(Pan Books, £7.99)
Forgotten Girl tells the remarkable true-life story of Naomi Jacobs, who went to sleep in 2008 as a 32-year-old single mother and woke up the next morning convinced she was a 15-year-old school girl living in 1992. Told from the perspective of her teenage self, this moving memoir documents the Liverpool-born author’s breakdown with dissociative amnesia and her subsequent recovery.
Did you have any reservations about telling your story?
I have to credit my agent with giving me the courage to let it all out. When bad things happen you often carry a sense of shame. Writing the book helped me let go of the shame and realise I’ve got nothing to be embarrassed about. In fact, I’ve got a lot to be proud of.
What are your strongest memories from that first morning when you woke up believing you were a teenager?
I remember the important bits, like first seeing my sister and [son] Leo and first waking up in the room. But it’s not a wound in any way. I can look at it as nothing but this huge, huge blessing because it was the catalyst for this huge positive change in my life. No matter how traumatic it was at the time – and it was – I wanted humour in the book, because there is a funny side to a teenager waking up 17 years in the future. Like the first time I saw a Nintendo Wii. If you were a fly on the wall then, you would laugh your head off.
How do you respond to sceptics who have questioned your story?
I expected that because of the doctors’ [initial reaction] and because [dissociative amnesia] is so rare, but I’m not bothered. At first I was very wary of my sister and [best friend] Katie because I feared people would judge how they reacted towards me in the first 24 hours. But now I’m really glad that they reacted that calmly because I may never have survived this if they had said: “She needs sectioning..” This is my truth and my experience. You come and tell me how you’re supposed to react when you wake up and you’ve lost 17 years of memories?
What has the response been like from readers?
The messages that I’ve had from people have brought me to tears. This isn’t about fame or money. If one woman or teenage girl picks it up who is going through something tough in her life and it gives her a little spark of hope, or she thinks “Maybe I can heal this wound”, then that’s the best news ever.