It will be twenty years this December since a drunk driver gave me the worst birthday present ever. I wasn’t supposed to survive. I’m not supposed to be here today. I’m not saying that I wished I hadn’t survived. I’ve lived a lifetime since that fretful day. If I hadn’t survived, my kids wouldn’t be here. My husband would be living an entirely different life with an entirely different wife.
What if your life really is written before you are born?
We’ve all heard it said that our entire life was planned for us before we were ever born. That our story was already written. The good, the bad, the ugly. Sure we have free thought. We make day to day decisions all on our own. But the path we are on is the path we were set on when we landed on earth. I’m not saying it is true. I’m not saying it isn’t. I don’t know. I’m just asking what if.
What if my story stopped that day?
What if in cheating death I left myself with no story? It all started after the accident. People telling me that it was just too hard to be around me because they had accepted me for dead. There was never any celebration that I had survived. There was no party. No welcome home. No one ever said they were glad to see me. Not even my own family seems happy to still have me around. My parents and my sisters pushed me out of their lives. They left me struggling to find myself alone in my scary new world. I don’t even talk to them anymore.
I keep trying to write a new story
For twenty years I have tried to find myself a place in this life. I have searched for work in the traditional way. I have created jobs for myself. I have written and published books which is something I wanted to do my whole life. I have written articles for others to publish. I’m leaving my mark allover the world. Still I find myself invisible.
Maybe you can’t cheat death
After twenty years I still wonder if by not dying that day I left myself with no story. I feel like everyone else has a place in this world. A life in this lifetime. I’ve done things. I’ve lived. I don’t take these days for granted. They are all miracle days that might have never been. I don’t mean to sound like I’m complaining. It’s just that I watch people. I’m a constant observer. I see these families supporting each other. I see my own parents being there for all four of my sisters. I see everyone getting back from life.
What about me?
And I watch myself. I see me putting myself out there time and time again. There is never any return for me. Life doesn’t give me anything back. So I think maybe you can’t cheat death. Maybe the till runs empty. Maybe surviving left me out of life’s book. Sometimes I even wonder if I’m still in a coma somewhere. I wonder if the reason my existence seems to be concentrated to my husband (who was the person with me when that drunk driver struck me) and my kids is because it is simply the story my mind is telling me while I am really in a hospital bed somewhere. I wonder if my family disconnecting from me is just that they no longer visit.
Maybe it’s just the brain injury talking
I suffered from a traumatic brain injury (TBI) when my head bounced off the pavement. I have a medical diagnosis of airhead due to the air pockets left behind after the scar tissue dissolved. The neurologists told us that we can expect things to progress much like Alzheimer’s. Much of the past has already been scrubbed clean. It’s possible that I was never a part of my family. That I was always the outsider looking in. I don’t remember enough of my childhood to know for sure. Academically everything stayed in tact. I maintained a high GPA in college. I made the Dean’s List every semester and I am a member of Phi Theta Kappa.
My frontal lobe received the most damage
The frontal lobes are considered our emotional control center and home to our personality. There is no other part of the brain where lesions can cause such a wide variety of symptoms. (Kolb & Wishaw, 1990) The frontal lobes are involved in motor function, problem solving, spontaneity, impulse control, and social and sexual behavior
Did the accident change me? Of course it did. I used to be your stereotypical Italian girl. You couldn’t shut me up. I was outgoing and always had the great ideas about what activities to do. I became an introvert. I stay inside my head most of the time. I don’t initiate conversation. I can’t make spontaneous decisions on my own anymore. Verbally I mix up my words or even lose them completely. Everything that I do must be in a very specific order. If my husband or kids interrupt me in the process or I somehow miss a step it becomes increasingly difficult to complete the task. Even something as simple as forgetting to remove my glasses before heading to the bathroom can cause me to become confused about how to brush my teeth. Seems silly. But it’s a part of my life now.
I’m just me in all my damaged glory
So maybe it was never about cheating death. Maybe as time goes by I can just see even more of the dramatic affect TBI has on my life. I was just walking along the side of the road with my best friend talking about how we were going to celebrate my seventeenth birthday when a drunk driver changed my life forever. Twenty years later, I’m still trying to figure out how to live this new life. How to be this new me. But it’s all forever changing. The parietal lobe damage is starting to become more evident, too. My arms grow heavy, my coordination suffers, and my depth perception is terrible. I am learning to be a new me all over again in a world that is constantly changing.