Overcoming obstacles with Optimism

Riddle:  We have seven of these in our house.  You certainly have some in your home.  Every time you gaze at these, you will probably think they appear the same wherever you may be.  When I look at them, I will always see something different.  What am I?

Answer:  Mirrors.

I don’t think I will ever again know who I am in recent photos without using broad clues such as the background and clothing.  I always know the lady in younger pictures.  Even if I were to never again change my hair color or style, my face will change.    Aging is inevitable.  There are lines and creases that will alter how I appear.  I am okay with that.  It’s a fact of life.  Yet, a young woman will always be the photo I remember when flipping through photo albums.  I recognize the pictures from yesterday.  I remember words and events from today.  In the end, the memories remaining are much more beautiful and meaningful than any photograph I could ever take today.

The Perfect Reflection – *I have not been able to find the owner of this photo. If it is you, please contact me so I can offer proper credit.

This past year I keep seeing an image that creates a lot of stress.  There is a quickly aging female that is looking back at me.  I am not sure who she is…..

Last week was my nine year mark from having had a brain injury that resulted in prosopagnosia.  When I woke, I awoke to darkness.  When darkness faded, I could no longer recognize anyone.  I could not even recognize myself.

I acquired anterograde prosopagnosia.  This means I remember faces from before my brain injury but no one I have met since.  This also means faces which have changed in the past nine years are also no longer recognizable.  Nearly everyone has changed in their appearance due to the passing years. I get used to this.  People I knew from before the stroke have now just become like everyone else….. familiar strangers I prepare to meet again and again.

There is one image, however, that startles me often and causes growing concern.  This image is my own reflection.  When I was younger I would hear jokes about people not recognizing former classmates.  They laugh about how everyone else ages but they themselves never do.  I laughed predicting I was going to be the same way.  I was never going to be the one growing old.  I’m even smiling as I type this thinking how preposterous it sounds that I would show my age even though I know others around my age already do!

Yet, I do know, more so than most, how quickly I have aged over the past few years.  Quite honestly, it is distressing.  When I look in the mirror I am struck by how expression lines became more permanent and deeper on my face.  When I look in the mirror, I can barely look away from impurities that are there.  You would barely notice if you looked at me.  To most it is probably a very slight change.  Yet, I know why this is so blatantly obvious to me:  I don’t know the person in the mirror who looks back at me with question and concern.

I expect the person I see in one of our mirrors will be a twenty-seven year old, new mother smiling and waiting to see what great things life has to offer.  In reality, I see a new face each time I look.  With face-blindness, I remember a face not as the image I see but by words that describe how someone appears.  I know I now have chin-length, dark blond hair.  I know there are lines close to my eyes.  Yet, where exactly these lines are located and how deep they are is not a precise image I can create through words.  The mirror reflects someone who is aging.  My mind is holding onto someone in her mid-twenties.

As years pass, I know I will alter a lot more.  I look forward to all those years in front of me.  Yet, it should be of little surprise I spend a lot less time primping in front of the mirror.  The mirror too often offers concern, questions and confusion.  I don’t know if my make-up looks the same or way too dark because I have nothing to compare it to.  Last week’s face is nonexistent; I have nothing to compare.  I don’t know if my hair is parted on the exact same line it was last week when I had my haircut.  I don’t remember what it looked like then.  I do know this post’s picture would be perfect for my house.  I know I look fine.  I don’t try to look extraordinary.  Besides, if that reflection is not perfect the image will quickly disappear from my memory.  The stranger in the mirror is similar to those all around me.  I will have a timidness filled with apprehension as I try to identify the one staring back at me from our mirror.  Yet, I will be calmed with the smile that may return as I understand, I look fine.

Here are some other posts to learn more about living with prosopagnosia:

Debi’s explanation of Face Blindness

Noticing Your Eyes

60 Minutes News: When everyone is a stranger


Comments on: "Strangers Keep Looking At Me" (7)

  1. Tara, it appears that there are unique situations within your own unique situation. I would not have thought about the “surprise at aging” aspect of prosopagnosia. All of us are a bit shocd at times with we look in the mirror and notice we’re getting older, but to make a “jump” of several years every time you look in the mirror would be difficult indeed. The education and insight you provide is invaluable. I thank you for it!

  2. I notice every slight change. I think it is because I acquired it and still remember faces from before. I would like to hear from people who have dealt with prosopagnosia all of their lives. I am not certain they would have the same shock as I do. It would seem they would get used to their face in the reflection context. Hmmm, I will have to seek the answer for that one.

    I hope all is well for you. The time you spend reading my posts and commenting is always greatly appreciated.


  3. I haven’t met you, nor even saw your picture. But I can see how beautiful your heart is. You allow your life to be a source of inspiration to many by writing here. Tara, your appearance may age, but your heart never will.

  4. Those of us who’ve seen your picture in various posts and videos can assure you that you indeed look fine. More than fine. Beautiful.
    What I wonder s — do you judge other people’s appearances? Not a question of recognizing/remembering who they are, I know you don’t, but simply, Oh, this person looks nice, pretty, pleasant, etc. Old, young, good skin, etc etc. Or not, of course. Since you don’t recognize yourself either, are you perhaps simply a face to be judged on such attributes? I don’t know about this point, it seems delicate and complicated.

    • I have recognition skills to tell gender, age, beauty or otherwise. So, yes, I do judge other faces. However, it does not hold weight in my thoughts as much as it used to when I could recognize people. Now, since I can’t, the facial appearance matter a lot less. I think the judging I do now is more for safety. Again, going back to inclusion and exclusion I’ve previously spoken about: If a person has shaggy hair, unkempt clothes and an overall poor appearance with menacing facial features stayed too long in a bank, it would raise flags. I would exclude that person from being someone I would normally see watching the tellers.

      I take in the whole appearance when making a judgment (i.e. clothes, hair, makeup).
      The face does not hold many necessary the clues. I notice if someone is young or old, but that alone gives me no reason to make a judgment. Does that make sense? Think of ads in a magazine. Cut away the face and leave only background and all other identifying factors. You will notice extra details you never before noticed. Unless you already have a set thought regarding any of their characteristics, there will be little preference for what feelings may guide your thoughts about this person.

  5. […] Strangers Keep Looking At Me (findingstrengthtostandagain.wordpress.com) […]

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