How a grown woman woke up and thought she was a teenager
We’ve seen it in countless movies: Freaky Friday, 13 Going on 30, Vice Versa. In one form or another, the idea of an adult who suddenly becomes a teenager (or teenager who becomes an adult) is a fantasy that’s been endlessly explored in movies and in our imaginations. But when it happens in real life, it’s a lot less whimsical and actually pretty terrifying.
In her new memoir, Forgotten Girl: A powerful true story of amnesia, secrets and second chances, Naomi Jacobs recalls the morning in 2008, when, at age 32, she woke up believing she was still a teenager. “I grabbed my throat. It sounded weird…different; hoarse and deep. I opened my eyes and looked at the room turning my head slowing. Nothing. I recognized nothing….This wasn’t the bedroom I shared with my sister.”
In an interview with the BBC, Jacobs, a mother of one, reveals how she went to bed one night in 2008 thinking she was just a normal mom and student at a local university in Manchester.
But when she woke up, she was convinced she was 15, and everything around her – from her house to the strange, sci-fi gadgets like her DVD player and smartphone – were unfamiliar. And she had no idea that the 11-year-old boy in the house was actually her son, Leo.
“(I) knew undoubtedly that he was mine because he looked so much like me,” she told the BBC, adding that she was terrified because she didn’t have any memory of giving birth to him.
So she did what most people do when they think they’re stuck in a bad dream – rationalize that they just need to wake up.
“I was convinced that I was going to fall asleep again that night and wake up in 1992. It wasn’t real to me what was happening,” she continued. She really thought she was still in high school.
But it was real – Jacobs was suffering from a rare form of amnesia, Transient Global Amnesia. According to Metro UK, the illness effects only five in 100,000 people, and is triggered by extreme stress.
Jacobs had her fair share during that time – she was trying to finish her college degree, launch a homeopathy business, and had just split with Leo’s father.
Luckily, Jacobs slowly began to regain her memory in the next few weeks, and has written a book about the experience. Ultimately, she found a silver lining to the temporary memory loss. Learning about her life from a younger perspective gave her insight on changes she needed to make as a woman in her 30s.
“Seeing [my life] again through my 15 year-old eyes gave me a fresh and new perspective,” she told the BBC, “and allowed me to make the changes to ensure that it wouldn’t happen again.”