Brain Injury Blog
Lost Sense of Self Made Me Unrecognizable to Myself
by Hilary Zayed
The feeling of being unable to access “who I am”, either by feelings or memories, left large holes in my identity and my sense of self. I just wanted to get better so I could return to teaching, reclaim my ability and standing as an accomplished flute player, and resume my role as a passionate horseback rider. But the harder I tried to return, the farther away I became. I craved the feelings of my former identity: who I was based upon what I did.
It was difficult to access memories of what I was like as a person. This left me without a sense of who I was because of where I had been. A profound difference in things that I liked and disliked was also disconcerting: in the past I was not afraid of animals and enjoyed them thoroughly, but after my brain injury I became afraid of dogs and other animals and uninterested in pets and horses. This strong sense of disconnect was a cement wall in my head that wouldn’t allow me to access who I was. What could I use to fill in my identity and sense of self? And how would I do that?
I needed to reinvent my identity and myself. I attempted to become an artist and a writer, as those were the gifts with which God replaced my former abilities. I built relationships, learning to engage and finding a “new herd” and new interests.
But it was my husband’s simple request that catapulted my identity reinvention: he told me that my only job in life now was to be happy. And although happiness is an emotion that comes and goes, its importance in my reinvention – of living in the now and moving forward – took my journey to a place where my sense of self and identity became more recognizable.
Blessings on your journey of reinventing yourself after loss.
You will find Hilary Zayed’s book at