Overcoming obstacles with Optimism

My children were anxious for their first day of classes.  Elementary school has been a wonderful experience in their eyes.  They talked fast and walked quickly as we headed for the playground, so they could line up next to their new teachers.  They gave me a kiss on the cheek.  Both girls told me I did not need to stand in their lines, but asked if I could stay in the school yard.  They took off with their shining eyes filled with excitement searching for friends.  I stood in the back lonely and worried.  I wished someone were there to hold my hand.  The schoolyard and playground are two of the scariest, most intimidating places for me to be standing alone.

I am a very social person by nature.  I am excited to talk to you about my weekend.  I want to hear the stories you are ready to share.  I have met many great parents while waiting for the dismissal bell to ring.  I never see them again due to the lack of facial recognition prosopagnosia has caused.  I lost friends I never had the chance to get to know.  How do I make someone aware I will not recognize them if we see each other a few minutes later especially if we meet again at the end of the day?  If you are standing right next to me on my blind side, I will not always know you are there.  How do I get them to accept this without the long story of epilepsy surgery in which a small piece of my brain was taken out leading to a brain injury developed from a stroke?  I talk with parents.  I laugh with parents.  At the end of the day, I will walk right past these same parents because they changed their clothes.

My kids have been invited to birthday parties.  Epilepsy has taken away my privilege to drive.  My children point out the birthday child’s parents.  “Go ask them if I can get a ride,” my daughters urge.  I would do this.  I have done this.  Inevitably the conversation evolves to questions of why I cannot drive.  I have seizures.  My children are happy to add that I can’t see well either.  Oh, and they further add, you have to say hi to her because she can’t recognize anyone.  Most parents are kind about this.  Then it comes to my daughters inviting these friends to our place.  Would you let your kids go to someone’s house that has seizures and suffered from brain damage?  I hope you would, but I would not fault you for not allowing this.  Brain injuries, epilepsy, having no ability to recognize people – all of these are hard enough to comprehend when they are part of your life.  I can only imagine the misunderstanding that comes when you have never met a mom with any of these conditions let alone all of them.  Ignorance can lead to fear.

I am that mom standing alone waiting in the schoolyard or sitting off to the side in the playground.  I am not antisocial.  Actually, I am quite the opposite.  I want connections with people I see every day.  I want to know the parents of my daughters’ friends.  I want to know you.  I am apprehensive to say hello because I may have just asked how your day is going once or twice already.  I don’t want you to judge my repeated, well-meant question as odd behavior.  I don’t want you to focus on my injured brain before you get to know my healthy spirit.

I am that mom standing alone quietly waiting in the schoolyard.  I just happen to be waiting not only for my children but also for a new friend to hold my hand and reintroduce me to others.  If you see me, or any other frightened mom like me, please walk over and say hello.  It is not always the young children that fear the strangers and the newness of school.  Sometimes it is us adults, too.

Comments on: "New School Year Same Returning Fear" (9)

  1. Any one of the three — partial blindness, seizures, prosopagnosia — is a big thing to handle. This is a very poignant description of all three feeding into each other and making the total even worse.
    It’s obvious from your blog that you’re very social, Tara. Have you come up with any “tricks” or devices that make it easier to socialize in person? Most people probably have never heard of the condition so it would never occur to them as a possibility for your standing apart.
    The artist Chuck Close has prosopagnosia, as does Oliver Sacks (who has recently gone partially blind as well). Have you ever met others with the condition? I wonder if that would be helpful/useful.
    Maybe not. Just wondering.
    As always, your blog posts are remarkable.

    • I have met other people with this condition online but not in person. It seems, like any other condition, it effects everyone differently as to how they discovered it and how severe it is and therefore how they cope with it.

      The best way I get to know people are through their habits. Are they always running late towards the school a minute before the bell rings? Are they always heading to the gym right when they drop their kids off? Do they always wear long pants even in hot weather? We humans are creatures of habit. After awhile, in the same situation, I get pretty good at recognizing a few people in the crowd. Boy does it bother me when someone tries to change their routine! I have to start from scratch again.

      Chuck Close has created some amazing artwork. Oliver Sacks had developmental prosopagnosia. He never knew what it would be like to recognize a familiar face. I do think it would be amusing to meet him at a diner somewhere. We would both be lost and confused!

      Are you good at recognizing others Judith? I think between the skills I have learned to discover who a person is and my ability to remember a name, I would be above most at getting to know a person if I could just, once again, recognize a person’s face.


  2. I just read a post of a blog friend where her “hello”is unacknowledged and here you are who most welcome a “hello”. Made me think why seemingly perfect fit don’t fall exactly with each other but then we’re only trying to fit one side of it whereas God fits us in His perfect plan. Just sharing my thoughts even though it seems lost in your post.

    Would love to say “Hello” over and over to you. Huggggs 🙂

    • I wish I could connect with your friend that has unacknowledged hellos. I would be happy to tell her hello many times every day as if it were the first time I saw her. As you say, she will find her fit some day just as I will. Life is an amazing puzzle. It is a great treasure to see our parts come together. In the end, this plan/puzzle He has made fits together in a wonderful design.

      It is great to have you stop by and leave your warm words! Thank you.

  3. You would certainly be excellent at recognizing and remembering people because you’re already using so many “peripherals” in your daily life.
    Once upon a time I was terrific at remembering names; now at 77, not so hot!
    I do recall vividly one time when I recognized someone not by face, but by shape and movement! We were a block apart, so there was no question of seeing features. I recognized from the way the person was moving and from their shape, that this was my friend. (What the French call allure, the characteristic way a person moves.)
    It was totally by intuition, and I was absolutely sure without seeing any features.
    There was an excitement about that realization, because it was WITHOUT the features. Because I can recognize features, though, I don’t recall it ever happening again. I wonder, do you know your daughters or your husband by shape and way of moving? I find it an interesting thought.

    • Allure what a pretty word. I will have to try to remember it. I am excited you shared this particular example of when you did not need a face. Over the course of a school year, this is how I recognize a few moms stepping on to the school ground. Some walk different, wear their hair differently than most or have a very specific, unique sense of style. I would guess you recognize many more people this way than you allow yourself to acknowledge. I don’t think I ever did before. Now these are main triggers for how I recognize people in the distance.

      Currently, I do not recognize these differences in my children. My daughters are 17 months apart but go in and out of phases where they appear and act like twins. We are in that phase now. They are the same height. They like the same hair cut. They copy each others mannerisms. But in their smiles, I can always tell who is who. One has a smile that is quiet, reserved and humble with her lips closed tight. The other has a big, bright smile that radiates happiness.

      I remember previously having to see the face of my friends to know them. I am certain now that I never really did “need” this clue. Just as you experienced. Even if for a moment, you can understand that we know many people so well for traits we can visually identify beyond the face.

      Thanks for showing this experience you had. It is exactly what I see and experience on a normal basis in a very familiar setting. You have just displayed a feeling that a person with prosopagnosia experiences and finds rewarding! Thanks Judith.


  4. I am the lady walking up to the lady standing alone in the schoolyard. And if you told me about your condition and asked me to reintroduce myself each time we met, I would simply say, “Hey Tara… it’s me, Linda… my daughter Julia plays with your daughter at recess.”

    Would people really be uncomfortable doing that? I’m sure you get tons of advice from people like me who don’t have a clue what you’re dealing with. I can’t imagine how isolating your condition must be…

    I really like the way your story starts out… it makes me feel excited about the first day of school, even though it’s been a very long time! I can remember where the classes lined up… you paint a very descriptive picture.

    I hope a lady walks up to you and reintroduces herself soon. Hugs, Tara… : )

  5. Oh I am certain if I found the right person they would not be uncomfortable. Come over to the school Linda! 🙂 The challenge comes when I ask someone to do this. It is never a simple, “I am bad at recognizing faces. Please say hello next time you see me.” People generally want all the details or they simply chuckle thinking I am exaggerating and say as they walk away, “I am not good at recognizing faces either.” They have no comprehension and, therefore, do not sincerely try to help me. I have tried many, many approaches over the years.

    It was so nice to have you stop by my blog this week! Thank you for taking the time to leave your comments. I appreciate it!


  6. nelson RN said:

    Hi Tara… just to let you know that I’ve been jumping from one post to the other, and I am enjoying.

    This post reminded me of my 3-year-old son who just started the first day of school yesterday. My wife and I were so anxious sending him out by himself. When the schoolbus took our little boy away in the morning, my wife had a teary eye, and I had a panicky-feeling of running after the bus to get my son back. The whole time he was in school, my wife and I were thinking about checking him out in school, but we tried to restrained ourselves.
    When my son was back, we found a “star” mark on his hand. And my wife and I just laughed at ourselves. It seemed the adults are more fearful than the little one. 🙂

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