When mom-of-one Naomi Jacobs, 32, went to sleep one night in 2008, she had no idea she’d wake up the next day as if the last 17 years of her life hadn’t happened.
Due to a rare form of amnesia caused by stress, Naomi awoke that fateful morning thinking she was still “a bold, brassy, very confident know-it-all 15-year-old” and living in 1992. But when she looked in the mirror to prepare herself for school, it suddenly dawned on her that she was locked in the arms of a crazy nightmare.
“When I woke up, I looked in the mirror and had the fright of my life when I saw an old woman with wrinkles staring back at me. Then this little boy appeared and started calling me mum — that’s when I started to scream.”
Doctors have since explained that Naomi’s body and mind had been under so much stress as an adult, it simply closed down. As a survival mechanism, erased all memories of the last 17 years, including the fact that she had a loving 11-year-old son who needed his mom.
“I didn’t know who he was – I didn’t think he was much younger than I was, and I certainly didn’t remember giving birth to him. I began sobbing uncontrollably. To say I was petrified was an understatement. I just wanted my mum. I couldn’t get my head around going to bed one night and waking up in a different century.”
Naomi was also overwhelmed by modern technology and found mobile phones and the internet absolutely baffling.
“Facebook, Google and YouTube sounded like they were completely made up — and the first time I saw my son, Leo, play on his X-Box and interact with the TV, I was so shocked I spat out my tea.”
Yahoo! reports that doctors informed Naomi that she was suffering from a rare form of memory loss brought on by stress, called Transient Global Amnesia.
Although Naomi’s semantic memory was still intact, the “episodic” part of her memory had completely closed down and taken all her emotional memories with it.
“My best friend and sister had to take over all communication for me – I had no idea how to work my mobile phone, and had no concept of email. For the first few months, I was desperately trying to make sense of my life. At night, I’d lie awake and cry, longing to be back at school, when all I had to worry about was the boys I had crushes on and getting caught drinking in the park.”
With the support of a loving family, Naomi slowly began to make the first tentative steps on a road to recovery that would take her three long years to complete.
“At first, I struggled to leave my home, and venture out into the world – but slowly, with the help of my family, I started to get used to the world again. It wasn’t fun, like Michael J Fox in Back To The Future – I’d fallen asleep in a world of endless possibilities and woken up in a nightmare.
“But my best friend and my sister sat me down and painstakingly explained 9/11, 7/7, the War on Terror. In my mind, John Major was still the Prime Minister – and the only President Bush I’d ever heard of was George Snr.”
Fortunately for Naomi, she had always kept diaries and journal, and now she read them obsessively, trying to work out what happened to the 15-year-old who was going to have conquered half the planet by the time she was 32.
“It was a massive shock to discover I was just an ordinary, single mum, living in Manchester and driving a battered old Fiat Brava.
“Luckily, I had always kept diaries and journals, and I ploughed through them all, trying to make sense of who I was. It was like reading about a stranger at first. I tried to keep most of my memory loss from my son, Leo — even thought I had to build a new relationship with him, I didn’t want him to feel as confused as I was. I used my diaries to question my life decisions — why I’d studied psychology, and why I was a single mum — and it helped me to understand and remember.
“Over time, flashes of memory have come back to me — just for a few seconds, but they were there. The most recent memories came back first, and then the older ones — until my full memory has returned. Although it was traumatic, I’m really grateful for being thrown forward through time now. I’ve been able to follow my childhood dream of becoming a writer — and am currently writing my story.
“Not many people get a chance to get a second chance like I did — and my life has turned out perfectly.”
[Image via Caters]