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The Smile on My Forehead

Comments [6]

Jennifer Mosher, Lulu Press

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The Smile on My Forehead

The Smile on My Forehead: Memoir of My Life With a Brain Injury

Preface

I feel like an inchworm trying to write a book. Each time I pull out my notes to work, I think of a great idea and inch forward in my writing. But, then I become distracted because I look out the window, or think about something entirely unrelated to my story. Once I reel myself back in, I can’t even remember what my idea was in the first place, so I reread what I’ve already written, hoping to find my place again. I get caught up thinking about another part of the story until hours pass, and I have no more than one new paragraph written.

It didn’t used to be this way for me. Before the car accident, I was never at a loss for words. I’m naturally inquisitive and during college, at Brigham Young University, I even liked to sit at the front of a class, so my professor would notice me right away. I always made a point to ask questions on the first day, just to hear the sound of my own voice. One time, my classmate in Philosophy of Art even begged me to stop asking questions so we could move forward in the textbook.

I don’t like hearing the sound of my own voice anymore. I constantly lose my train of thought, stumble, and forget basic words. I usually know what I’m trying to say, I just can’t remember the expressions, so I speak in circles, disguising my poor memory with filler words like um, and, whatever, anyway.

I have no memory of the accident. The only reason I even know it happened is because my family told me, and I vaguely remember the last few weeks in the hospital. My mom kept a journal, of which I’ve read every word multiple times, and she also took photographs of me. I’m taken aback when I see this stuff because for a long time I didn’t understand how badly I was injured. Some of these photos are almost unrecognizable.

After I left the hospital, I expected my life to return to normal. I’d immediately go back to BYU, complete my degree, attend graduate school, find a great job, and live happily ever after. Unfortunately, life with a brain injury isn’t so simple. Things that were once easy for me suddenly became difficult. I started articulating my frustrations in a journal, which developed into this memoir, so now I have many of the details in one place. My writing is also an attempt to reveal what it’s like to live with an injured brain.

Traumatic Brain Injury is often called the silent epidemic because it handicaps people in ways that are invisible. We appear normal and fine on the surface, not exhibiting obvious signs of an injury, as most of the damage is internal. Survivors have impaired cognitive abilities such as getting easily overloaded, difficulty staying focused, balance and coordination problems, a sleep disorder, and a terrible short-term memory. My memory has improved over time, but for the first nine years after the accident, I constantly carried around scrap pieces of paper with the words “note to self,” followed by instructions of what I was supposed to do. I felt misplaced without these notes.

As a writer, I think my chapters are short and choppy. I’ve tried to be completely truthful about everything I can remember from the past 14 years, which isn’t much, and my mom’s journal entries are sometimes cryptic. In some places, I can only write what seems accurate; what makes sense for the sake of the story. That being said, my writing is choppy because my thoughts are choppy. This really bothered me for a long time, which is one reason it took me so long to finish. I’m okay with it now because finally I can appreciate how far I’ve come by completing my memoir. What first began as just a need to understand what happened to me has developed into a personal record of conquering a trial that I never expected to endure. But then again, a person doesn’t know how much they can handle until they are faced with a challenge.

1 - Note to Self: You Work at the United Way

One of the keys to happiness is a bad memory.
~ Rita Mae Brown

“Good morning, Jennifer!” Bill said brightly as I walked into the United Way office building. He was the perky older man with a friendly, contagious smile, who sat across from me at my desk in the fundraising office.

“Hi Bill!” I think my voice sounded as bright as his. Smiling, I glanced down at my little section of the long work table, and gasped when I saw all the papers. I remembered organizing it the day before, but it looked like a jumbled mess to me.

What am I supposed to do today? What are my tasks? I specifically remember writing them down somewhere! My heart palpitated. My head throbbed. I knew I’d made a list! How could I forget so soon?

I fumbled through the papers until I uncovered a Post It note that said, “Call these accounts tomorrow.” It was stuck to a list of companies that I was supposed to contact and help kick off their United Way fundraising campaign. The beating in my heart slowed and I relaxed. Just then my manager came in to ask Victor, another United Way employee, to follow him and get his picture taken for his security badge.

I hadn’t had mine taken either, so I followed them to the makeshift photo studio in our building’s basement. Three men squeezed their way upstairs, while we tried to make our way down. I was nervous. People walking up. People walking down. Don’t slip and kill yourself. Going to photo studio. Hold on to railing. Watch where you’re going, I told myself. There were so many things to think about at once.

“Hi Jennifer!” one of the men smiled at me. “See ya back upstairs in the office,” he said, as he climbed the steps. I smiled, as if I knew him and what he was talking about, even though I had no idea. Victor hopped down the stairs, but I just pushed myself against the wall and waited until everyone passed.

When I finally made it to the studio, the photographer was surprised to see me. “Jennifer, didn’t we take yours yesterday?” he asked. After looking around the studio, things did seem familiar. Feeling foolish, I admitted my memory lapse, but he took my photo again anyway, just to be sure.

After he finished, I returned to the improvised office where our entire United Way team sat on folding chairs next to long tables; it felt like a college classroom. I sat in my usual middle seat and sighed once I saw the mess of papers again. Where do I start?

“So, did you get your ID badge, Jennifer?” I looked up across the table to see the same man who almost bumped into me on the stairs.

From The Smile on My Forehead: Memoir of My Life with a Brain Injury by Jennifer Mosher., Lulu Press. Copyright 2009 © Jennifer Mosher. Used with permission. www.lulu.com. To learn more about Jennifer Mosher, go to www.jennifermosher.com.

Comments [6]

Jennifer, I noticed your book at the Brain Injury Association in their Library.  They allowed me to take it and read. I am on page 12 and my heart aches in similarity between your accident and my own.  I was in the Brain Injury Association of R.I. because I volunteer their as a Survivor. You would NOT believe the similarities between our two life-changing events. If you ever see this, please contact me. I would love to get your outlook, past Page 12 as i find life emotionally burdensome. Thank you, Jkjr51901@gmail.com

Apr 28th, 2016 7:51pm

I am a 54 yr old woman who was in a headin collision sept 2' 2012. It was up here in south Ogden. We had just delivered a toy box to my daughter and was going home, just under 2 miles, we stopped to turn and another pick up truck going 55mph struck us head on. I have a TBI, the doctors called it a category 2. I was unconscious for 6 hrs and when I woke up I saw my husband and Bishop. The TBI has changed my life. I use to be a warrior parent for my youngest daughter who is mentally challenged, all the appointments, IEP's, etc. Now I can't be in a crowd without overloading, thoughts are scattered, I don't make sense, high functioning skills are gone. I am in PT, OT and speech...it's just weird. I can't explain it. Your title touched me because I have a "z" scar across my forehead, I thought I looked more like Harry potter but I like how you described it...a smile! Thank you for your story, I'm glad I can relate to someone.

Oct 23rd, 2012 8:44pm

Hi Jennifer. I also have a brain injury. It is still new. I just sustained it Nov. 14, 2012. It is pretty tricky trying to navigate my way through life. I am 32 and have a husband and 3 children to live for. I am functioning, but not at the capacity that I was. I have a secret in my pocket for all my therapists and Dr's. I was given a blessing in the hospital by my bishop that I would fully recover. I don't know when or how, but I do have faith and I believe that I will. I wish you all the best. Thank you for showing me that I could put my story on paper as well.

Mar 17th, 2012 11:28pm

Jennifer, this is really neat the way you have managed to put it together. I am inspired to get my experience to paper the way you have done. I also have a 'smile' on my forehead (a shiner from where the bone luckily broke to break the pressure), and your story has truly made me smile. Thank you, Teresa

Feb 4th, 2012 4:15pm

Thank you who ever wrote that first Portland, OR comment.I love everyone coming across my book, either through my own measly Marketing efforts and because of word of mouth. TBI effects more people that we even know. I tried so hard to make it go away, but the TBI is definitely here.to.stay. So I might as well make the best of it and help myself avoid feeling foggy,Brain Injured for all hours of the day.

Apr 15th, 2010 1:19am

Portland, Oregon Jennifer, sharing your complex story and the stories of your mother and others, is a gift to all who read it! THANK YOU, lady! You in your way speak for the many with brain trauma, starting w/military personnel in the field or putting their lives back together. All genuine smiles have a wonderful way of blending AND sending a very, very important message. Stay the course. Frederick G. Rodgers,Ph.D. in the heart of "The City of Roses" (they smile, too)

Jan 23rd, 2010 9:10pm


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