The thing I hate most about the grieving process is everyone else’s expectations of its progression. That, and the ability it has to hit you without warning. It has been a difficult week for me; there have been a lot of tears and a lot of ‘why me?’. I don’t know why I plague myself with that question when I know there is no answer. I do not believe everything happens for a reason; I do not believe there was purpose in my accident. I believe life changing moments can happen to anyone at any time and there is always a choice in how one chooses to cope. Still, it’s unbearably frustrating some days to think about all of the people in this world who choose a life of hate or crime yet get to roam the world as they please. The days I try to understand why are never easy days.
When it comes to recovery timelines I’m often still told my injury is quite recent although it feels like it’s been a lifetime. I still go through periods of overwhelming grief. I can go weeks without shedding a tear until I hit a wall. It usually starts at bedtime after a particularly frustrating day or difficult moment. It starts when the kids are in bed and I have time to reflect and think about the ways in which my life is changed and the ways in which it is harder. For a long time after my injury I would cry daily – moments of mourning that would come and go. While the breakdowns have become more infrequent, they have also become more intense and are increasingly difficult to move past. They leave me with an exhaustive emotional hangover.
The last week has moved past me in a blur. After an emotional day where I felt as though my injury was taunting me at every turn, I surrendered to tears around midnight. These are the kind of tears that leave you unable to breathe or even think straight. Since then I have struggled daily with feelings of frustration and anger. Whenever I’ve felt like I may be ready to reset and keep going there has been something to remind me of my inadequacies: a bladder accident, bowel issue and a giant bruise on my hip after a botched transfer (to name a few). And after all of these little reminders this week I feel defeated by my injury.
For the last 72 weeks I have made the daily decision to keep living my life to the fullest. I make an effort every day to find things for which to be thankful. I look for the people, the moments, and the good things that make life worth living. Some days it is more work than others but it is work that always pays off in the end. I have quotes tucked away for moments that I need inspiration and others displayed prominently in my home to remind me more consistently. There are days (even weeks) where I am strong and I convince myself that I am capable and I am happy and I have this injury under control; there have been many times where I even truly believe all of this.
The problem is, when you start to believe that you are handling things and moving on, it is so much harder when you realize that maybe you aren’t coping as well as you thought – when you realize that maybe everything isn’t okay. When emotions are running high, as they have been lately, I feel like I go back to square one in a lot of ways. Like all of the work I have done to heal is somehow null and void. I struggle to imagine a lifetime of dealing with some of the realities of this injury. The years ahead seem daunting and impossible. When I let my guard down and allow myself to be vulnerable to my insecurities I remain lost in this hangover and the sense of defeat only deepens.
Yesterday we took a long drive to Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle. As we drove home I started to think about all of the people in the surrounding cars and how on this multi-lane interstate freeway our lives briefly intersected. I started to think about the different stories that would come out of each vehicle: the heartache, the celebrations and the realities of real people all just trying to get somewhere at the same time. The scenarios played out in my head like a movie full of interwoven story lines ranging from amazing sex to the death of a loved one. I realized that anyone looking at me in the passenger seat wouldn’t have any idea that my legs don’t work or that our lives have been turned upside down over the last 72 weeks. And as we continued on the I5 North it finally sunk in that every single person we briefly intersect with has his or her own story just as delicate and intricate as the next. And while there may not be purpose in the heartache that people endure there is purpose in their responses to it.
So on the quiet drive home at the end of a very long day – my daughter slept and my boys listened to a podcast of children’s stories – I finally started to reset. I thought about the resilience and perseverance I see in the world. I thought of those who are close to me: the ones who have lost children; the ones dealing with ailing parents; the ones struggling through mental illness; the ones who keep going because they see that life is still worth living. Just because I waiver does not mean I fail and it does not mean I am defeated. I may be just momentarily defeated and I think that’s allowed.