It was October 9th, 2013, four years ago today, when my life was changed. The anniversary remains emotional for me, regardless of the passage of time. My Facebook posts from each subsequent year on this day, reads like a working through of the five stages of grief.
I am not being flippant when I say grief, for I consider the accident a form of bereavement. That day took away the future that I thought I would have for myself and for my family. The physical scars I carry seem inconsequential sometimes compared to the emotional damage that the accident has wrought upon us all.
Last year, my anger hit full force. This is what I posted:
“Today is the 3rd anniversary of the accident. You know the drill: if self-absorbed, self-pitying, attention-seeking posts get on your nerves on Facebook, move along. I won’t blame you, they annoy me too. Normal service will resume tomorrow.
Normally I try and post positive developments around my recovery (no-one wants to listen to someone constantly banging on about how hard a time they are having) and in the first couple of years, I had many positive milestones to share: the day I left hospital; the first time I got out of the wheelchair; the day I finally left the walking frame behind. Although I spent much of those two years bouncing back to hospital for more surgery and returning to the wheelchair, there was a sense of momentum in my healing. Everything was working towards recovery.
Three years on and reality has hit hard. At this point in time I have reached peak mobility, this is the best I am ever going to be again and that is difficult to accept. The list of things that I will never do again seems endless: run, jump, dance, ride a bike, walk without pain, walk without a limp, walk downhill, curl up on a couch, be pain free, be my old self again.
To add injury, to well, injury, I finally have a diagnosis of a brain injury, so those feelings of dizziness, mental fogginess and stupidity aren’t going to go away (apparently brains, like my bones, have a two-year healing window – who knew?).
All of above is compounded by the emotional damage this has done to me and the people around me. The accident has robbed me of my confidence and my independence and has instead saddled me with PTSD. Not a fair trade off in my opinion.
Tomorrow I will be back to swimming, the gym, physio and a positive attitude (for believe me, I not only know how much worse it could have been for me, but how much more difficult things other people are facing every day), but today in all honesty, I feel pretty hard done by.”
So, how do I feel today? I am undoubtedly more optimistic than I was twelve months ago. My recent knee operation has reopened possibilities that I thought were gone forever. Physically I am in a better place than I (and the specialists) ever expected. My anger is still there, but it is now focused on the way that the accident has ripped through the emotional well being of my children. However, this is not something that I will be discussing on this blog. It is not my story to tell.
I know that to most people around me, the accident is ancient history but I think it is vitally important for people to understand that recovery from a traumatic incident is a continual process. It sometimes feels like I have lived an entire life since that fateful day, yet it is still vividly present in my mind. I can be transported back to that cold car or the long nights staring at the wall in the hospital by a word, a sound or a smell. I think of my life as having two phases: before and after. I have never wanted to be defined by what happened to me, yet I can’t extricate myself from it yet. Maybe it will never happen. Let’s see in another 365 days.