It was a beautiful summer day, I was heading to a volunteer orientation on the other side of town. I’d left work in plenty of time to go home, change clothes, get my dog and be on our way. We were just about to our destination when I noticed the freeway traffic ahead of us stopping suddenly.
Because I aced Traffic Safety in high school, I remember the teacher’s words, “Always look for a way out.” I saw the car in front of me struggle to stop in time, the hitting of the brakes causing the back end to rise and fall. I knew I would swerve to the left as there was enough road ahead I could end up parallel to the car in front of us, and avoid hitting them. As I turned the wheel to the left, bam! Out of nowhere a car struck us from behind and forced us off the pavement into a sharp, downward facing embankment. The force caused my big dog to be thrown from the back seat into the dashboard. Dazed and shaking I got out of the car to see if the driver that hit us was okay. Traumatized, my dog didn’t want to stay in the car, but being in the embankment between oncoming traffic, I had to force her to stay inside.
The gal whose car I swerved to miss left the scene! Someone said they’d called 911, there had been an accident up ahead like the one we just had, the state patrol were already on their way. Wow. The gal who hit me asked to use my cell phone, and I said yes. In time, the state patrol came, took our statements and towed the gal’s car who hit me. Her car was totalled, I’d learn later, mine would be too although drivable, it would no longer have resale value.
I still went ahead to the orientation, but had trouble following what the speaker was saying. We were supposed to find a partner and roll play, but heck if I understood what he meant by that. It was odd, I just couldn’t understand what he was saying. During a break I called the chiropractor I worked for at his home, we had been close friends. He asked where I hurt and I said I didn’t know. I noticed my muscles were stiff all over. He offered to come into the office the following day (his day off) to get x-rays and check things out.
The following day after the x-rays he showed me the damage, the centimeters my neck was out of alignment demonstrated the amount of force my neck sustained. For each centimeter he said you can add ten pounds of pressure. It was a lot! Spinal adjustments which I’d had for years suddenly became very painful as we tried to correct that which had been undone in a split second. He said basically, my back looked like a corkscrew, I had been twisted when I was hit and then whip lashed. Wow!
In time, I began to feel like my head was heavy, like if the wind blew too hard, I’d be knocked over! I remember saying my body felt different, like a sardine that no longer fit in the can and I felt like a Brontosaurus, like I had sprouted a tail! It was the oddest thing, I felt like my hips would not cooperate to work together. I remember saying I think they’d work better if they could be separated!
Although my bodily injuries could be measured and documented, I felt “different.” I mentioned it twice to the chiropractor asking if he could refer me to a neurologist, but he said they wouldn’t be able to tell me any more than I had a Concussion and it would take time to heal. The chiropractor could acknowledge I had “a lot of things going on” in his terms, meaning I had a lot of injuries, but never once was Head or Brain Injury brought into the equation. Somewhere deep inside of me, I knew I’d changed, but didn’t know how.
Everything seemed so much more difficult. I’d had injuries before, but something here was very different. In addition to all the body pain, I found my behavior changed, my emotions different, I couldn’t fight this nagging fatigue and exhaustion, I would become tremendously tired after things I used to be able to do fine. I couldn’t follow conversations, I got confused easily, I seemed to get agitated and anxious when I had confidence before. I was making mistakes at work, I could not remember the scripts I had previously memorized. I couldn’t keep up with changes that were being made in our procedures every week. I thought I was going crazy. I began to feel like the office’s problem.
Our family had previously scheduled a big reunion and my accident was just two weeks prior. I had to catch a plane, and at that time, our airport was being remodeled, the lines were incredibly long. I remember trying to say some intelligent, amusing comment to the person in front of me and it didn’t come out at all as I had thought it out. I was embarrassed and didn’t say a word after that. I remember being so tired I couldn’t wait to get on the plane to sleep. It was not a lack of sleep that was causing all this…
At the family reunion I could not recall names of the people I’d met and me, a people person, could not think of a single question to ask anyone! It was the oddest thing, I was there, but not completely. I remember having to take naps…okay, are they naps when they last eight hours?!! I would sleep but never felt rested. What was happening to me? Why couldn’t I make myself be myself?
After the reunion, I returned home exhausted and again slept a lot. I figured all of it was due to the physical injuries from the accident. I’m not sure if it was when I returned to work that the doctor’s wife had to come into the office and help me run the front desk or not. But at some point in time early on it was obvious I wasn’t able to do my job like I had before. The confusion, forgetfulness, fatigue, etc., were all bewildering to me.
In time, the mistakes and un-selflike behavior caught up and I was fired from my job less than two months after I purchased my first home. My bosses, who had been dear, dear friends, who even helped me move, thought I had chosen my behavior. Why would I change like that? Who would choose to be a certain way and then polar opposite after a car accident? For some reason they could not see the inner struggle nor recognize I wasn’t the person I had been only because of the accident. Oh how I wished I could just flip a switch and be my old self!
…more to come!…