I was a pretty bad teenager until I was 16, but that’s for another day. The important part was in 2000 I got my GED and got a full time job at Sears. I loved my job, my mom and I were getting along great. Except for when she found out I was sleeping with a 28 year old ex con. She wasn’t happy about that, but she knew how manipulative I could be and she knew very well I lied to him about my age. (I had a habit of doing that. I was 18 for like 5 years). Again, a story for another day. I had a friend named Chris and another one named Mike (we all knew each other from residential treatment). Chris and I were both out, as well as my best friend at the time, Erin. Mike was still in the treatment center but they gave him special passes to come to my birthday party, or sometimes just to hang out.
It’s one thing to mention I have a TBI in passing, its quite another to tell the story of how it happened, and how it affected me and still does to this day. There are certain parts that when I talk about them I dissociate. For instance, when I talk about how I was repeatedly raped after I came home from the hospital. I don’t think you can ever fully get over something like that, but I guess as a coping skill I pretend as though it happened to someone else and completely disassociate. I refuse to give him that power to make me cry or feel violated anymore. He’s a bastard and I heard he got what he deserved. But that’s it. He gets no more power over me or my emotions.
I started this blog to write about my experiences and how I view the world through my many disabilities, but something has been holding me back from writing this entry. I guess the fear of being judged, the fear of being looked at differently, even the fear that no one will care to read this….
So here I go. Here’s my story about my car wreck and what it did to me.
My birthday is on October 10, the only year I ever had a birthday party, and haven’t had one since. Then on October 18, 2000, Chris, Mike, and me were all hanging out when I wanted to go to a guy’s house I knew. So we got in the car, Chris was driving, Mike was in the front passenger seat, and I was sitting behind Chris. We all put on our seat belts which saved our lives. And I’d be lying if I said I was grateful we did. I’ve been living in a sort of hell ever since.
I don’t remember much of the ride really, all I remember is saying “we’re almost there”, I don’t even know if I really said that, I really can’t say definitively what happened. But I know we passed an intersection, a bad intersection where there were 8 or 9 accidents that year alone and we were the only ones that survived. I believe a cop was even killed there. So yeah it was a really bad intersection. I don’t even remember the name, all I know is it was by a school where that Bork guy that was nominated for the supreme court by Reagan but the democrats blocked him, taught. He then went and spent the rest of his days indoctrinating kids in Naples, FL. I’m just saying if you’re not good enough for a court position, you probably shouldn’t be teaching kids.
Anyway, I don’t really remember anything but I’ve heard plenty of stories over the years. Apparently, Chris ran a stop sign and the car we were in got run over by a dump truck. 8 days after my birthday (I abhor the month of October) because two years after my wreck on the 26, my grandmother (whom I called cookie died) . So when we got run over, the right side of my brain smacked into my skull. I’m left- handed so the right side of my brain controls things like talking, writing, walking, etc.
I had no id on me, but I was wearing a nameplate necklace that said “Shannon” and I had a pager, and my mom had paged me pretty close to the time of the accident. Apparently I was in and out of consciousness and the paramedics asked me what my name was and I answered “Joan”. Not sure why, maybe I was just being my sarcastic self, or maybe I thought I was in trouble. Who knows.
I flew by helicopter to the hospital, and the doctors and nurses weren’t sure if I’d make it through the night. So Florida people being Floridian idiots called the last number who paged me (my mom) and said something to the effect of “we have a 15 year old girl here, (I was 17, but I always looked young for my age) we’re not sure if she’ll make it through the night. Do you have any idea who this girl is?”. That’s the voice mail my mom got when she got a break from the college she was going to.
It wasn’t like me to not answer pages from her quickly. Like I said, I had gone to a couple residential treatment programs and the second one really helped me work through my issues and got me on the right medication. I worked full time to help mom with the bills, it was completely out of character for me to ignore her pages.
I was on a ventilator for a day or two when the doctors wanted to take me off because I would have become dependent on it. I started cursing at the doctor and the doctor told my mom “don’t worry profanity seems to come back first”. To which my mom replied “I really can’t tell the difference”.
Of course she rushed to the hospital and called my brother, who had a hernia operation scheduled for the next day. He put that on hold and drove to Florida to see me. I don’t remember him being there. But I’ve heard the stories about how I was on an all liquid diet and yet he fed me cheese fries, and got me to read his cup that said circle k, he was in a little bit of denial.
Others came to see me, my bosses at work, my friend Erin, staff from the program Mike was in (because I was there twice). I was in and out of the coma but all I remember from the time was my grandmother and grandfather (whom I now live with) called me everyday. I had no idea who anyone else was.
When I came out of the coma for good, the first thing I said was “I have to get to work!” In my slurred speech. Then I looked around and had no idea where I was or what had happened. I didn’t understand why my speech was slow and slurring, why I wasn’t allowed to get out of bed, I had no idea what happened, it had to be explained to me.
The doctor explained that since I’m left handed and the right side of my head smacked my skull I was the equivalent to a stroke victim. I couldn’t walk, write, I had trouble reading (which growing up in an abusive house with an alcoholic mother, reading and writing were my escapes), I talked slow and slurred, I was kind of slow for the next few years.
I do remember one time my first stepdad was supposed to come visit me and he never showed up. So when I got him on the phone he said “well the last time I was there you didn’t do anything so I didn’t think it was a big deal”. Trust me he’s a whole post of his own. But that was my life. I lost everyone, except my job, my mom, my uncle who had flew down to Florida to help my mom, and my grandpa who came down to relieve my uncle for a bit.
They wouldn’t let me out of the hospital until I could walk again. Bastards. I wanted a walker! Because when people look at me they can’t tell anything is wrong. It’s only when I start to speak with my dysarthria voice and how slow I talk people. people assume I’m slow, or assume I’m drunk.
When I fully came out of the coma I decided I wanted to go home by Thanksgiving. The nurses and doctors were all like “we don’t think that’s going to happen”. So I answered like I always do “challenge excepted”. Then I got to work. And worked my ass off to learn how to walk again, and I was able to read again, go to the bathroom by myself. Although, my mom did have to buy me a shower chair and get a special shower head put in, and I had no reflexes. But I proved the doctors and nurses wrong and made it home by Thanksgiving. Because that’s what I do, I’m a survivor and I prove people wrong.
When I got home, the cat my mom had adopted especially for me as a reward for completing treatment. Wanted nothing to do with me! Apparently when she went to adopt a cat , the cat, named “Lady” reached her paw out and grabbed my mom. She was always my mom’s cat. I didn’t realize until 2013 when I adopted Mr. Cat, that cats sometimes pick there owners.
Which I should have realized because asshole , I mean stepdad 1, had a cat named Dink, and when he brought her to our house she chose me. She became my cat real quick.
So I started looking in the paper and found an add where there were two female cats for adoption and the guy wanted to keep them together. I could never separate my four kitties. One I got on his two month birthday and 2 well they weren’t more than a month or two old (their mom abandoned them or something happened to her). Regardless we are one happy kitty family.
So my mom took me to the guy’s house and he wasn’t insistent on keeping them together, because when I said I could only have one he was like “ok”. I had a choice between “Skittles” and “Spitfire” I chose Spitfire right away because she came up to me and let me pet her but more importantly she was born without a tail. I remember saying to my mom “I want Spitfire because she’s handicapped like I am”. I loved that cat so much. But my cats are another entry. Back to my story.
I remember when my grandfather was down in FL so my uncle could go back and get things in order so he could move down to FL, I loved going for walks, but no one would let me go by myself because I didn’t have reflexes. If I fell, I fell straight down. So, one day my grandfather took me for a walk to the Circle K by my house and on the way back we were so close to my door but I fell, and my reflexes worked!! They came back and I was so happy.
I had been going to physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy and I was so frustrated because it seemed no matter how hard I tried I wasn’t making progress. So I made up some stupid excuse to my mom and uncle and stopped going. I felt I would never be back to the way I was before the car accident, and the doctor had said I would make the most progress the first six months (which turned out to be a bunch of bull because I after I moved in with my grandfather in MA is when I started really making progress).
I know I said I’m not giving my rapist anymore power and I really don’t think this is. I just want to explain how it was able to happen. I had a psychiatrist I was seeing before my accident, and I saw her after. For some reason every time I saw her after my car accident she increased my medication. I was so over- medicated that sleeping in my bed I wouldn’t wake up until he was 1/2 way done! Now, every night my mom locked my window, I also locked it. It turns out I didn’t know my mom was locking it, I thought I was, I really thought I was, I didn’t want it to keep happening! But my slowness, confusion whatever you want to call it, had my unlocking the window. I blamed myself for that for a long time. Now I blame being over medicated, and his moronic ass. Who does that? I mean really who opens windows, climbs in, and starts having sex with a girl knocked out on meds? Fucking moron.
Although, I never lost my personality, which at the time they said was an unusual thing. But that did not stop me from losing every friend I had, even my dad’s side of the family decided they wanted nothing to do with me. I wasn’t happy I survived. I had lost just about everything within 6 months. Me and my mom weren’t getting along. I was done. I didn’t want to be alive anymore. The day of my suicide attempt I told my manager at work “I think I’m putting in my notice” and I was having trouble holding back tears. My mom wasn’t supposed to come home that day but she heard something in my voice. By the time she had gotten home I had taken all the pills I had and was blasting Papa Roach’s song “Last Resort”. Don’t really remember much after that except I remember stumbling to her room mumbling something about Tegratol.
My mom has PTSD but it wasn’t known at the time, so when I brought home someone that triggered her, she told me I had to move out. For a long time I blamed her and thought “what kind of parent kicks their head injured daughter out?” It wasn’t really like that though and I understand it a lot better now.
So I found a roommate (bad idea she stole a bunch of my stuff), and we moved into an apartment. Now when I moved in the lights were on! I didn’t know I had to call FPL and get the energy put in my name. I should not have been living alone.
So I called my brother and asked if I could move in with him. My dad had decided to try being sober again and wanted a fresh start. So we both moved in with him. I was not taking medication at that point because I didn’t want to be over-medicated again. It wasn’t too long before I became a burden to him and he kicked me out. In fact the night before I left, he wouldn’t let me stay in the house and made me stay out on the streets of long island. He’s a dick, and I have come to terms with that.
So even though my grandmother had just died a few months before, when I called my grandfather, he didn’t hesitate to let me come stay with him. Originally, the plan was I would stay about two weeks while I found a place in NY, although I couldn’t have Spitfire up here because I didn’t have a bedroom. But when my uncle moved out I moved into the basement, and grandpa said I could have her if she stayed in the basement. Now my cats get to run around the house all day. But they are so good. At 9:30 pm they all come downstairs and hop into bed with me.
When I first moved in with my grandpa, he got me put on ssdi, bought me a really nice day bed, paid for driving lessons. My mom and most of my family were against me driving but I really wanted to drive. When I first came up here all I had was a garbage bag full of clothes, and my grandpa replaced my wardrobe. For the first time in my life, I felt like I had a home. He got me everything I needed and more.
I was having nightmares and sleepwalking, but I was hesitant to see a psychiatrist after what happened in Florida. But I saw my psychiatrist and luckily he does NOT believe in overmedicating. I do take a lot of medications but most are for medical conditions: vasovagal syncope, IBS-D, Inappropriate Sinus Tachycardia, etc.
I do take a mood stabilizer and an antidepressant but he didn’t start prescribing those until a few years after I started seeing him. And my therapist had a say as well.
I still feel like I see the world through the eyes of a 17 year old. I’m not as mature as other people my age. I still struggle with dysarthria, I still talk slower than most, (and believe it or not people are very judgmental, they hear someone talk slow the automatically think I am slow). If it wasn’t for the clonazepam I would still have to deal with intention tremors and probably wouldn’t be able to handwrite. I am still dealing with severe short term memory loss. If it wasn’t for the fact that I stay home and take care of my grandpa, I don’t know where I would be or what I would do.
I do have two friends and I think that’s enough. They have known me since I moved up here. And they have never let me down, talked about me behind my back, and never held my mental illnesses or my TBI against me.
I’ve tried to work regular jobs, but they have never worked out. I can tell when someone is treating me different than everyone else. And it’s usually not in a good way. That’s why I want to be a writer. I’ve always had a vivid imagination and I have a lot of ideas for books. I think I’d like to write young adult fiction.
I made so much progress living up here (I even taught myself to run), I have a 3.95 gpa in college, although I am one class short of my associate’s degree.
I stopped dating because I always put my all into relationships and all that happens is guys take advantage of me. That and I need 25,000 worth of dental work. My car accident fucked up my teeth, and we tried to fix them with crowns and implants but I grind my teeth at night and during the day so I ground the crowns right off. So I need to get special dentures. Thank goodness we’re all wearing masks when we go places.
I’m sure there are some things I have forgot to mention, but I think this covers most of it.
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Incredible entry. Such fascinating insights into everything you have endured. You’re a warrior!
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😊 thanks so much! Some of it was hard to write but I wanted to get as much out as possible it was cathartic
Thank you for sharing. So much to absorb. I agree with Allison, you’re a fighter.
You are truly strong to be able to endure so much and keep moving forward. God bless you 🫂
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Thank you so much! There weren’t many survivors that year, so I believe I’m here to do some good things:-)