I am one of the many: a man who has experienced a Traumatic Brain Injury and feels forgotten. I am left wondering where my place is in the world and why I’m so easily cast aside.
We survivors, as a group, constantly deal with feelings of “being forgotten” and of being alone and not having a place for ourselves. Is there a way we can learn to live our lives and do something about that as we work at building our futures?
First thing I need to do is to be honest with myself, and that isn’t always easy. I don’t want this to turn it into a whining, complaining blog about how people acted as if I wasn’t there after my brain injury. Whining and complaining about the injustices I felt will not help anyone.
This exercise isn’t about being “right” and it’s not about being righteously angry. It’s about getting to the truth: I need to ask myself an important question: am I really the forgotten man, or do I just feel like one?
The two are distinctly different.
Look, I know this is huge and serious issue. Being forgotten is a very real problem for all of us, but I have to look beyond the obvious if I want to help myself.
When I look back I can see that I was most certainly not forgotten immediately after my accident. I had friends who visited me in the hospital, constantly calling my parents to see how I was. I had friends I hadn’t heard from in a couple of years who called me in the hospital to see how I was. I had friends who took me places and tried to resume a normal relationship with me.
There were also times people reached out to me after I returned to college, and they weren’t the people I thought would be there for me; casual friends who were especially nice to me or tried to include me in things they were doing.
I was lucky enough to have those things and it would be wrong to say I didn’t, but what happened: why did I end up feeling forgotten, and is that justified?
The Truth is Hard to Face
At those moments when people reached out to me, I was unable to respond because I wasn’t ready, or was in a fog and didn’t realize I was being reached out to, or didn’t know how to respond. I was in my own world, and I was unable to shake off the cobwebs. When I look back at it, these are the most frustrating moments because I realize now there were times I could have helped myself but didn’t.
One important piece to this puzzle is this: it was easy for people to be there right after my injury. However, a brain injury is forever, and were most people didn’t understand that and weren’t in it for the long haul with me. I guess they thought things would magically be back to normal when I got out of hospital, and they got spooked when they realized I wasn’t who I used to be.
I really cannot blame anyone because I felt forgotten, even if they really did abandon me. Things had changed. Life was different, and not just for me.
The Great Irony
There was one final event that capped off my time in college perfectly and made me look at “Feeling forgotten” completely differently; almost as a blessing.
When I was a junior we had to turn in a photo that would be used in the senior yearbook. I distinctly remember handing my picture to someone who was collecting them.
When I picked up my yearbook the next year and leafed through it, I felt a little pang. Then I chuckled. For some reason, I wasn’t surprised when I couldn’t find my picture.
Not in the yearbook!! What a fitting end this was to college.
How ironic it all was. The man who often felt as though he didn’t exist had all of his darkest thoughts confirmed. At that moment I truly felt like the forgotten man, but in a strange way I got some sort of strength from being forgotten. It was the strength one gets from knowing. From certainty. From being exactly sure who you are and from being able to become whatever you wanted.
My time in college was over, and, since there was no image of me, I felt like I was allowed to escape into obscurity and start over. I felt the strength of being allowed to be whoever I wanted to be since there was no record of my existence.
So what if I felt forgotten? I turned my feelings of being forgotten into a new kind of freedom.
What’s important is how we deal with feeling forgotten. What’s it going to take for you to not “feel forgotten”; to get over that painful and hurtful hump that affects so much of our attitude and how we view ourselves?
Sometimes it just involves flipping a switch and changing the way we look at the world. It doesn’t have to be complicated. It doesn’t even have to makes sense. It just has to be something within you that gives you the strength to “be” who you are, to not worry about what others think, and learn to be strong in yourself.
Thanks for reading, Jeff
Cassie Barr says
You have a nice gift of putting into words our feelings as TBI survivors and validating them. Thank you for helping us not feel so alone.
Joan Harrison says
Thank you for this post. I too feel forgotten. I feel no one hears me anymore. I feel completely stupid and no longer relevant. It doesn’t feel very good at all…Makes me sad…Your post helped me feel that maybe I can control how I feel and get to work finding my new normal…I actually feel a bit motivated and I haven’t felt motivated in the last year…for this I thank you…
Lisa A. Stuckel says
The first 2 months of my recovery from brain surgeries and strokes, I was THE biggest baller of all. It took a while, but when I started to LOOK and SEARCH for the POSITIVES in my recovery, that changes everything for the better! Over 25 years later, I STILL try to stay positive the best way I can, and that works for me so well.
Susanne Zapatero says
Even without a TBI its easy to feel forgotten. Particularly if you have experiencef ACE’s (Adverse Childhood Experiences) as part of your history. Or more recently for myself, having had a total knee replacement and feeling invisible both as an older person (55) and in recovery.
What i loved about your blog was your intra-reflections. Where had you forgotton the man you were and now embrace the man you have become?
Sometimes when we lose a implicit knowing of who we were and are faced with accepting an identity initially foreign it can be painful on many levels.
This is a place were we can be forgotten. Were we have forgotten or lost connection wirh those aspects of self so primal.
I am coming to an inner place of calm maybe, where my sense of self isnt so much defined by others seeing me or even remembering me. More and more my value is in the relationship I have with self and then how my transactions with others bring joy/happiness or not. More and more my sense of self is defined by another. And sometimes it is and then i exercise great compassion for myself.
Thank you for your blog. Your words allowed me to think about what is important to me and the differences we all have in how we view our experiences.
Joyce Mckinney says
I really enjoyed your article! It is so interesting how friends just don’t have anything to do with you because you are different since a brain injury. My son has no friends that visit him . He did have one or two who would come by when it first happened, but no more. My husband and I both say, “he has his mom and dad”. We will be here for him through thick and thin.
So keep sending me your articles. I enjoy reading them.
Nancy Collins says
I know the forgotten feeling and especially when my only child and 3 siblings out of 4 also didn’t check up on me after I didn’t die and left the hospital. My youngest brother came by every day for almost 2 weeks. I had a real hard time facing my life with a broken arm and bad balance with the feeling of stupidity being my only guide. It was and still is a moment to moment fight for survival from day light til dark dealing with pain. Every day I have to tell myself I will be better and others had it much worse than I did.
Tyler Murray says
This article definitely helps me to know I’m not alone, but it could be cause I was young when my TBI happened and well who I am as a person if someone wants to leave my life let them if they can’t except me for who I am now they were never really my friends. And my family is always there for me or they try as much as possible so thank you family. The friends help me experience life as much as they can. But this article really gives a TBI survivers view on it and everyone should read TBI or not thank you again for writing this article.
Thank you for so eloquently putting into words how I feel. I not only feel forgotten but alone.
Thank you Jeff. Your words resonate so well with how I feel.
Kim Ott says
You have put into words what I have been trying communicate to friends and family. Thank you. I sustained my TBI last March during a accident, when I rolled on my ankle and fell face first into the path. Since then, life has seemed surreal. My husband is my caregiver, we are still waiting for government funded care, and no one wants to hear my story because it is not “sexy”. I am just a 52 year old Canadian woman… not a child, or an athlete, or a famous person…. And I am forgotten. I don’t tell my story to complain. However, I do want to make sure as many of these stories are told to help others. I enjoy reading your blog.
” comfortable in your own skin; comfortable enough to trust both yourself and the insights you have, ” You mentioned in one of your blogs. That is BIG and so is the feeling of being “forgotten”. And you are right…we have to really sit and ponder as we don’t want to be a nuisance. It is impossible to put into words what it is like to have TBI. It is NOT like Alz or dementia, although at times, one wonders~! 🙂 I never know the date, and everyone I meet at the doctors office knows the next time we see each other they will have to come up and speak and tell me we are friends. I will never remember. To me, the most difficult thing is judgement. It’s okay to have dementia and act differently. But TBI? Nope. The double standard has gotten to me at times. But who wants to understand TBI and all that goes with it? In my fantasy world, all understand, family, friends, etc… and because of that, I get better faster. It is known that people reduce inflammation faster than a pill. Humm…. and so many other things happens faster with support than medications. Funny, but I get in trouble more for medications, and sometimes I would like to say, “If you were a friend, then I might could give up the meds!”. We do not rule the world, nor expect to be the center of the universe. But to feel as if making burnt toast was the best thing ever? Yea… I would like that! 🙂 I may have days where I feel things are my fault by having TBI, but in reality, it’s not. And when we married we said “for better or for worse”, so it doesn’t help to be told “because of you, poor Charles”…. I already have plenty of guilt trip miles on that without any help! How about “you do so well, it is admirable”. We hear we need to be positive, and I believe that! But if positivity isn’t coming our way, then tell me, just how is it expected for us to be positive? I’m still trying to figure that out. I’ve lost friends and family…and there is much grief. When there is love, there is a need to understand and educate. That pretty much weeds out those who care and those who don’t!