Lost: Life With Traumatic Brain Injury

Yesterday, I got lost driving home. From Target. The Target that I frequently visit. Driving the same route that I always take. Yet, all of a sudden nothing looked familiar and panic set in. Where the heck was I? How did I get here?

You see, just over a year ago, I sustained a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). Little did I know at the time how much of an impact this would have on my life. (Did you know that TBI is the leading cause of death in the United States? And that every 13 seconds someone in the US sustains a TBI?)

Getting lost and/or confused is my “new normal”. Fortunately, I no longer burst into tears and crawl into bed for three days after an instance such as this. I have learned to understand my limits and that this kind of thing is going to disrupt my daily life from here on out. It’s just the way that it is, for now.

The good news is that I have an iPhone. When I do get lost, I pull up my map and find my way home. Usually once I get back on track, I realize where I am and can navigate my way without further incident.

What’s really frustrating is that if you knew me before, you would understand my “internal GPS” was amazing. I had such an incredible sense of direction (thanks, dad, for those genes). I always was able to find my way around, even in an unfamiliar city. My friends looked to me to navigate new places when we were out adventuring. Now, I get lost right in my own backyard.

Recently I went to Washington, DC and knew that I would have to travel on the Metro (subway). My friend helped me do my research so I would know exactly which line to take, and where to get on and off for my stops. I downloaded an app that gave me step-by-step instructions along the way. I understood that I needed to purchase a SmartTrip pass, yet when the time came to use the automated machine, I was baffled. There was a line of people behind me waiting to use the machine, so I pretended to do something and then got out of line. I waited until the line went down, and then asked a young woman for assistance.

Lost V&B

Once I got to my first line change, I was completely confused as to which side of the platform I needed to be on. I could read the sign, but was unable to process whether I needed to be on this side of the tracks or the other. I eventually asked someone for assistance and got on the train going the correct direction. What was most frustrating to me, was the fact that I have navigated Chicago many times in the past, as well as NYC subway without any problems. But of course, the was before I had a TBI.

My “old life” is still so vivid in my memory, while my “new life” is completely different. I am easily frustrated by things that I used to be able to do effortlessly. I am slowly learning to embrace the “new normal” and understand my limits, but it’s still hard. Especially when it comes to cognitive or memory issues that I know would have never stood in my way two years ago.

I have also come to understand that all of this has happened to be for reasons beyond my control. I have been called by the Universe to be a messenger, to educate the masses about TBI. While it is the number one cause of death in the United States, hardly anyone understands how devastating a concussion can really be.

Amy Zellmer

Amy is an author, professional photographer and creative business coach located in Saint Paul, MN. She is also a frequent contributor to the Huffington Post & a TBI survivor. She recently published her first book: "Life With a Traumatic Brain Injury: Finding the Road Back to Normal".

She has an obsession with Starbucks coffee, Miss Me jeans, and all things glittery and sparkly. She enjoys traveling the country with her eight pound Yorkie named Pixxie, and instagrams her journeys.