The Masks


Name: Annette A.

City: Anchorage

Brain Injury: 2012 Passenger in a rollover car accident

Explanation of Mask: I wear tinted lenses so I literally have rose-colored glasses.  I decorated the inside of my mask to show the difference between what people see on the outside and how I feel inside.  The flowers are for the growth I have had while being nurtured by people that love and support me, and every day I am thankful for them.  The horns are for my strength, but also for the way providers sometimes demonize me when I advocate for myself.  It’s exhausting and draining to use my energy this way, and the thorns represent the pain that keeps me from moving forward.  If people stop judging only the flowers because “I look fine,” and just believe me when I say I also feel the thorns, then maybe the butterfly of change and rebirth could fly free.  One day the flowers will get bigger and the thorns will get smaller.  That’s the hope talking – there is always hope!

Name: Lil Sis

City: Anchorage

Brain Injury: TBI from black out and fell

Explanation of Mask: The process of dealing with a brain injury has “opened my eyes” to the extreme complexities of the brain and all the things that can go awry with even the smallest bump or jar – or slight stroke – and the unfortunate paucity of professionals who understand the issues and have good resources for dealing with them. Thank goodness for the folks at Alaska Brain Injury Network, Access Alaska, and now the Unmasking Brain Injury project, who are forging a new path to the light for all the people who struggle with brain damage and the folks who care for them. Eye/ nose/ head dysfunctions all come from head injuries.

Name: Undisclosed

City: Undisclosed

Brain Injury: Undisclosed

Explanation of Mask: Undisclosed

Name:  Denise C-S

City: Eagle River

Brain Injury:  AVM hemorrhage 1984, 2nd surgery to remove another malformation in 1986

Explanation of Mask: The white color of the base mask represents how I initially struggled with my identity. My laugh changed, and my voice was altered due to a paralyzed vocal cord so I also felt silenced. Therefore I have a zipper over my mouth. But the zipper is open and a butterfly released as I have changed and grown. Likewise, the color has changed to green (my favorite color) as a symbol of new life. Coincidentally, the color is New Shamrock – I am a new creation but rather than lucky, I am fortunate. I have an amazing family (represented in the faith tree as a genealogy chart) and an Awesome God who I never questioned Why Me? In fact, I always said Why Not Me? Having a loving God and family supporting me, I felt better equipped to deal with my circumstances. It took time to fully come to this understanding, but I never questioned God’s purpose for me. Another thing that kept me strong was the poem “Don’t Quit.” As you see on my mask, I have scribbled out the n’t and qu leaving Do it! That is my motto.


Name: Janice B.

City: Anchorage

Brain Injury: Post Concussion Syndrome for 7 month from Closed Head Injury in winter when I slipped on ice and knocked out.

Explanation of Mask: My mask should be plain – looks like nothing different from the outside – that’s why people cannot tell anything is wrong. But I have made it show what is underneath a padlock for the things I cannot remember. Then blue sky and sun for happy that I am getting better and for time I now get to spend with my family. But then red and lightening bolt for anger and frustration that strikes unexpectedly because my brain is “overloaded”. Dark circles under eyes from tired feeling that comes from too much brain activity. My mask has half smile because I am getting better but half frown because it makes me sad when I am treated like a child. And a single tear for the career I lost. But also for the family and friends that had TBI before me but how sad I am now that I did not understand what they were going thru.

Name: Jessica B.

City: Anchorage

Brain Injury:  Brain Tumor – Hemangioblastoma in brain stem

Explanation of Mask: Left side represents life before –> had everything I always wanted – wife and mom.

Middle section –> grey for brain tumors where everything changed –> could have lost it all  : (

Right side –> all the parts of my identity (good and bad) now – feel like I am a jumble of pieces that don’t fit all together. Faith is the key!



Name: John

City: Anchorage

Brain Injury: Stroke

Explanation of Mask: Mask is in 5 parts – 1st normal, 2nd stroke, 3rd aftermath, 4th finding out about stroke, 5th new beginning

The colors represent what happened and then all the things after!

1st – pink – gold (alive), silver (confident), light green (creative), purple (energized), blue (focus)

2nd Black – stroke (red), fear (green)

3rd Gray – brown (afraid), dark green (dread), orange (fearful), tangerine (scared), yellow (confused), red (anger) and (cheated)

4th pink knowledge, understanding, learning, beginning recovery

5th blue – gold (alive), purple (able), healing and grateful.

My mask is in 5 sections because that was how I felt for years until I found out about the stroke. Now the healing begins and the future is brighter.


Name: Wizard

City: Anchorage

Brain Injury: Spinal Meningitis x4

Explanation of Mask: The orange side is how I feel, nerves in my brain are jumbled with loose ends. The bubble beads represent the things I have forgotten (brain farts) like how to count money or how to print. Information is confusing and in absurd order. The pain adds to the confusion. The blue side of the mask is how everyone sees me. I look normal. It seems like my mind is in a nice neat bow. I am expected to be as productive as before my TBI, but all is not as it seems.



Name: Undisclosed

City: Undisclosed

Brain Injury: Undisclosed

Explanation of Mask: Undisclosed



Name: Karl E.

City: Anchorage

Brain Injury: Anaplastic Oliodendroglioma brain tumor

Explanation of Mask: This mask represents the social expectations; thus the expressions like a failing clown. Language is a battle; how to say and hear, read and write. “No ifs, and, or buts” is the mental mush. Surgery cut my eye cords. The anesthetized nightmare buried me under binary blankets; suffocating me. The blue eyes reflects the soft blue sky; dreaming of fresh possibilities.



Name: Undisclosed

City: Anchorage

Brain Injury: Undisclosed

Explanation of Mask: Undisclosed