It’s the 20th of March, 2019, a bright and sunny Spring afternoon and I’m driving along the main street, heading east towards a small town about 20 minutes away where the gas is always 10 to 20 cents cheaper per litre than in town.
I’m in my 2016 red Ford Focus hatchback, cruising about 60 mph, with the radio on and the day wide open in front of me.
As I drive by an intersection, I see a white Ford F150 and I assume it’s halted at the stop sign, waiting for a clearing in traffic to turn left. I continue through the intersection but then suddenly see out my driver’s door window that the truck has accelerated and is now inches away from my car. At first, I just think I’m done for and I feel my body freeze, bracing for the impact, but then something surprising happens.
I hear a voice of Inspiration say to me, “You have time to swerve.” It’s not a rushed or urgent voice. It’s calm and confident. For some reason, I trust this inner voice of guidance without question and I quickly grab the steering wheel and veer sharply to the right. My maneuver works and the two vehicles just slightly collide forward as the truck driver turns to the left and I turn to the right. Little did I know it at the time, but that moment marks the turning point for the next 8 months and beyond.
At this point, the truck driver pulls over, a 20-something with her curly brunette hair pulled into a pony-tail. Her neon yellow and orange safety vest looks brand new as though today may be her first day on the job. I notice logo on her work vehicle says she works for a Traffic Safety company and the irony does not escape me. The next few minutes and hours are just a blur as I take down her information, the witnesses information, make phone calls to insurance, mechanic, etc. It isn’t until two days later that I wake up feeling more pain than I’ve ever experienced in my life.
I soon learn from a physiotherapist that there’s three sprains in my neck as well as tissue damage in my neck, shoulders, and back. I have a concussion. I’m trying to learn how to use ice and heat to control the swelling and pain. I’m taking more Tylenol and Roboxicet than ever before in my life. I’m forgetting things, losing things, and generally disorientated and confused. I can’t cook. I can’t clean. I can’t drive. I can’t do my daily runs anymore. I can’t do much of anything except lay on my back, rotating ice and heat periodically, watching detective shows and trying not to fall into depths of despair about my circumstance.
Everything in my life goes on hold. No more book writing. No more answering calls from inmates. No more running a cleaning business. No more fundraising. No more travel. No more training for the 8km run in Vancouver in May. No more anything. Every day becomes a struggle. Getting through every hour is pure survival. My physical limitations and my mental concussed state prevent me from completing even the most simplest of tasks. I make it to physio appointments, doctor’s appointments, massage therapy appointments and the grocery store. With assistance from my daughter, the shopping still gets done. Meals are still cooked. Mornings turn into evenings and days pass by, pass by, pass by. Every part of me is focused on healing, focused on regaining the balance and harmony in my life. Months pass by.
Gradually, I begin to regain some strength. Slowly some of my skills and abilities are restored. I can drive for longer periods. I can lift slightly heavier items. I can sweep a floor without triggering neck spasms. I can do a load of laundry without becoming weak from the effort. Little by little, I can take more calls. I can write more emails. I can follow through with simple tasks and basic day-to-day activities. Months go by.
Spring turns into summer but nearly everything I try to do causes such a high degree of pain I almost stop trying. I hike for 1/2 hour to a beautiful lake in the mountains but have a headache by the time I arrive and I don’t swim in order to conserve my energy for the walk home. Two days later, my neck, back, and shoulders are throbbing from the effort. Summer slowly turns into Autumn. My efforts to recover seem to go in bursts and blasts. I am doing great one day, get a lot done and then collapse the following day or two. Exhausted.
The pain is now intermittent and unpredictable. For some reason I wake up one morning with zero pain or tightness and have incredible energy for the day. Then other days I wake up with pain so high I can’t focus or concentrate on anything else until the pain meds kick in with some relief and then I just sort of drift through the day, never doing everything that needs doing, but not doing nothing either. I begin to lose trust and faith in myself because I can no longer make plans since I often have to cancel due to pain. I lose track of what I can and can’t do, what I should or shouldn’t do, what I need or don’t need to do. I feel like I have lost my Self and do not even know where to begin to gain the Confidence I once had.
It’s now 8 months since the collision and recovery is finally in sight. I’m sleeping better, eating better, exercising more and enjoying life more. As difficult as the journey of healing & recovery has been, I am gaining a new perspective on life. I am able to look back on the past year and see what worked well and take the lessons from the experience.
Having a concussion taught me to slow down and appreciate the small things in life. Having severe chronic pain taught me to detach from expectations and life life more simply. These are some of the lessons I have taken away from this experience. More to come in time.