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All That I Forgot

All That I Forgot a memoir by Anne Howell about waking from a coma with amnesia

All That I Forgot

In 1991 I woke from a coma with amnesia, thinking the hospital room I lay in might be a spaceship. This had a certain logic as I thought I was about eight or nine years old. Yet I turned out to be a mother with a young child. Once taken home by a man I didn’t remember to raise our daughter, who seemed strikingly at first impression like a hairless monkey, I began to investigate my missing past. I would face walls thrown up before me, many by those closest to me. People were clearly withholding salient facts, but why? I explore the fallibility of memory, family and friendship under duress, plus violence towards women and girls in the leafy suburbs of Sydney’s north shore in the 70s.

Publisher news: change of hands

All That I Forgot was picked up by independent niche memoir publisher Bad Apple Press. I am still grateful to be published with this outfit that supports the genre and is author-focused, however they have disbanded. Thanks to Samantha Miles, the co-founder and publishing manager and Sonya Danaher, co-founder, marketing and sales manager.

Presently All That I Forgot is available at Booktopia and select bookstores in Australia.

Real or confabulation?

All That I Forgot deals with what it’s like to have amnesia in real life, yet what was really going on, in my early recovery process was not always easy to determine. After my discharge from the hospital and once back in the place I was told was home, one time I was startled awake in the middle of the night convinced there were tigers under the bed. Wild tigers which I knew were chasing one another down by the bedposts. I have a scene in the book representing my eventual humbling, when I realised there were no such tigers, just my mind playing tricks on me.

I have since learned that the mind, in the early stages of recovering from amnesia, can do what doctors refer to as ‘confabulate’. Devoid of memories, with the inability to retrieve them, the mind of an amnesiac develops a tendency to invent, to fill in gaps and empty spaces. So waking hallucinations are part of the experience.

I didn’t so much explain such aspects of retrograde amnesia to readers as show people what it was like to be me during that time of profound not-knowing. For me, amnesia meant I had lost aspects of language and some basic concepts too.

Anne Howell writer working on her laptop