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.
Thank you for sharing!
I totally understand, and I know this isn’t your point, but, just for this particular issue, Ive found a few tips that may help. I try to park in the same location, when visiting the same store over and over. Also there are some very helpful smart phone apps, that locate your parked car. Some even set automatically. My injury was just over 10 years ago, and I’m still seeing pretty nice improvements. Never give up. It gets better, over time.
FI Thompson says
A lightbulb moment!
Clarity about myself that has just hit home and something I hadnt realised before.
A stark reality. The person I have become is my brain injury, and I pretty much hate this pathetic person I have become, bottom line is I just dont like the person I am today. Gone is the girl with bags of energy, enough get up and go to strive for anything I put my mind to.
Great problem solver which made me fantastic at the job I did.
Always a sense of adventure, I loved to learn, to discover new things.
A zest for life, I thought I was invincible.
Talking about losing your car, I did once about 15 years ago, 13 years prior to the accident (not motor related) that caused my life changing brain injury.
I was in a hire car & had driven to our local out of town shopping centre that has 4 separate car parks in different areas.
For the life of me I couldnt remember which car park Id used nor being a hire car could I remember the reg. I had to spend almost an hour trecking around the almost full large 4 car parks pressing the key listening for the beep beep when the locks opened until I eventually found it!!
No brain injury nor my horrendous short term memory to blame, just complete lack of taking proper notice of where Id parked, and an event of which I can still laugh about to this day!!
Re the way you have opened my eyes today is the realisation that instead of mourning the person I vividly remember I was who is gone forever is to instead endeavour to gain some acceptance.
I wasnt the person at aged 15 that I was at 10. Equally I wasnt the same person at 40 that I was at 20. All people change. My change this time was overnight, but it happened. I cant go back. I can see if I can work to stop looking for that person I was then I can be who I am now.
As I said. You have given me clarity for the very first time.
Again I thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Kimberly Wood says
Great article. I fall into this trap not only if I forget where I park my car but when I misplace or lose anything. Parking my car is better since I try accommodate for my issues by going to do my errands early when less people are out so I can park in the same place each time. It is one of the most triggering things I deal with though, when I can’t find something. It will generally lead to looping obsessing and often to a neuro flooding episode which are the absolute worst to endure.
Abigail Littlefield says
Thanks for this.
Working diligently to not make myself the victim over and over again. Anger. Anger and temper gets in the way. The meds help. Just a few months past 7 years from my TBI, I previously was more able to accept how I was. I am tired now. Having to find my way to the bathroom in the night. People that don’t walk in our shoes (and even some that do) don’t understand that when I wake up – I generally have absolutely no idea where I am, how I got here, WHO I am or where the bathroom is located. Relax, have some coffee, get the morning meds, pray, be thankful for what I do have. Try to live another day in a life that I have not chosen for myself but I have been placed in. Thanks for letting me vent. More coffee now. If anyone else can relate – please let me know. There is safety in numbers 🙂
Jeff Sebell says
I can relate to a lot of what you say. In fact, I wrote about the whole waking up thing in this blog: http://www.tbisurvivor.com/2017/02/20/living-with-a-brain-injury-and-feeling-disconnected/, if you care to check it out. This may not be the life any of us would have chosen, but that doesn’t stop us from being the best we can be. I wish you good luck as you go. Jeff
Right on target,well written and poignant. You reminded me of night terrors when I wake up screaming, or wake up to someone sleeping next to me and, I’m not quite sure who it is. My wife is very supportive and takes great care of me. Your feeling disconnected article brought tears to my eyes as I can totally relate to all of this. Blessings to you my friend. We are connected by experience. I look forward to reading your book.
Leslie Relle says
Jeff this has happened to me many times over the years. My doctor signed for me to have a disabled parking permit, available through the DMV with an application. I don’t have to use it all the time. Some days are better than others. There is a physical disability that is not visible all the time.
Joyce mckinney says
I really enjoyed reading about you today. Thanks so much for sharing what happened in the parking lot about forgetting where you parked your car. My husband has been recently diagnosed with a brain injury and man have I seen a difference in him. He forgets everything!! I am being challenged with seeing two sides of a brain injury—- My son was diagnosed with a TBI in 2011 due to a terrible car accident. We brought him home in 2012 and have been taking care of him everyday– nonverbal and paralyzed. Well, my husband had a bad car wreck just 3 months ago and suffered serious injuries, brain bleed but wasn’t as bad as Cedric’s was. He is now home walking and talking, but I can tell a difference in him. So I’m trying to take care of them both.
Jeff Sebell says
I always though that being a caretaker was, in many ways, more difficult than being a survivor. Good luck and god bless you for the job you are doing with your son and your husband. I wish there was something I could say or do that would make it easier. All I can really offer you is this: I don’t want you to feel alone. We are all with you in spirit. Jeff
Yes! Thank you. I also hate, “there is nothing wrong with your brain, you function better than I do.” Because I have a million strategies to get me through then I go home and utterly crash! People don’t get it and I don’t have the energy to be anywhere long enough for them to see the deficits when I can no longer “fake it”
Jyoti Thomas says
I hear ya Lisa. I hate that to when people really don’t get it. As you say we have to use loads of strategies to manage everyday things and then there is the crash afterwards that others don’t see. you’re not alone.
Amen. I love the “your doing fine” and we all forget things as we get older type of comments. “You look great!” If they only knew all the strings and pieces of tape holding our lives together – I can fake it for about 4 hours or so in public (assuming the noise and lighting is not excessive) then I have to bail and crash. If I’m forced into longer periods, it may not end well. My wife knows and understands if I have to escape from an environment that is over taxing me. I am here with you.
Hi Jeff, I can really relate to what you have written. its so easy to slip into giving ourselves a hard time on top of the challenges we already face. I have found the more awareness I have of this and catch myself quickly when I start to put myself down in situations like that, the better I manage life. being in the moment, lots of calming big outward breaths and we find our way. thanks for sharing your experience.
I agree so much with what you are saying and know I need to stand still and calm down as the anxiety will not help my brain function better.
Good writing to help us not feel so bad about loosing our car in parking lots. Another problem with shopping is I can’t find the right door to get out of the store to find my car….. I get so wrapped up with shopping, the sales, finding the register to pay and looking around… Yep learned to let it go, its the way it is …. adventure time!
I just discovered your blog. I’ve had half a dozen TBI’s in my life but was not aware of what a TBI was until this past year. I’d had multiple traumatic knock outs, even a bad skull fracture. But I was never told anything about a “TBI”. I was told I had a “head injury” – and that was typically the last reference as attention was given to fixing other broken bones. Only in 2018 did I discover I had been experiencing traumatic brain injuries issues my entire life, for decades. (I finally met with an M.D. and am working with a neuropsychologist now).
Very short term memory problems are one of about a dozen issues I’ve experienced. Finally learning about TBI and learning what was going on in my head has made me feel quite a bit better. I now feel very lucky and grateful that I came through these injuries generally okay – so many others have had far worse outcomes. While I still get frustrated at my very short term memory lapses, I no longer blame myself or feel stupid about it. It is what it is and sometimes I even manage to laugh at it. And yes, I’ve lost my car several times too.
Hi, Jeff so glad I read your email. I get stuck in the brain game every time my husband starts. I get the blame-game because I have no say so on anything, tells me I don’t know where I shit last. Loose my car all he time. Did you know you can get a handicap sticker from your Primary Dr. for neurological reasons. I am the brain damage women who is always wrong. I can’t make him understand that yes it is damaged but I’m here and not stupid.
Jeff Sebell says
Dina, Sorry to hear you aren’t getting the support at home. You also bring up a great point: you are still intelligent. I always think of it as the difference between my brain and my mind. My brain may not be able to control my functions as it used to, but my mind remains. The trick is to learn to use your mind after brain injury. Thanks for writing. Jeff