I get a laugh when I mention to somebody that I lost my car in the parking lot and they respond with, “Oh yeah, I do that all the time.”
I know they are just trying to be cute and funny or to find a way to make a connection with me, but what these people don’t understand is that there is nothing cute or funny about a brain injured individual having to deal with constantly forgetting, misplacing or not understanding.
I’m sure many, if not all of you, understand exactly what comes with saying, “I lost my car again,” when you have a brain injury.
You know about the confusion as you stand in the parking lot trying to remember where you parked, unable to figure out why you can’t do something simple like remember where your car is. You know how that confusion gets worse, not better, the more you try and figure it out. You know about the frustration that comes with forgetting…yet again. You feel that not knowing where your car is parked is a reflection of what your life has become, and that these type of things, which are just nuisances to other people, put you deeper and deeper into the suckhole.
The last straw is that losing your car brings back every fear and frustration you’ve ever had, making you feel as though you don’t belong on this earth.
I almost fell into that God-forsaken trap the other day.
Luckily for me, as I stood dumbfounded in the busy parking lot, teetering on the brink of the trap trying to suck me in, I had one of those rare revelations we sometimes have: you know, a flash of light and a single thought that cut through the fog and lit up the sky with clarity.
For that one great, shining moment, I saw the answer and I understood my life.
What was it that clicked?
In the millisecond just before I fell into the trap, I was able to pause and ask myself: What is really going on here? Why does it have to be like this?
It was in that moment that I took control.
Right then I understood that the “Brain Injury Trap” wasn’t something that happened to me. The truth was this: I had brought the trap on myself. Yes, me. I did’t have the parking lot or the cars or my brain injury to blame, although that is very convenient. The trap was about to spring on me because I doubted myself; and the trap was like quicksand: the more I struggled and fought back, the harder it was to escape.
The Brain Injury Trap
In that moment I saw that I needed to do two things:
I needed to come to terms with the idea that due to my brain injury, I may, at times, forget where I park my car, and that was ok. That sort of thing will happen from time to time because I don’t have a ton of control over how my memory works.
Secondly, coming to terms with this would help me accept “lil-ol’-me” and stop me from beating myself up. It would also allow me to deal with situations constructively instead of using them as a reason to get pissed at myself.
I saw that I needed to exercise control over my mind. Contrary to what I might think, it really wasn’t the “forgetting” that was the issue. It wasn’t the “Forgetting” that made me a bad person. I made myself into a bad person by thinking I shouldn’t be forgetting and by beating myself up and judging myself.
Making myself into a bad person springs the “Brain Injury Trap” on me.
Avoiding the Trap
So how do I avoid falling into the “Brain Injury Trap”: the beat down I give myself, as well as the terrible lack of confidence I have when I feel I can do nothing right?
We want avoid the trap and reach the goal of having that shining moment of clarity and trust in ourselves, like I had the day I lost my car, last as long as possible. We must begin the process by accepting who we our. That will enable us to think objectively about the situation, and we can move on from there, using our brains in a proactive and objective way.
If I feel the trap coming on, I try to focus on things outside of myself. I try to turn myself into a problem solver rather than a problem maker, and the way I do this is by thinking about what I am not doing. I find that when I fall into the trap it is usually because I become very focused and create new problems by doing things over and over again and expecting things to be different; for example, I walk up and down the same aisle in the parking lot looking for my car because I think I must have walked by it.
These are the times I need to think expansively; think outside of myself so I can be more objective and not get caught up in doubting myself. Often the solution is very simple and I just have to give myself the room to find it.