The Relentlessness of Brain Injury and Memory Loss

© 2001 Michele Toomey, PhD


January 16, 2001

Who would have ever given a second thought to the gift that patterns bring into our lives? Ordinarily we just take them for granted, and when they are bad patterns we bemoan the difficulty of changing them. They are ingrained, automatic, our first response. But take away the capacity to develop patterns and suddenly the loss is dramatic. Everything is new. Ideas become enacted only to be erased. Discovery and rediscovery are now the first response. It is relentless and fatiguing. Where once there was respite, is now only continual effort.

Staying grounded is an impossibility. Finding the ground is the unending quest. Strange phenomenon everything starting new. The comfort and familiarity of old is rarely available. No wonder the desire to connect with old friends. They provide a sense of constancy, of a past that doesn't erase itself at every turn. And yet, the friends are often no longer there, not only because of death but of their own lack of availability to you. For many complicated reasons, some of them prefer to distance themselves from brain damage and in-depth conversation about struggling with life. Some are present, however, and they become so dear, both for who they are and what they bring, and for providing the needed connection with the past. Intimacy with them allows you to have intimacy with yourself and who you used to be. They provide a wonderful sense of depth and timelessness that memory loss erodes.

Intimacy with them triggers intimacy with who you used to be. No longer an erasure that knowledge is very dear. Much like old age itself, the past becomes an essential part of groundedness if we can connect with it in an intimate way. We are informed by our past and allowed to be in the present with our memory of where we've been and who we were, not just in the present staring at who we've become or what has become of us.

As you circle back to your past friends and try to re-connect, be proud that you knew to do that for yourself. Be smart in evaluating who are worth preserving a relationship with because of their shared senses of treasuring what you had together, and who are too closed, too empty or too glib. The choices you make will free you up to enrich and be enriched by the select few and rid yourself of the burden of wasted effort on those who leave you lonely.

Perhaps what we are discovering is that patterns may now be elusive, but relationships that provide a loving give and take can be constant. Perhaps constancy is the real gift of intimacy with friends of shared substance and emotional connection is one memory that doesn't ever get erased. Patterns may be next to impossible to sustain, but loving connections are obviously what you choose to seek and cling to and to treasure. Nothing wrong with that pattern. Nothing wrong at all. Rather, everything smart about it. Something very right about it. Your values!!!

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