October 27, 2015
Disappearing

A little over 2 years ago, almost 25 months if I were to age it like a toddler, I was hit by an inattentive driver in an SUV while riding my bicycle into the office.

This happened on September 11th, so it’s really easy to remember.

There are a lot of things that happened to me in the aftermath of this wreck: my bicycle and work computer were damaged, I acquired some gnarly contusions and road rash, but the farthest reaching of these physical things is that I sustained a concussion that has dramatically reshaped my life.

On September 11th, 2013 at 9:40am I was in the best shape of my life. I was in a stable, very happy relationship that was just coming out of the “newly wed” period. I had recently had surgery to fix a congenital defect in my jaw and had just gotten my braces removed (I was still wearing the retainer 24/7). I was biking 15 miles a week on average and running around 9, completing some of my first 5ks; I was getting ready to run my first one with my husband in a few weeks. I had recently lost about 50lbs, finally bringing myself back to a healthy weight. I was volunteering with the Girl Scouts regularly as a troop leader. I was kicking ass at work, taking on high profile projects.

And in a split second, all of that vanished. I was a broken girl bleeding onto the asphalt, dress flipped up over her head and shoes thrown across the road, partially underneath an SUV as the driver jumped out screaming at me for “not paying attention” when I had the light to cross the intersection and he turned directly into me. I’m still not sure how I ended up underneath his truck, as there were my hand prints on his hood where I had gone over it.

It happened in slow motion, as these things tend to. The light turned for me as I was half a block away, the SUV was sitting in the intersection not moving. I entered the intersection and the SUV was still sitting there, having not moved an inch. I had just crossed the yellow line, almost safely to the other side when he began to turn. I saw the hood of his truck coming right for me and all I could think was “well, this is how I die,” along with a whole string of things I hadn’t gotten accomplished. I looked down as his bumper neared my foot, still stuck firmly in the clip on my pedal as I was still frantically trying to make it across. There was a brief flash of white and I woke up underneath his truck, with my arms wrapped around my head. I was terrified if I didn’t die that my jaw would break again, since it hadn’t quite been a year since the surgery I had on it.

The paramedics came and bandaged me up. They checked my head, but since I hadn’t hit it on anything and there were no sore spots or bruising/abrasions on it they told me I didn’t have to go into the hospital. I exchanged insurance information with the driver, he was ticketed, my husband came to pick up me and my broken bicycle and I headed into work. I was sore and scattered from what I thought was adrenaline, but I needed to check some of those outstanding items off my to-do list before the next day. I have been in many car accidents, I know the second day is the worst day in terms of pain. I took the next day off, but went in on Friday. I was still a little confused and dizzy, and 2 days out I thought it likely wasn’t adrenaline.

Did you know you can get a concussion without hitting your head at all? Just your brain sloshing around in your skull is enough to do it.

My doctor practically yelled at me to go to the ER immediately. I did and had many an xray taken. Nothing was broken “just” a concussion. This concussion ended up turning into post-concussion syndrome which meant that every single day I woke up violently nauseated and dizzy for almost a solid year and a half. My regular doctor put me under the care of a neurologist who monitored the nerve damage in my legs as it corrected itself and the extreme vertigo.

At some point as my body began to heal, my psychological state began to rapidly deteriorate. I was having trouble falling asleep, and when I would I’d be plagued with violent nightmares. It got to the point where I could barely even get out of bed. I ended up being referred to both a psychologist and a psychiatrist where I began an intense 18 month EMDR program as well as various prescriptions to help treat my PTSD and major depression. As that started to improve, and I could at least sleep like a normal person again, my body once again began to have issues. I’ve been told by my medical team that this sort of back and forth of physical and psychological maladies is pretty common.

Regrettably, what popped up was debilitating migraines. Do you know what a 3 month long migraine feels like? Because I do. I had a span of 3 months where I think I had 1 or 2 headache-free days and I ended up hospitalized and giving demorol shots, which did absolutely nothing to help. I spent most of the last bit of 2014 and the first half of 2015 in my dark bedroom, shades drawn, chained to my bed in near constant, horrible pain. It hasn’t done much for my mental state, although I’ve tentatively “graduated” from therapy. For the past 6 months or so I’ve been getting Botox injections for my migraines and they’ve made it significantly better, I’m only getting 3-4 per month now, but it’s not perfect and now my eyebrows don’t move correctly. I don’t like the changes in my face at all, which is doubly problematic because I was still getting used to my “new face” after jaw surgery.

Since the accident due to the vertigo and then migraines, I’ve been almost completely unable to exercise, meaning I’ve gained a significant amount of weight. I’ve effectively cancelled out all of the weight I spent such a long time losing. I used to be so proud of all the things my body could do, but now it can’t do anything for vast stretches of time but lay prostrate. I’m very down on myself for having gained back all this weight I swore to myself I would never gain back. I’m down on myself because my face is a different shape now from the surgery, and my eyebrows are frozen like Barbie. I can’t do anything, I can’t even emote correctly anymore. I don’t feel like I can take pleasure in anything my body does anymore, like I’m just a brain trapped in some horrible flesh bag that just hurts all the time and is weird and ugly and borderline alien.

As one could imagine, this amount of trauma and sickness hasn’t exactly been very kind to my relationship with my husband, nor any of my friends. I’ve just disappeared into a little cave, my world restricting further and further. Much like a light on a dimmer, the glow becoming smaller and weaker until it clicks off because there’s not enough power. It’s very isolating to have so much of who I am not shaped by this wreck. I don’t want to talk about it all the time but it’s seemingly all I can talk about if I meet up with friends, because it was a major event: my life is now classified pre-wreck and post-wreck. It’s isolating even though my husband has lived through it with me, because most of the ways I suffer are invisible, I can’t expect him to really understand what it is I am going through because I think on some level you can’t know unless you’ve been there. Can you really relate to the trauma of almost having your life ripped away without having experienced that same thing? I’m sure you can agree that it’s terrible, but can you really know how terrible if you haven’t spent every day of 2 years having it limit your life, deny you sleep, cause you pain, change your body?

So I’m soldiering on because I have to believe there’s light at the end of the tunnel. That the insurance company will pay my tens of thousands of dollars in medical bills and lost wages from all the freelance gigs I lost because I can’t produce at the capacity I previously could. I have to believe that I’ll someday be made something close to whole.

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