[content note for some frank and frankly melodramatic talk about death and dying, car accidents, trauma]
Everyone’s different of course, but a large part of my experience as a gimp and a survivor has been about isolation. i don’t want that to be the default for my life, i’m working on it, but please understand that this opening doesn’t come easily to me.
i’m trying to embrace interdependency and it doesn’t come naturally, which sounds kind of ridiculous. i mean, we need each other to survive, need connection, support, camaraderie to thrive, yeah?
But when you’ve spent 25 years since nearly dying not living up to the car-crash-cliche of “it made me want to live every day of my life as though it were the last!”, there is exposed this other, less sexy, cliche: i wanted to die.
There. i said it. i wanted to die. Sometimes i wished the other car had been going just a little quicker. That when i fainted from the pain of it, that instead of simply breaking my own jaw on the asphalt, i had pushed the damage to my neck and back further, beyond life-saving. For years, i would spend days at a time in my room crying into my pillow, forcing tears out via some pretended deaths, because my teenage self couldn’t understand why i was still here.
i’d had a car accident a couple years previous and was only just beginning to heal from it, to get pieces of my already fucked with body back, a body that had been fucked with long before any of these accidents, when this most recent one happened. i wrote a piece about it in the first zine i ever made in 2003 (Piss In A Bucket), and i realized, now sober, how incredibly broken i still was.
i’m still broken from it.
Living in a big city doesn’t help. i can’t ride in a car without having a hundred mini panic attacks, without envisioning crashes; when someone is coming to visit me and they’re driving, or going somewhere, anywhere, and driving, i imagine their deaths, a thousand mini deaths over and over. i can’t get away from it, because it’s everywhere, in the streets, in the movies, in my dreams, everywhere. My belly in knots, lump in my throat, my imaginary car brake always at the ready. Partners, lovers, friends, they’re generally cool with it, and sometimes we can even have a giggle about it, because they know it’s the only way i can not completely freak out, which is of no help to them driving. But it’s embarrassing and exposing too.
It’s shows people how broken i am from it, but only parts of that brokenness. They don’t always know the rest. They don’t know that i wanted to die in that accident and that i still try to pry that open, and it still eludes me why i haven’t lived every day as though it were my last (a tired cliche that causes shame in me for having had a different kind of response). Why i sit in my apartment, frozen sometimes. Why hours can pass and i won’t even realize it (i do understand that some of this is based in head injury and ADHD stuff, i get that), but there are parts of me that just can’t move:
i am living in the body that saw it coming and froze, and that stays with me too.
i froze. And it made the injuries so much worse. And that transfers over to every other kind of trauma i’ve dealt with. Prediction and control made my life (more of) a fucking nightmare (than it otherwise would have been). And at 39 years old, i find myself, in all my work to just. let. go. of control and prediction and science and bureaucratizing my entire fucking life, i find myself grasping to hold on to some minor thread of these things because i don’t think i know anything else.
How do i explain who i am if i let go? How do i move forward? How do i connect when i so often think about how that connection will inevitably end in a car crash? If i let go, what if there’s no one there? No footholds? No net? No jaws of life in the capable hands of some angel? Nothing? What if, after all of this, i’m on my own anyways? And when i do connect (and i certainly do, joyously!), what happens when all of my worst nightmares become truths? If and when my imaginary brake isn’t there? How do i begin to count up the effects of all the thousands of mini-deaths on my heart? And the real ones i’ve known, all these losses wrapped in flimsy fiberglass? There is so much trauma there, wrapped up alongside full-meal portions of other traumas. PTSD is a fucking unrelenting craggyanaldouchenozzle, and i hate it.
i’m trying to make peace with this stuff, but it’s not easy. It’s not something i want to share.
i don’t want to tell you that i wanted to die and that i’ve thought about it since;
i don’t want to tell you that i’m afraid about and sometimes defeated by the isolation;
that i don’t want to end up like my Mum;
that i’m afraid about my future as a disabled person living in a system that isn’t built for us, and in communities in which i feel i have to squeeze every fucking accommodation out of rather than having it be an exchange based on mutual aid.
But i am and i do. So what now?
i mean, we don’t know how this whole ride is going to end, it’s just a matter of when and how. In the meantime, i want to let go! Be free! Do ridiculous shit! Do my stretches, do my dishes for fuck’s sake! Read in the morning sunbeams. i have plans, big plans! And none of them revolve around this numbing, freezing, this isolation, this fear. But there it is nonetheless. There’s got to be something freeing in all of this acknowledgment, yeah?