This blog space is usually pretty photos and as few words as possible, not ever really getting into the day to day stresses or struggles. It’s partially due to the fact I actually do not like writing, in fact, most times, I loath it so much I think “wouldn’t a photo gallery only be more fun?!” Some posts are put off way more than they should for that very reason-adding words. But, I’m going to attempt to put the distaste aside and open up, because I think it could be therapeutic for me and right now, I need it.
On this day 11 years ago I got in a car accident that would forever change both mine and my at-the-time boyfriend’s life, forever. We were young and dumb and then, we were broken. Him way more so than I. Here’s how it went down-
Started with a road trip down to FL for camping on Port St. George with my bf and some of our friends, all being dudes. It was a fun (blurry) couple of days then a storm came. Our tent was massive and thus a wind trap and eventually blew down and we decided to call it quits and head back. The guy riding with bf and I suggested stopping by Auburn to complete our Spring Break with fun and not an unfortunate series of events. We were down. While at the mutual friend’s apartment more drinking and recreation happened and then tensions got high. I was so over sleeping on the ground, over being around a particular a-hole and ready to leave. Then said a-hole was antagonizing my bf and then later called me a bitch and that was that, I had had enough. We were leaving, I was driving, it was fine, I had it. So we left him there to find his own way home and we set out.
From Auburn to Tuscaloosa it’s 2.5 hours. Doing the math later I figured out we left around 3am (dumb I know, remember, young and dumb!) So around an hour and a half in I started getting very sleepy so I asked bf if he could take over. He said he was fine so we switched at a gas station and kept going. Now in Birmingham about an hour from my house on HWY 459 reaching about 70 MPH he fell asleep at the wheel, over corrected and we started flipping down the grassy median. I was asleep in the passenger and woke up with the strongest force I’ve ever felt propelling my body over and over in different ways but also being secure in seat belt. The sunroof had shattered so grass and debris were getting in and the noise-that was insane-it was almost like in the movies where things are so nuts that it gets quiet and slows down in a weird slo-mo way. We finally stopped flipping and luckily were right side up.
Witnesses had pulled over and started running over to our car to see if we were ok. That was when I realized exactly what had just happened. I looked over at bf and he was slumped down to his left almost hanging out the driver window, blood streaming down his face, and completely still. Still to the point I thought he was dead. I started screaming his name, asking the people around the car if he was alive while they were trying to keep me calm and get some information until the ambulances arrived. Then, came the pain. I looked down and registered the fact that my ankle was badly broken. I gave the samaritans my mom’s number and before I knew it she was there, helping me keep calm. The ambulance arrived, loaded me up, cut off all my clothes including my new Marmot jacket that I fought them over, and hauled me off to UAB hospital. I asked non-stop about my bf. Was he alive? Will he be coming to the hospital soon? What was happening?!
I was rushed into surgery for my ankle. Got some screws and both my tibia and fibula put back together. Then woke up and kept asking the questions-where was bf? was he alive? someone tell me what’s going on! That’s when I was told he was alive but in bad shape. The rescue team had to get the jaws of life to pull him out and they discovered the roof of the 4 Runner had broken his neck. His injuries were a c2 and c3 break of the neck, deep wound above forehead, broken left arm and broken ribs that were collapsing one of his lungs. He was in ICU and would be for several weeks. After that information settled in and I realized, oh yea, it’s my 20th birthday…I started complaining about my right knee. I was in agony! Mom got a doctor to come in and look and low and behold, they missed the fact my knee cap was sitting on the inside of leg. ACL completely destroyed and MCL torn. Because they had missed it and it was technically a post-accident injury and not to mention the fact the health system is jacked, I had to wait to file this injury.
Wait to get something fixed for over a month that occurred during the original accident and was missed by doctors.
So they put me in a knee immobilizer and told us to sort out insurance and get it handled when we could asap. My right leg was completely immobile with the cast up to mid-shin then the knee immobilizer from there to mid-thigh. Besides a concussion, some cuts, bruises and scratches my right leg was my “only” injury. I’d realize later this would be a never ending battle with pain and anxiety. So following the knee discovery and getting the run around from the hospital I asked to see bf. They wheeled me down to ICU and the repercussion of a decision that I made for us both was clear. I was sick with guilt. From my wheelchair I just stared. Stared at a guy I loved laying there with tubes and bandages and a neck brace and all the beeping. It was so much equipment keeping him alive. But he was alive. And we were going to get through this together. Or so I thought.
The days following are obviously a blur. We went by the car to get some personal belongings and I saw what we survived.
You can see a wounded, still in hospital scrubs me trying to grab CD’s and clothes through broken glass and mud and bf’s blood all over the car. Disturbing so just beware.
Weeks later bf was released, a month later I got my knee operated on so it was back to the hospital and back to under the knife and then after all that we started physical therapy. I went through four solid months, 3-4 times a week but he dropped out a month or so in getting discouraged with the progress of his left arm. Going back to his injuries, the c2 and c3 of the neck are typically the breaks that’ll cause paralysis. But luckily he only suffered from his left arm being immobile with the possibility of getting it back. Years later I would find out his arm is mobile with some disability in left hand fingers but with the ability to grib being much better.
I was a sophomore at Bama and opted to stay in school and just try real hard for some decent grades. I attended class in a wheelchair getting help from friends that would offer up their time and vehicle. Bf and I were not healthy healers. We partied and tried to continue our fun life of fun times all the time. It backfired. My grades suffered, my health suffered, my relationship with my friends and family suffered. We were toxic for each other. But truth be told I felt a loyalty to stay with him while he healed because I felt completely responsible. He would have never left Auburn if it wasn’t for me. He wouldn’t have driven if it wasn’t for me. I made those decisions and now we both suffered. I stayed with him as long as I could until I finally realized he wasn’t on the same healing path that I was and I cut ties. We both got better with many, many bumps in the road and then came the guilt. He began to hate me and lash out with guilt. Years went by. We both dated other people. But the guilt was still there. I wanted and needed to be forgiven. Eventually I was, we made peace with one another and we’re both “fine” 11 years later.
But are we? Am I?
In 2009 I was in agony, so much widespread pain. Not just in my right leg but both legs. All the time. Hurt to stand for long periods of time, hurt to walk a lot. So I went to a doctor. He told me I had fibromyalgia. No. That’s not real, you just can’t find out what’s wrong with me. Yea, I have injuries but I work out, I eat well, there’s something else. Appointments and tests later, same answer. So I tucked it away and said, “alright, you gotta just man up and deal” so I did. Then came another bad accident in May of 2015 after Memorial Day weekend in Daufuskie Island when an 18-wheeler cab didn’t break and ran into the back of the car I was in the back passenger seat.
Seriously? Another freaking car accident?
This one yielded lots of chiropractor appointments, bad neck pain, a pinched nerve in back causing pain in back and numbness in legs, more physical therapy and more anxiety. Year or so later when I’m technically healed from all that the constant widespread pain got more unbearable. I needed new answers. Went to a rheumatologist who said “you have what’s called fibromyalgia, have you heard of it before?” Shit. Seriously. This again?! You don’t truly know so you diagnose me with this again. Defeat.
So this mystery condition that doctors don’t quiet understand paired with lifelong anxiety equals straight up frenzy. My mind is a constant battle of “am I dying?” “should I bother having kids, I’m in so much pain?” “what’s my life expectancy going to be like” and so on. Yes. It’s dramatic but you tell someone with chronic pain and anxiety disorder to calm down it’s ok, you’re fine, it’ll be fine…well, you see what happens!
Thus, I (wo)man up. I take on each day’s pain and just try to remind myself how grateful I should be. I’ve tried so hard not to be that person that is always complaining about it. I try. I am sometimes not that person and I know people think “Ok Jess, we’ve got it, you hurt daily.” But I don’t want to be. I want to be that chick who survived a terrible accident and at the end of the day am stronger because of it, not weaker. My body doesn’t always want that and is currently revolting against me on this 11th year anniversary. Feels like my legs are growing long, like how growing pains felt as a kid paired with restlessness and tenderness of the knees. My lower back is also achy. This is why I changed the plans of my 31st birthday tomorrow from skating (ouch!) to bowling (old lady status..) Getting older has been so awesome and rewarding. I’m a homeowner, happily married, love my job-but it also comes with suddenly needing glasses and icing different body parts after what I’d consider a simple workout. But again, every birthday is a gift and this achy 31st tomorrow will not be taken any differently. Thanks for reading and getting to know a little more about my dark side.
I hope that I do use this space to open up more, be more honest about good and bad days and maybe even connect with folks out there that are feeling or dealing with the same. This blog is meant for pretty photos and recaps of fun times so it’ll be more of that and not diary status but I’m happy to have finally opened up about a guilt-stricken difficult time that has shaped me into the nearly 31 year OLD lady I am today ;P