Chapter Twenty-Nine: Why I Write

The surgery to remove the eggshells is a big success. After it, I have no more pain, the UTI’s stop coming, and I can now empty my bladder almost entirely using just my core muscles.

Dr Deng reminds me that this straining isn’t ideal and may lead to longer-term problems, but confirms that, all things considered, she is happy for me to hit the snooze button on this one for a few years while we have bigger fish to fry. So I am off the hook for now, and finally able to finally take self-cathing out of my bathroom routine.

In fact, it’s been a great couple of weeks, with many positive steps forward for my recovery. I am now sleeping for longer and longer stints, without the hourly wake ups to lug my body into a new position. I have started regular outpatient physical therapy and hand therapy (who knew that was a thing?!) and am given an hour of painfully boring exercises to do at home. I weave them into my daily routine, religiously using TheraBand’s, pully systems and an old fashioned golf club to improve my strength and mobility. One of my dexterity exercises involves playing with play-doh, so I do this one the most. Obviously.

During my hand therapy sessions, I immerse my entire left arm into a warm bath of melted wax to soften my angry looking scars. Emerging from the bath I allow it to dry before peeling the whole thing off in one swift movement, like putting PVA glue on your hands as a kid for the sole satisfaction of removing it, but even better.

I barely use my wheel chair now and can get around with my cane and foot brace quite easily. In fact tonight I am going to the British American Business Councils annual Christmas lunch and I don’t think I will even take a cane with me. I can’t wait to see everyone. I might even get a bit pissed.

Time alone is rare as we have a constant flood of good friends visiting from the UK to keep me company while Mat goes to work. The upside of all these visitors is obvious – I love my friends and feel so lucky to spend this time with them – but the downside is that I’m not sure I’ve had the necessary head space to come to terms with what has happened to me.

I feel a burning need to redefine myself in this context of my new normal. The less I need help, the more I am shaking off the identity of ‘patient’ that has been with me for so long, and I’m still not sure what is left in its stead. Should I be a new person now? A better person than I was before? Should I be doing something extraordinary with my second chance? Dedicating myself to helping others? Probably. And the pressure to figure this all out is like a permanent, unreachable thread that keeps tugging on the edge of my mind.

Another byproduct of this (self) pressure is a desperate need to capture the details of everything that has happened and everything I have felt. Not as a form of therapy, although I’m sure that’s a part of it, but so that it is in some way useful, so that I can somehow give it value.

I imagine this process of dealing with trauma to be a bit like grief. As time goes on, people start to forget and to move on with their lives. The texts, cards and gifts stop coming, people stop asking how you are, and the expectations of life are slowly heaped back on you.

Of course all of this is so natural and only fair, but for you, the trauma is still so vivid, so real, and you still think about it all the time, the pain makes sure of that. So there is a natural tension, and an acceptance that needs to happen as you ease yourself back into reality. But the acceptance takes time.

Right now, the most vivid compulsion I have is not to forget any of it. In fact I am desperate not to, because then it becomes meaningless, then it may as well not have happened. The lessons I have learnt, the characters I have met, the energy I have taken from people. It has to stay loud and vibrant, or it was all for nothing.

So, if I’m honest with myself, this is why I write. Not to share my story in an act of altruism to help others who are suffering, although again, I hope this will be a byproduct, but to selfishly keep these memories alive, trapping them in time so that nothing fades.

One thing I don’t feel, perhaps surprisingly, is like a victim. I don’t feel any animosity towards the woman who hit me. I’m sure it was an accident, and I’m sure she has suffered as well. In fact, just this week we got the police report telling us that the driver of the car that hit me said she ‘must have dozed off’, and that was that.

It felt a bit casual to be honest, as if she was snuggled in front of a fire with a cat on her lap, rather than hurtling a giant hunk of metal into the body of another person, but it doesn’t make me mad. In a way it’s nice to know that it was as simple as this, and that there was nothing I could have done to prevent it. Lady drives down the road, falls asleep, drifts into my lane and hits me. Puzzle solved. It feels quite fatalistic, and I don’t even feel a sense of loss for it happening, it just feels like another chapter in my story.

The real victims of course are my friends and family, particularly Mum and Mat who have been through so much of this with me, without the benefit of narcotics. They are the ones my heart hurts for, they are the ones I feel horrible pangs of guilt for to have put them through such an ordeal, and they are the ones who have suffered the most in all of this.

I still remember the sight of Mum listening to The Archers on her phone, fighting to stay awake on that night in ER, on the worst day. And every time I think of it I cry. I cry for the love I’m not sure that I deserve. A love I’m not sure anyone deserves really.

But I have to remember it all. I cannot simply forget it, and remembering it, capturing it, feels like the only thing that is within my control right now.

So this is why I write.

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