Navigating Traumatic Memories- A Survivor’s Journey

As a 21-year survivor of severe traumatic brain injury, I feel I can be transparent regarding my daily challenges. It starts every morning walking to the bathroom. First, I sit up on the side of the bed, feel for my Crocs with my feet, and rise up to begin the walk to the bathroom. My steps are measured and calculated, so I can walk safely and have a GREAT day physically. There have been times when my gait was not as smooth which led to me walking into the door frame or a wall, and I’d feel clumsy the entire day. Regardless of how my mornings start, I have to stay positive and be better the next time. They say experience is the best teacher, but what if you don’t remember your last attempt? How does one get better when muscle memory to perform movement after 29 years is loss? I believe I have a pretty good recollection of the events that led to the accident I had in 2003, but I still do not remember hitting the mailbox on 167th Street. My curiosity had me wondering if the memory would ever return, or if it’d come back to me in a nightmare or dream.

Being an IT professional, it is my duty to understand, test, and play with the new stuff that comes out in technology. So, I asked MS Copilot (AI) about why do I have missing memories after TBI and if those memories would come back. I know I have talked about this previously, but below is the feedback from AI:

Introduction

Trauma leaves an indelible mark on our lives, etching memories that can both haunt and heal. If you’ve experienced a traumatic event, such as a motorcycle accident, you’re not alone. Let’s explore how memories behave, whether they can resurface, and how to cope with their return.

1. Why Do Traumatic Memories Hide?
   – Protective Veil: Our minds often shield us from the full impact of trauma. Initially, this protective mechanism keeps us from drowning in emotional pain.
   – State-Dependent Learning: Memories are tied to specific states—moods, arousal levels, or even drug-induced conditions. They resurface when our brain revisits those same states.

2. Can Memories Come Back?
   – The Unseen Current: Yes, memories can resurface unexpectedly. After years of feeling “normal,” buried emotions may emerge. This isn’t weakness; it’s readiness for deeper healing.
   – Triggers and Echoes: Repressed memories return through triggers—sights, sounds, smells—or in dreams and flashbacks. Our emotions patiently wait for a safe moment to surface.

3. Dealing with Resurfaced Memories:
   – Acknowledge Your Strength: Recognize that these feelings are part of your healing journey. You’ve come a long way.
   – Sit with Compassion: Allow emotions to express themselves. It’s okay to feel vulnerable; it’s a sign of resilience.
   – Seek Support: Consider trauma-focused therapy, mindfulness practices, or connecting with others who understand.
   – Professional Guidance: If symptoms persist or disrupt daily life, seek professional assistance. You deserve healing.”

I guess I’m not ready for deeper healing or maybe my emotional self is waiting on a safe moment to remind me of the most traumatic experience in life? Regardless, this was not an important event to learn from, so I will not spend much time looking for this memory. But if you need assistance putting things together post-injury, do not be afraid to ask for help. You’d be surprised to know there are a lot of people who can and want to help us navigate brain injury’s challenges.

I know we learn from experiences, but when can those experiences make one lose their purpose in life? Keep focused on what’s important to you! I believe you’re not supposed to remember everything experienced in life, and God does not give you more than you can handle! You have to have faith things will get better. I challenge you to write down the things you can do now vs. immediately post-injury. Don’t give up! Keep fighting and stay strong survivors!!

“According to Micrososft Copilot (2024), traumatic memories my resurface unexpectedly.”

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