar, and even that only gets seen if you’re really paying attention or you have an affinity for necks.

The crash happened in Minneapolis when my friend Brody and I were on our way to pick up another friend for band practice. Even though I had considered myself a “punk” for a long time, I had really only been involved in the Minneapolis scene for about a year. Once I dipped my toe into that world, being fully submerged was the only thing I ever wanted to be. Brody and I were two of the roommates at The Shack, a punk house we started in September of 2012. I had made more friends in the year I lived at The Shack than I had in my first three years in Minneapolis. Those friends showed how important they were to me as they sometimes trickled and sometimes flooded into my hospital room to see me or hang with my family while I was still in a coma. 

I’m sure I’ll talk more about my hospital stay and recovery later in this blog, but right now we’re going to fast forward a bit. A year after the crash, I made a post on social media about Suicide Prevention month. I had experienced the my first thoughts of suicide a few months earlier and, even though I had never been open about that, it was something I thought was important to talk about. My friend Giffin commented on the post something like, “man, you always seem so positive and happy when I’m around you. I had no idea you were dealing with that.” That comment changed so much about how I view my own issues, as well as how I see other people.

There are a bunch of things wrong with me. Some of those things are related to the crash and some of those things are just who I am. Outside of a nose that screams, “I’ve been broken a BUNCH of times,” and an ever fading tracheotomy scar, none of my injuries or disabilities can be diagnosed by looking at me. You can’t see how much trauma my brain sustained in a crash that also broke 26 bones, bruised a bunch of organs, and ended my best friend’s life. When you meet me out in the world, you can only really get to know me as who I am in that moment. If you only see me at punk shows, you probably only see me having a good time. Out at the bar, same thing. Shit, most social situations, I’m there because I’m feeling good and want to go feel good with other people.

It’s really only when you get really close with people like me that you start to see who we really are. We all hide things we don’t want other people to see, but I really wanted to stop hiding the parts of me none of my friends could see and I didn’t know how to deal with on my own. Over the past decade, I’ve been trying to figure out how transparent and visible I wanted to be with all of this stuff and it’s led me here. My goal is that I’ll keep writing as long as anyone wants to keep reading, and I’ll talk about some cool photos along the way.

I took this picture at The Runoff, in Kalamazoo. I have no memory of what band this was, but I snapped this while they were getting ready for their set. I know there are so many people in the punk community just like me, who have little musical talent, but idolize everything about being talented and in a touring band. This picture helps remind me that a life of playing music with your best friends also comes with the stresses of probably not having much money, a bunch of different personalities locked in a van for countless hours, and not being able to have the normalcy and dependability of a regular schedule at home.

Everyone is battling their own battle and the injuries you can see are definitely not the only ailments they’re dealing with. I hope I always get better at remembering that.