Who was I?

Joey Garcia

At 15, I had a brain injury. My family says I am not the same, so I have been searching for the person I am. I have so many blank spots in my memories. I don’t know if they are from the head injury or from trying to black out childhood abuse. Sometimes I feel blurry, like I am switching from my old brain to my new one. I feel like I am in limbo, an observer in my own body. I have read self-help books, but I don’t have a large memory capacity, so they don’t always stick. I went to a Buddhist meditation, and I learned my mind is never quiet. I found out that I should trust my inner voices, but I don’t know which voice to trust.

My partner says I am like a teenager, yet I am 36. I want to grow up. I have two teenagers, and I want to enjoy being a mom and not run from it anymore. I also have a hard time keeping a job. Housework is a daily chore list that never gets completed. Sometimes I just don’t want to do anything.

When your energy amps back up, assemble a support team. You need a doctor who specializes in brain trauma to determine if some of your problems, like feeling blurry, are residue from the injury. A psychotherapist can guide you through the developmental stages beyond adolescence and into adulthood. She or he also can determine if medication could lift the malaise that dampens your spirits. You also may want to see a personal coach to help you set and reach goals or a spiritual director as a companion on the journey inward.

Of course, I also want to challenge some of the beliefs you shared in your letter. First of all, none of us should be the same person we were at 15. So, rather than feeling bad, perhaps you can see your family’s expectations as unrealistic. And few people remember every moment of their lives. Many people have little grasp of the years that have slid by or of the self-help books they have read. So stop criticizing yourself. These qualities might have existed in you even if the brain injury and childhood abuse did not occur.

It’s not helpful to imagine yourself in limbo, that wretched state between heaven and hell. In certain religious beliefs, once stuck in limbo your only ticket out is through the fervent prayers of others. Why wait for someone to save you when you can save yourself? Perhaps the biggest thing wrong with you is that you think something is wrong with you. Release that lie, and your life will change dramatically.

My boyfriend always waits until the last minute to invite me to hang out. If I cannot be ready quickly, he gets angry and withdraws the invitation. He says he is spontaneous. I love him, but I feel manipulated when he does this. Please help.

Spontaneity is the freedom to make a fresh choice in any moment. It is fed by unbridled joy created through the willingness to set aside fears, especially about what others may think. Spontaneity is not fear-based.

If someone waits until the last minute to make a choice or extend an invitation, they often do so because they are afraid of making the wrong decision. Your boyfriend’s tendency toward tantrums when you don’t act according to his schedule is immature and controlling. You’ll feel less manipulated if you accept his invitation when it works for you and kindly decline when it doesn’t. In other words, don’t manipulate yourself into thinking that you have to be available for his every whim.

Meditation of the week
I saw this bumper sticker on the wall of a high-school classroom: “The quality of your love life will reflect the quality of your character, and character is not built overnight.” What character-defining moments have you experienced this week?

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