My brain may have been jostled and injured to the point where it didn’t recognize basic things but one thing has always been true before, during and after my injury and recovery: I am a movie fan through and through. I can quote movies, recite plots and discuss intricate details of movies I saw decades ago or just recently. I used my encyclopedic knowledge of movies to help me when I was first injured and living in the hospital after my severe Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and I continue to use it now as I’m further along in my recovery. My world changed greatly after my accident. I had to learn how to do basic things like walk, talk and swallow. I found out I was completely non-hearing when I was first injured. I remained that way for 3 months. Yet amongst all those changes (most of them scary) one thing was constant and true and never changed: I was, am, and always will be a movie fan. And when I couldn’t even rely on basic truths that had be so my whole life (my hearing), I could rely on my encyclopedic knowledge of movies to get me through.
In this #TBIthursday I talk about how my friends from movies got me through some really tough times.
I have mentioned before that when I was hospitalized following my nearly fatal car accident that I relied on a mental library of movies to get me through scary times. Because when you can’t hear, yet you don’t fully understand the world around you, it’s a huge comfort to create a little cocoon where you can retreat and feel protected. What I did during arduous tests and procedures and endless nights of uncertainty was to play a library of films in my memory. Thankfully I had my memory (or at least that portion of it) so I took advantage.
Movies that I would often play in my head were like a 1990s “Chick Flick” movie festival. I am not entirely sure why my brain chose these movies other than they were the movies I would watch repeatedly even though I had seen them many times (usually when I was sick and sought comfort). And I’m sure there was a considerable amount of solace in the comforting and familiar. The movies in my mental library are:
- Pretty Woman (1990): Basic Plot from IMDb.com: “A man in a legal but hurtful business needs an escort for some social events, and hires a beautiful prostitute he meets… only to fall in love.” Starring: Julia Roberts and Richard Gere.
- Fried Green Tomatoes (1991): Basic Plot from IMDb.com: “A housewife who is unhappy with her life befriends an old lady in a nursing home and is enthralled by the tales she tells of people she used to know.” Starring Kathy Bates and Jessica Tandy.
- Sleepless in Seattle (1993): Basic Plot from IMDb.com: “A recently widowed man’s son calls a radio talk-show in an attempt to find his father a partner.” Starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan.
- A League of Their Own (1992): Basic Plot from IMDb.com: “Two sisters join the first female professional baseball league and struggle to help it succeed amidst their own growing rivalry.” Starring Tom Hanks and Gena Davis.
- Steel Magnolias (1989): Basic Plot from IMDb.com: “A young beautician, newly arrived in a small Louisiana town, finds work at the local salon, where a small group of women share a close bond of friendship, and welcome her into the fold.” Starring Sally Field and Julia Roberts.
It’s interesting now that I am analyzing those movies. (Oddly they’re from a five year period in the early 1990s). There were certainly plenty of sad moments in all of them so my brain was sophisticated enough even in its injured state to deal with layers of emotion. Which is comforting to me. Because when I was suffering from debilitating pain from daily migraines and Fibromyalgia (before my TBI) I started to watch a lot of Hallmark Channel movies. It was only after the brain injury that I realized I had been frustrated by those movies. To me, it’s frustrating that Hallmark has built up a whole channel that runs hundreds of movies with the same basic plot: a woman finds herself in a unique situation and meets a man she has conflicts with at first, but comes to fall deeply in love with him. A romantic movie, right? I swear I could write a Saturday Night Live sketch about a person who’s job it is to choreograph the kisses 😘 in Hallmark movies. THEY ARE SO CHASTE THAT IT’S SILLY! I made a little design to show what I mean!
It was only after the TBI that I realized movies like that were far from comforting. When the reality of life has caused you physical pain and considerable trauma the last thing you want is to bury your head in saccharine sweet sand. The difference between the Hallmark movies and my 1990s “Chick Flick” movies in my mental library is that the characters in Hallmark movies don’t feel real because they aren’t given real circumstances to manage. One of my pet peeves post-TBI is when I feel people are talking down to me or assuming I’m not intelligent. And Hallmark movies talk down to their audience by taking any real emotions (or passion) out of the picture. Why did I choose the movies I did to play in my mental library post-TBI? Familiarity, comfort, and most importantly the characters in those movies feel sloppy and real enough to be my friends. My friends from the movies.
Monthly Feature of the week: Pop Culture and movies that soothe
Instead of writing a specific pop culture recommendation, I thought I would continue ruminating on movies that soothe. I love books and choose them to soothe a lot, but it was my ability to visually conjure stories that I had already seen (in the form of movies) that soothed me after my severe Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). It was one less thing that I had to figure out in a world that had changed so massively for me in an instant.
I mentioned the five movies that I used to soothe: Pretty Woman, Fried Green Tomatoes, A League of Their Own, Sleepless in Seattle and Steel Magnolias. In a pop culture experiment I watched Sleepless in Seattle yesterday. I hadn’t watched it since it had been a regular feature in my TBI mental library. I also hadn’t watched it since my extreme hearing loss/distortions. I obviously was now reliant on closed captions but I also know the movie so well it’s like I have captions pre-loaded in my brain for this movie.
I don’t know if I was expecting to feel sad watching it now. I don’t have a ton of emotions following my brain injury (everything seems dampened or lessened). So I certainly didn’t feel sad and the movie still had that wonderful soothing quality to it. I was so glad one of my old standards still soothes. The difference when I watched it this time was that my dog Selby joined me (she’s 3 and I got her after the accident) I think the movie had the same soothing quality for her… because it soothed her right to sleep! 🤣