This is the hardest week of the year for me. This is the week where as hard as I try, the creeping depression looms its head. Depression zaps my energy and steals time I would rather be spending working or hanging out with people. This also bites because this week always is always before my birthday and prevents me from looking forward to it. On March 2nd 2005, I sustained a Traumatic Brain Injury that stole my life from me. Not only did I have months of occupational therapy, physical therapy, medical issues, and no support from my school; I lost my memories.
Yes. Everything in my life before March 2nd in 2005 is now lumped as the scattered images in my head. School years, friends, major life events are all blurred together with no real details and only vague shapes of space where things may fit.
I lost it all.
When things first happened, people thought I was exaggerating. Even now, people don’t understand and can’t wrap their heads around the idea. I looked the same, but there were things I didn’t know or didn’t know that I didn’t know. Even know, I’m never going to know everything I’ve missed. I’ve spent the past few years relearning everyone other people learn in grade school about the world around them and I still have more to learn. It’s not like there is a checklist I could go through for memories and see if things are there. Some memories I glimpse scattered in dreams and others take a random trigger to get a peek at what once was.
There sits in my room, wherever that may be in the world, a small box. In this box there are notes and letters and photographs. When my family had to leave our last house, we couldn’t take everything. Most of my childhood drawings, photos, and childhood memories were left and destroyed in the house. In some ways it makes it easier to have my old life confined to the size of a shoebox.
This time of year I take out the box and try to look through things; searching for who I once was.
Like any good anthropologist, I look at the clues and try to make connections based on what is in-front of me and the resources at my disposal. I look at pictures of a little blonde girl playing with some friends and I don’t know who they are or where the picture was taken. Guess can be made, but finding the answers of names or places only gives small details of the story of her life. Was she happy that day? Were these her close friends? Why was she there that day with those people? These are just some of the eternally unanswered questions about the life I use to have.
My accident came 8 days before my 16th birthday and my birthday was spent in a full body CAT scan. When other people celebrate the life they have had on their birthday, I spent mine in unimaginable pain. This year I turn 25 years old, a quarter of a century, and I only remember the last 9 years. People tell me how young I am and my only response to them is “you have no idea.”
It is true, I still grieve for the life I’ll never remember. For years after my injury, I spent my time just trying to survive while hiding the emotional and physical pain I felt. It was only after asking those people who knew me both before and after the injury did I realize what was truly lost. My middle-school and high-school career was filled with anxiety and being bullied. I lived in a home more like a warzone where I was hostage to an abuser others denied existed. My self-esteem was crushed and I felt hopeless in my life many days.
I can’t leave this post on a negative note, lest you think I dislike the life I have now.
I’ve been told after my injury, I became “Brigid” again. I once again became the strong blonde girl who didn’t let bullies hurt others, who cares about people she may never meet again, who stands up for what she believes in even if she stand alone, and I’ve found the happiness years of abuse from many people took away from me. It’s true I have remembered some of the worst things that happened to me, but it never feels like it was me living those moments. It was all just a girl who looked like me and shared my name. I’ve become stronger because I the things I’ve had to live through have helped make me this way when I didn’t let them break me.
This is the hardest post I’ve written and tears have been streaming down my face the whole time. Part of the reason I write so much now is an ingrown fear I’ll forget. I want a record of my life somewhere because I am missing 16 years of records. Thank you all for joining me on this journey and I am very hopeful of what is next for me. Not everyone gets a second chance to lead their life and I work hard to never feel like I’m wasting a second.
I’m Brigid 2.0: the new and improved version. (Now with 2 Birthday Cakes)