Three and a half years ago, at the beginning of my freshman year at Emory, I was rushed to the emergency room after getting hit by a flying beer bottle while out on an afternoon run. My mom often comments on the irony of this hospital visit- out of all of my medical conditions (type 1 diabetes, food allergies, asthma, etc.) that she feared could require emergency treatment while in college, this absurd accident is what landed me there. Well, the irony continues, as this week, just a few days before graduation, I was again rushed to the ER, not because of any of my preexisting conditions, but due to a crazy car accident.
I had been feeling physically terrible for the past several days, perhaps a result of these autoimmune flare-ups I get, in which my temperature elevates, blood sugar goes awry, stomach fills up with pressure and pain, and I become confined to my bed and the toilet. Feelings of hopelessness, anger, and depression filled within in me- this was supposed to be the best week, yet here I was, missing out on everything because of my medical conditions. A war arose between my body and my mind. I tried to tame it, to practice the mindfulness techniques I have studied, but it’s easier said than done. Somehow, this semester, my body allowed me to travel the country for graduate school interviews, get accepted into an outstanding PhD program, and defend my thesis with highest honors. But celebrate these accomplishments with my class? No, said my body, I’ve had enough.
On Wednesday morning, I woke up feeling awfully weak and in great stomach pain. I was actually contemplating going to the ER, out of desperation from the discomfort I was in. However, I doubted that the ER doctors would be of any help with my complex autoimmune conditions. I also reasoned that given the lack of trauma or injury, I would probably be wasting my time there. So, I reluctantly decided against going to the ER and kept my graduation photos as scheduled. I should have gone to the ER.
Upon sitting down in the backseat of Lyft, on the way to my hair appointment, I was surprised to see how old my driver was. While there is definitely no “typical” Lyft driver, they must be somewhat tech-savvy and tend to run on the younger side. Anyway, just seconds after my driver had offered me some sour candy (I declined), I was thrust forward and screaming louder than I knew I could scream. Shocked, terrified, and confused, I evacuated the car, made it to the sidewalk, and kept screaming. The past few days had been filled with tears, but not a panic like this. Bystanders asked me if I was okay. I said I didn’t know. Worried because I was holding my head and back, they followed the directions of a passing truck driver, who said he was an EMT and had yelled out the window to lay me down.
I found out from the bystanders that it was a pretty traumatic hit-and-run accident- “like what you see in the movies, when a car just whips out, smashes another car, and drives away,” someone said. We were driving at full speed, dramatically rear-ended by this unknown man, leading us to hit the car in front of us. Considering the circumstances, it is quite amazing that we are all okay. I was the only one suspected to be seriously injured. My neck is very sore, and I should probably stop writing this piece soon, but it could have a much more tragic ending.
So how do I feel now? How should I feel now? Why did this happen to me? And why now?
Throughout my ambulance ride, CT scans, and lots of waiting in a brace, I strove to focus on my breath- if I just keep inhaling and exhaling, everything will be okay, I told myself. And it is. Instead of trying to figure out exactly what happened, or worrying about this accident’s impact on my plan to do yoga teacher training this summer, I tried to focus on the present. It is hard to put a positive spin on this story. But it does make me grateful for my health- while it is far from perfect, I must acknowledge and thank my body for what it can do, rather than fight against it. It does put things into perspective. It does build character. And it does make me even more excited about incorporating elements of trauma-focused healing in my career.
As I have probably said before on this blog, I do not believe that everything happens for a reason. But I do like this Cheryl Strayed quote- “You don’t have a right to the cards you believe you should have been dealt. You have an obligation to play the HELL out of the ones you’re holding.” This card sure was an ironic one, but I’ll take Cheryl’s advice.