Q. Three and a half years ago I woke up under an interstate bridge with no memory or recollection of anything or anyone in my life. I have been to therapists, I have read book after book after book…I sit and think and think and think but no matter what I do I cant remember a damn thing. How can this be? From friends, family, videos, photos, etc., I know who I “am”, what my life was like and “who” I was so HOW can I not remember everything?
The therapists believe that this is a result in watching my wife and unborn child die in front of me and perhaps the result of the alcohol and drug abuse that followed for quite some time … But that’s just their theory and shouldn’t it ALL have come back to me by now especially since I am aware of ALL of this? I feel no kinship to any family member nor friendship to people that I have known for years or most of my life. I look at them and feel nothing but what feelings that I have developed for them over the last few years.
Lately I have been feeling guilty that I can’t remember my wife or the baby she was carrying. My baby. I dont understand any of this! How can I NOT remember? Shouldnt this all be flooding back into my brain and heart since I know of it through videos and discussions and photographs?
I have had brain scans and xrays and so-called hypnotherapy crap. I have read book after book after book about this this and book after book on things to do and ways to “remember” yet am no better off than I was under that bridge. I have been told to learn as much as I can because that may help “flip” a switch in my brain but what if it doesnt? What if I never remember? I have been told that that is highly unlikely and that almost all people like myself eventually remember everything…usually in a “flash”. But what if that doesnt happen for me? I am so tired of feeling lost, at looking at people that I have known all of my life yet who really mean nothing to me beyond the feelings of friendship that I have for them.
And lately I have been having thoughts of suicide that I fight off very quickly because I do NOT want to die..but if I die then I wont have this empty feeling inside of me anymore. Yesterday as I was driving down the highway I thought how easy it would be to turn the wheels into a that bridge abutment and just get out of this life. I was camping last month and thought how simple it would be to light up the propane stove and zip up my tenet tightly and just “go to sleep”. And I would be lying if I said these thoughts arent starting to scare me but how do I not think them anymore? I no longer drink any alcohol and the only drugs I take are prescription but I have thought about sleeping pills….
I guess what I want to know is how do I get my life back and how do I stop feeling so lost and alone? I am surrounded by family and friends who are so supportive and go out of their way for me yet feel, when it comes right down to it, detached from all of them all of the time. I am just so weary of feeling like this. I just want it to all go away.
A. Hello and thank you for writing to us:
I am so very sorry for your pain and losses. I have worked with many people who have a similar problem of not being able to remember parts of their lives or becoming numb. I have seen this to be especially true in those who have suffered a horrifying experience such as yours. I’m sure that you know that you have PTSD, or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and that you have symptoms that are common in people with this disorder.
While I don’t totally buy into people dissociating from their personalities, I do believe that you have disconnected from your memories and feelings as a means to protect your sanity. It’s not a voluntary thing, either. Your mind will disconnect when it cannot tolerate these feelings and unfortunately, drugs and alcohol can wipe out even more memories. Both PTSD and drugs can cause you to disconnect like this. After all, you lost someone you love, and it hurts too much to risk getting hurt like this again. So, you withdraw emotionally to protect yourself, it only makes sense.
I wouldn’t use hypnosis or talk therapy for a person who has suffered as much as you have. I would suggest you find someone who specializes in EMDR, or Eye Movement Desensitization, which is proven to help you recover and get your life back without re-traumatizing you. They are using it on Vietnam veterans who have been lost for decades and it is working. I would suggest that you read some of the research on it and go to Psychology Today to find a therapist who offers it as a treatment tool. It honestly works and won’t hurt you. If you cannot afford a therapist, contact your state psychological association to find a doctor who can help you at a fee you can afford.
I hope this helps,
Dr. Diana Walcutt
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 May 2009
Walcutt, D. (2009). I’m Tired of Being Lost. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 18, 2013, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2009/05/21/im-tired-of-being-lost/