Wednesday, 31 December 2014

10 years ago today.

I make no apologies for writing this blog, which is mostly just about my recovery after the car accident I was involved in on New Years Day 2005.

Pretty much everyone who has known me will know the story, I was hospitalised following in a rollover. Despite my assurances I was okay, I ended up with a few cool scars and 18 months of physiotherapy, which in comparison to other accidents is okay, but when it's you that's going through that, it really isn't okay.

Then, fuel to the fire, my overactive mind got stuck on a few things which were mostly lies. In short, I really believed that the accident happened because I was being punished by God and/or because I didn't heed to my intuition which was nudging me not to go on the trip in the first place. In many ways I didn't see how blessed I was to make it out without more serious damage. Oh, I knew things could be worse, and I was so grateful to everyone who helped up on that day, but this was, according to me, something that happened For A Reason.

Now, lots of people talked me through this, and the only thing that really stuck was the fact that my friend who was driving never did it on purpose. It was just a mistake and mistakes happen. Despite everyone telling me things like 'sometimes these things just happen', I refused to buy into that.

2005 was also a bad year within my communities for road fatalities. A classmate of mine died a few months after my accident as a result of just being in the right place at the wrong time. It was, like the one I was involved, completely human error on the part of the poor soul who caused the accident. In many ways, her death impacted me in ways it didn't need to. We had a shrine set up to honour her and spent long hours in the chapel being sad. This was a safe place for her friends, but not really a safe place for me. They cancelled classes for a week and everything was put on hold for awhile, causing an unintentional divide. No one really knew what do do, and did the best they could. But it was tough. About six months later another friend caused an accident and this really impacted my world, but it also changed how I looked at things to do with making choices.

At the end of the day, all I did was make a choice to be part of a long distance trip with someone who wasn't experienced at long distances. But, before and after that, I made choices to drive with people who were intentionally making stupid choices in how they drove. And that's really when I started taking some control and started avoiding, and in some cases, telling people I didn't want to drive with them. Within my group of friends in Adelaide, lots of them had only just started driving, or couldn't drive, so I waited for a long time before I went with them.

Sometimes though, you don't always get to make choices, or have them made for you. I avoid night driving with anyone as much as I can, unless I'm in Adelaide. Not being able to see freaks me out, and I also can't drive at night in the country. You can't avoid everything though, but I've tried my best.

In terms of physical and mental recovery, I did two physio sessions a week for eighteen months with my very talent physio Olivio. My scars which are on my hands, ear and head, healed reasonably well all things considered. I found that I had a lot of back pain from standing two long and lifting which was not great for either of my retail part time jobs. I also found lots of beds really uncomfortable to sleep in.

The best way for me to manage the pain was using lots of heat packs and taking Panadol when I desperately needed to, which wasn't often - I really hate taking pain relief. I had a lot of assessments for the insurance company to determine the extent of my injuries from a long term perspective. In the end, I ended up losing between 5-10% of movement from my back - this is in layman's terms because I can't be bothered going to find all my paperwork to get the jargon/

When my pain was really bad, I would be a lot worse off mentally. I thought about what ifs, and looked for reasons and explanations. I seriously believed that I was jinxed whenever people in my life would be involved in traffic bungles. I would be sad and need to recount what had happened. To quote my dear old mum, I "become fixated on this accident", and saw my GP and a pysch assessor to determine the impact it had on me. I tried counselling which didn't work, I kept a journal which worked a lot better than counselling and I talked a lot to other people. I would become upset a news stories about road accidents and impassioned about road safety, particularly on the Dukes Highway which is an awful lot better now.

Then, seemingly overnight, my pain went away in September 2006. Part of this was to do with time being a healing factor, the other was to do with the fact I was exercising quite a lot. I still had pain every now and then, but avoiding things that aggravated it sure helped. A lot of my mental anguish and general frustration went away once the pain was more of a once-a-week thing, rather than several times a day.

So, why write this now?
10 years is a bit of a milestone for me, it's an extra bonus time as far as I am concerned. I am so grateful to everyone who had been on the journey with me, and some of those people didn't even want to be on it!

Do I still think the accident happened for a reason? It's a long answer. I think it happened, and not because accidents happen, but because of a choice I made and because of a simple mistake, whatever that was (I probably won't ever know). Did it happen to prove that everyone loved me and that I had a great group of people around me? Ummm, no. I didn't need something like that to happen to know how amazing my little world could be. Spiritually. I have learnt a lot, and not just in terms of avoiding dodgy theology. God has a plan, always, but it is really up to you to follow His will and not your own, even if your own probably makes a lot more sense. The accident didn't have to happen for that reason either, many other awesome mistakes I have made tell me otherwise.

I am a changed person because of this. I have more compassion and I have witnessed some of the best things humanity can bring. After we got out of our upside down car, there were already people there to help us. One man brought back all of our luggage to the hospital for us. An army medic happened to be there and applied first aid from the best stocked first aid kit I have ever seen. People called our parents and emergency services. Whoever those people are, I am forever grateful. I also also really grateful to amazing nursing staff, mostly at Tailem Bend Hospital. I sent them a thank you card and they sent me a huge bill.

Some things about the accident also impacted me in different ways. It started when a social worker came in with the most useless book ever about being in hospital and places my family could stay. It took awhile, but someone explained the compulsory third party insurance to us - not what it was, but what it meant for my treatment and compensation. Negotiating with the CTP provider was a huge headache as I got shuffled to different case managers and as they kept trying to get me to sign while I was still being treated. At times I felt I knew their systems better than they did.

I felt funny telling people about it, in the end I only had to tell a few people, but there were plenty of people who weren't in the loop, one girl I worked with was telling everyone it didn't even happen and I wasn't injured. Obviously she hadn't told my boss this, as he refused to let me work for two weeks due to having open wounds on my hands. I had people who weren't from my church come to visit and pray with me, which was lovely. I had a lot of visitors and cards and a lovely fuss made. Whenever I told people that I had been involved in an accident, I'd often say things like 'I wasn't driving, I didn't cause it,' and so on. Now I don't even bother qualifying it.

One last thing, and possibly one of my favourite and most vivid memories now.
My parents had to drive to Adelaide to pick me up (though at first they thought it was Tailem Bend until the doctor there said I needed to go to Flinders). They had no idea what they were in for, they thought they would just pick me up and drive back home again. My parents had only been to Adelaide a few times and luckily one of those places was the Marion Big 4. In 2000 a family friend had written directions on the back of an envelope to direct us there and for some reason we had never thrown it away. Without that they would have been a lot lost. As it was, my parents stayed in their car in the carpark and had pizza really hate at night, which Mum said reminded her of ''the good old days," and Dad said "What, when we used to sleep in the car?" and pulled funny face.

Anyway, my parents brought me home the next day and because they had left in a hurry, Matt who was 16 had to look after Trent who had just turned 9. I am pretty sure the boys only ate lollies for 24 hours. They went to the supermarket and bought me a mud cake and hung streamers everywhere. I really do have the best brothers in the world, even if I wasn't well enough to eat much of my mud cake.

I am grateful. Grateful for family and friends and good food and fun, and most of all, the chance to live and make it through another day.