Wednesday, April 14, 2010

One year later

The next few days here at PS are going to be kind of somber. 

The one year anniversary of my car crash is on Wednesday and I have some things I need to say. Back when the accident happened I wrote a few posts about what went on, but I was medicated and hurt and tired and I never really said what I wanted to. That day and the few days following have been on my mind lately and I'm going to write down what happened. Because I need to do it. It will help me move on.

I'm doing this for me. There are things I haven't talked about because I just couldn't say them out loud. So I'm doing it now. 

You are welcome to follow along. I wouldn't be posting it here if you weren't. It's going to be hard for me to write and also hard to read. 

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3


Once I got home after being in the hospital I still didn't get any rest.

The weekend was restful, but there were a lot of people around. Don't get me wrong. I appreciate everyone that came to help. My parents and grandmother. Andy's parents and sister. It was so nice, especially for Andy, to have so many hands.

But no matter how much I knew they were there to help me I was still the hostess. People were in my home and I just couldn't sleep while they were running around doing all my housework for me. Not to mention how long it took me to eat anything and the fact that I had to take a different medication every three hours, even in the middle of the night. And I couldn't get the medicine myself because it was all I could do to get from the sofa to the bedside toilet that someone had lent me.

I felt completely useless, and I was. I never could have imagined how terrible it is for someone to be in that sort of situation until I was in it myself. Now I know and I feel that frustration and pain all over again when I hear of another person having to go through it. Being healthy one day and helpless the next is the most hopeless thing I've ever been through.

And of course there were all the doctor's appointments. Just in the first week there were four, and I had to be in the car for an hour each time. Talk about stressful.

I never got enough nutrition because I was drinking all my food. Add that to a lot of pain medication and not a lot of solid sleep and that made for a very weak patient. That first week of appointments I swooned twice. Partly because of my weakness and partly because of my nerves. Even now, just the thought of going to any doctor's office makes me want to throw up.

But here I am a year later. I survived.

I've been giving a lot of thought to what I would say on this milestone day. I still don't really know where to begin.

Today has been a lot harder than I thought it would be. I think because it's been a year and I'm not done yet, so it's kind of bittersweet. The sweet is because the first year is over and I think that is certainly something to celebrate, but more than anything I desperately want to put it all behind me and move one with my life. I don't want to forget. I can never forget, but I can get back to life and living it. The life that was interrupted. I feel like it's been on pause this whole time and my finger is itching to press "Play."

Lately a lot of people have asked me how I'm doing. I thought that might be something I should address here, today.

How I'm doing...

Physically or emotionally?

Physically I'm, of course, much better.

I still feel twinges of pain in my ankle and my right sinus cavity (it was torn away from my cheek bone with my nose), thought I don't seem to have any real problems with either of those. At least not right now, and though my nose is still stiff (and some days even sore) I think it's going to be alright.

My chin is still numb from the nerve damage. The numbness isn't as sprawling as it was which gives me hope that it might go away all together. My chin was actually degloved. I've said that to people and no one seems to really understand what that is, so I looked up the definition: an which the soft tissue down to the bone, including neurovascular bundles and sometimes tendons, is peeled off.  Yeah, it's pretty gross. So I'm also thinking the numbness is still hanging around because all that tissue is still healing. But like the doctor's say, time will tell.

My teeth. Oh my teeth. They just don't feel like part of my body. It is much, much better of course, but I still can't use them like I used to. I've only recently started to bite into soft or chewy things. Mostly I can hold things with my teeth and then tear the food with my hand. I still can't exert the pressure it would take to bite into say, a crusty piece of pizza. I've spent the whole last year either eating through a straw, with a baby spoon or with a knife and fork. And like I said, they will still most likely die at some point.

I was right from the beginning about losing a tooth. I'm getting ready to have it replaced and, based on my dentist's opinion, might need to go ahead and replace one more. I've hear the implant procedure is pretty painful. I'm not looking forward to it.

But at this point all the medical stuff is something I've grown used to having in my life. Though stressful, it's just become a reality for me. Not that it wasn't a reality immediately, but I had a lot to process right after the crash.

In the last six months or so I've been dealing more with the emotional side of what happened and what I've been through. When I was hurt and healing I was able to suppress most of my emotional feelings about everything. It was something I had to do. I needed to be in a good frame of mind, or the best one I could muster while I was in the thick of it. If I let myself get bogged down too much with how I felt I wouldn't heal as quickly and I knew it. So I pushed everything to the back of my mind.

Then one day the whole thing hit me right in the face.

It was the day Julie went into the hospital to have Mina. I drove down and when I got in her room her friend Frances was there for a visit. Frances hadn't seen me in a while and of course knew all about the accident so she asked me how my recovery was going. I started to tell her all the gory details and then a nurse came in to check on Julie. I was right in the middle of talking about my giant scar and how my chin was degloved and I got sort of a, "What the heck is she talking about?" look from the nurse. Without skipping a beat Julie looked at me and then the nurse and said, "That's my best friend Joanna. She almost died in a car crash last April."

Immediately I said, "Oh, I didn't almost die," and sort of laughed it off. And Julie looked at me and with a straight face said, "Yes. You did."

And that was it folks. I had spent all that time telling myself it wasn't that bad. I mean I was beat up and I had been through a lot of recovery with a lot still left to go, but I never really let myself believe how bad it really was. I just couldn't and then I just wouldn't

Not to mention that no one had really said it to me like that. I had heard how lucky I was and even Dr. F said to me that after all the trauma I went through he was surprised I lived through it. But no one had actually said the "D" word. Saying that I shouldn't have lived through it and saying that I almost didn't were two different thing to me. I know it's really just semantics, but it was still a wake up call for me.

"She almost died."

Three little words to make me face what I nearly lost. It's what I had been needing. Someone needed to make me understand and make me pull out all the emotional sludge I was ignoring.

So in October, after I got my braces off and had a little break from doctor's visits, I took a big sigh of relief and then started facing all the emotional demons I had been carrying around for six months.

I'm still dealing with them. Emotional pain isn't as easily curable as physical pain, and I'm not so sure it is curable. It's something you can learn to live with and manage. So that's what I'm doing; learning how to manage it. I certainly have bad days when I just feel so overwhelmed by all that has happened.

But at the same time I feel like some good things have come from all of it.

First, my new appreciation for life. For how fragile and precious it is. Gratitude has taken on a whole new meaning for me in the last 365 days. I don't think I knew before how to fully appreciate anything and now I try my best to appreciate every day, every minute, every breath.

I've learned that life is meant for enjoying. Enjoying what the world around you has to offer and what your body can do in it. I try more new things now and I'm not as cautious. You would think this whole ordeal would make me more cautious, and if it had been my fault then maybe I would be. But I'm not trying to be reckless, I'm just trying to live with less fear based boundaries. I've come to realize how amazing the human body is and how capable. Now that I've known a time when my body couldn't do even normal things I try to use it as best I can. God gave it to me to use and enjoy and that's what I plan on doing.

Andy and I have a real relationship now. We did before, but I feel like now we really understand how much we mean to one another. He has been through this last year right there with me and I don't think I would have come this far and been as strong as I am if it weren't for his love, support and encouragement. I feel like we can face anything now, as long as we're doing it together. He's out fishing right now. He knew I was kind of having a rough day and said he would stay with me, but he didn't get to go fishing once last year because of me, and he loves to fish. I know he doesn't grudge me one minute, but he deserves a little fishing break. He can take care of me after dark, so I sent him on his way.

I can't even being to thank my family and friends for the love and support the sent to me. All the visits and cards. All the chores. (Watching my mother and grandmother clean out the bunny cage was some serious entertainment for me while I was couch bound.) Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

And thank you to the people who have been reading along here. If just recently or for the whole year. Your support has meant the world.

So that's how I am right now. Still a little broken, but much improved.

This afternoon I drove to the post office and back home. Nothing happened. It was a blissfully ordinary trip.

At two o'clock, exactly one year later, I finally took the Jeep keys off my key ring.

And then I cried.

But it was good for me and it needed to be done. I can't hang on to my Jeep forever because it's gone, but the keys weren't just there because I couldn't give up my ruined care. I was holding on to them because they represented a very different time in my life. A more innocent time. I was certainly not innocent in the traditional sense, but I was innocent of all the pain and heartache the last year has brought. I can't get it back though and I think that's what I was trying to do. Maybe if I held on to my keys long enough it would all go away and I could just be the old Joanna.

It's time to move on and accept the changes I see in myself. I don't dislike this new version of myself. Actually I think I'm a lot better, but it was such an abrupt change. It's hard to let go, but that, as they say, is life. If we always stayed the same, never changing or evolving, life would be very boring indeed.

1 comment:

  1. I'm serious when I say I've been reading your posts over the last few days and it has brought me to tears numerous times.

    There are just so many paralells in our stories but you put it in writing way better than I've ever been able to.

    It does feel good though like a few weeks back when I wrote about when we found out about MG. It felt good to revisit it all over again although we (nor you or Andy) will ever forget the day our lives were forever changed.