In something reminiscent of films like 13 Going on 30 and Freaky Friday, where the line between adulthood and teenage angst are blurred and the roles switched, 32-year-old Naomi Jacobs went to sleep and woke up as a 15-year-old girl. Well, at least in her head.
Thinking it was 1992, the single mother did not recognize herself when she looked in the mirror and wondered where the lines and wrinkles came from.
“My mouth dropped open in horror. I screamed ‘No! Oh my God, I’m… I’m OLD!” Jacobs recalled.
“I expected to see a clear-skinned 15-year-old, but I didn’t recognize the face staring back at me. I was an adult. I was old. I thought, ‘What the hell has happened?'”
Her shock continued as she looked around a house she didn’t recognize with modern technology and pictures of a little boy she did not know. This boy was her 10-year-old son, Leo.
“I ran around the house in horror. My heart was racing and my mouth was dry. I was shaking.”
Speaking to BBC News about the 2008 incident, Jacobs said her last memory was falling asleep the night before in her bunk bed thinking about her French exam. It was seeing her son coming towards her shouting “mom!” that really added the whammy to the situation.
“Everything from fear to joy from seeing this child that I didn’t have any memory of giving birth to, but knew undoubtedly that he was mine because he looked so much like me, to terror of having the responsibility of this small child,” said Jacobs.
“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.”
This condition — which ultimately lasted six weeks — did not affect her motor memory, which is stored in a different part of the brain than life events. So she was able to remember some things like ATM PIN, phone numbers, and how to drive a car – though she was (understandably) quite freaked out about the latter as she didn’t remember driving a car before.
The now-39-year-old was suffering from dissociative amnesia, which, according to WebMD, happens “when a person blocks out certain information, usually associated with a stressful or traumatic event, leaving him or her unable to remember important personal information… With dissociative amnesia, the memories still exist but are deeply buried within the person’s mind and cannot be recalled.”
Before Jacobs lost her memory, she’d been suffering from depression and worrying about her homeopathy business. Finals for her psychology degree were approaching as well.
Needing a crash course in 21st-century technology, Naomi thought, upon seeing a smartphone, that it was something out of science fiction movie. Her flat screen TV “looked like the one in Back to the Future Part II.”
She also struggled with how her life turned out, as it was not what her 15-year-old self had envisioned.
“At 15, I imagined by 32 I’d be in a big house, running a successful business, have nice cars, a couple of my own horses.
“I wanted to be a journalist or an actress, travel the world and meet lots of different people. Then to wake up, 17 years in the future and go: ‘Wait a minute, how did I end up in this two-bedroom council house, with a beaten-up car, a cat, and a single mom doing a degree I don’t even want to do?'”
Now, Jacobs has written a book about her unique experience called Forgotten Girl, where she recounts how she had to piece together her lost years by talking to friends and family, and going over diaries she had kept for the past 20 years.
In the end, Jacobs said she’s “quite fortunate, in a sense” having gone through this situation because she got to see the world and her adult life through the eyes of a teenager.
“At the age of 15, you imagine what you’re going to be at the age of 32, and to wake up 17 years later and see that your life and the world hasn’t quite turned out the way you expected to,” she told BBC News. “But seeing it again through my 15-year-old eyes gave me a new and fresh perspective to make the changes to ensure that it wouldn’t happen again, and to improve my quality of life.”
Though we cannot speak from her perspective per se, it does beg the question — what would your 15-year-old self think about your life today?
[Image via Caters/Mirror/13 Going On 30]