Wednesday, May 1, 2013

I haven't forgotten you,I just don't know you at the moment

It happened to me again today. I was in the grocery store and a young woman spoke to me. She told me to put down the grocery item I was holding.I looked at her and did not know her. I had a sense that she was a good person, not someone I should be afraid of. Her smile and direct comment to me made it evident that she knew me. I didn't want to appear rude. So, I used the same coping strategy that I always use. I walked over to her and told her that I had a brain injury and did not remember her. I asked if she knew me. She informed me that she was a former co-worker of mine.Once she told me who she was and where she had fit into my life,a little file opened inside my head and I remembered her. She was the sweet,friendly CNA who always had nice hair and makeup and was friends with one of my staff members.

The inability to remember people is one of the many things I struggle with as a result of my TBI. I used to be embarrassed to ask for help.It is really strange not to know a person whom you have seen  and interacted with often. But, that is my life. I have a problem remembering faces. It is unnerving to say the least.

I have heard other TBI survivors speak of having memory problems in different areas. I have not seen the effects of this on someone else's life until this past week-end. I saw a movie called Remember Sunday. Zachary Levi portrayed a young man who had a brain injury that destroyed his short term memory. Every night, as he would sleep, his memories of the day disappeared. Each morning when he woke up, he had to remind himself of who he was, where he was, and what he was supposed to do. He could not remember anyone on a short term basis. He was brilliant and had enjoyed an awesome career. All that was lost. He could no longer function in that capacity.

After his brain injury he had computer calendars to remind him of appointments and things he had to do(so did I). The one note of his that got me the most was the computer note that reminded him to smile.I completely understand that note.I was often afraid of not having the proper facial expression at work. I was told that I appeared to be disinterested in conversations. The correct terminology is aphasia. It is the cognitive deficit of not being able to process and relay information. I literally had to remind myself to smile in order to not be perceived as unfriendly.

The young man in the movie used another assistive technology tool that I also used. It is an awesome pen called Livescribe. You carry it with you and take notes on a special pad. The notes are stored on the pen.It also is a tiny recorder. When you get to your computer,you insert it into your USB port and the computer types all conversation that is stored on the pen. This is a great organizational tool.
TBI survivors find themselves using sticky notes as reminders. The young man had them on his desk,on the bathroom mirror,on the refrigerator...everywhere,( so did I). The trouble with sticky notes is that you are using them to do what your brain can no longer do. It gets to be overwhelming. I would jot down a note such as, Meeting,Friday-2:PM,Brenda. I knew exactly what that meant the day I wrote it. Later, I needed more information. Meeting about what(so I could prepare)? Where at 2:PM?Brenda who? The Livescribe pen remembers everything.

If you want a better understanding of Brain injury,get the movie Remember Sunday and watch it. It is very enlightening. Levi looked normal. People that he came in contact with every day expected him to act normal. He could not,because he had a very real disability. Brain injury survivors fight a battle every day just to function in mainstream society. There is little public awareness in the area of TBI. It is my intent to share my journey and to get others to share their stories. It is my passion to save others the pain of what I and millions of others have suffered and endured.