Like superstitions of old, my body is stuffed full of aches and pains, some that seem to get worse each time I’m about to cross a busy road. I’m aware, of course, that these are bruises of the mind, not of the body, purely psychological, but this doesn’t mean they hurt any less. As I began to meet and engage with the poor souls who were less lucky than I, my list of pervading injuries reads like a whining high school student complaining about meaningless chores; these small yet daily reminders that yes, my body did something it shouldn’t have done, and yes, I came out alright. My list of infirmities (though I occasionally find more):
A List Of Totally Serious, Painful Ouchies That Really Hurt, Sometimes, Coupled With Other Broken Bits:
- My legs – particularly my thigh muscles and hamstrings – are shorter than a midget who’s also the runt of the litter. As such, things like
are hard to do without stabbing pain. Partly this was to do with the two months spent horizontal, but also partly because I started going to the gym and never stretched once. So really, it’s my own fault (like the car thing but more directly, I feel). The car & hospital simply set it all off.
- My neck – I find it nearly impossible to properly look behind me left or right without doing a Michael Jackson-esque turn on the spot. Attempting to turn my head otherwise results in a whole lot of stabbing pain and a weird clicking noise.
- My gum on my top right side has a tiny bubble that appears to be linked right in to my nerves. It hasn’t healed since September, but I sure wish it should. Oftentimes I forget it’s there, and then I’ll get stabbed in it – usually by something laughably soft like a strawberry, banana or poached chicken – and be reduced to a blubbering mess.
- My left pectoral muscle – about an inch above the nipple and perfectly adorned are a set of five circular lily white scars. This is from my mindfucked time in the hospital spent attempting desperately to escape and rip the cords and monitors out of my flesh.
- My jaw – broken, twice, but healed, thankfully. It still makes a disconcerting clicking sound if I’m eating something wide or giving someone head or yawning, and with said sound it slides out of place and then back into place.
- My skull – fractured rather badly, but possibly healed? Time, I suppose, will tell. That or my skull bursting open like the victims of one of those chestburster variants in Prometheus.
- My eye – in life’s cruel joke my sight was fine for the first few weeks of hospital (the ones I can’t remember) and then my body saw fit to pull it up and out. Now it’s lazy, and everyone looks like a 3D movie without the glasses, at least until I’m wearing glasses (fake plastic ones with scotch tape on them. Not the most medical, but they do the trick).
- My emotions – are pretty screwy, but I’m working on it. For the most part my brain sees fit to now give me panic attacks in large groups of people. I feel like this is God or some higher power punishing me for mocking all the undergraduate wankers who’d moan like a tumblr-blog come painfully to life: “I’m being triggerrrrrred” at the drop of a hat because a hat was dropped while they saw someone dear to them being murdered, probably.
These are all very dealable, and are mine alone to deal with – after all, I got myself into this situation, so I’ll get myself out – my intention in listing them is not to evoke sympathy, simply to take stock of where I am, and where I was, and where I want to be. As one would expect, this accident has changed me, and not necessarily only in physical ways.
At age eighteen, I was convinced, as most eighteen-year-olds are, that I had the world figured out, A-Z, top to bottom. I thought, in ways I can now see eight years on are kind of idiotic or at least slathered thick with denial, that I was That Friend. Everyone knows That Friend, and everyone at least has one. That Friend is sharp, witty and sassy. That Friend is a bitch and will tell you what’s what without fear or distraction. That Friend won’t judge you but will give their opinion whether you like it or not – and chances are, if you don’t like it, you don’t like what you’re doing, so. That Friend cares for you too much to just sit by and blindly agree, and That Friend only spends time with those that she or he find appealing or interesting. That Friend is usually assigned by a silent jury of appreciative and awe-struck friends.
I can state unequivocally and rather bluntly that I was not That Friend (no matter how much I wished I was). I was overflowing with fear like a tap turned on full; fear cascading out of my every pore and every word I’d speak. I was afraid. Afraid of myself, afraid of others, afraid of what might be and what might not. It’s already been listed earlier in this blog and I don’t have any interest in going over it again, but there you go.
Now, I am not afraid. Not beyond the reasonable amount of regular fear that every human being feels and addresses. I’m not Superman, either, but I can identify my fear and name it, and that’s one of the most freeing things I’ve ever been able to do. Similarly, like the fabled That Friend, I’m certain now to only spend time with those that I find appealing or interesting. Certainly, some friendships may fall to the wayside when our lives go down different paths, but there are a great deal of others that I no longer have room for. You come that close to dying, you very quickly lose interest in propping people up or stroking egos. I say what I mean and I mean what I say.
Facebook status March 2nd, 2015, at 6.42 PM:
“Was just in my parents' car as the mirror was side-swiped clean off due to someone's ill timed door-opening, aaaaand, yep, whether I'm in the car or in front of it I have definitely had enough of car accidents (even tiny ones) to last a goddamn lifetime. I would like for my heart to stop freaking out now, please. Is this what war vets feel?”
This is certainly a ridiculous paranoia but in a lot of senses, it’s an earned one. In the seconds as my parents car pulled over and broken glass rained down onto the road, I had split second flashbacks to an incident I don’t even truly remember while my heart spasmed out of my ribcage and my palms immediately excreted a good few teaspoons of sweat.
The status itself was my attempt to make light of the situation. I don’t know if it worked. A friend:
“That’s a joke, yeah? Were you actually scared by it? Just make sure you don’t make those kind of jokes too often. You don’t want to seem like you’re attention-seeking.”
The atmosphere is loud and strangely violent as I sit with my friend, Julia-Rose. It is last week. I am 26. We are in a pub and it’s going off for a weekday afternoon, so much so that both Julia-Rose and I need to raise our voices to engage in regular conversation. The opportunity to catch up with people from school, to actually catch up with them, and especially those who were around when it happened – though Julia-Rose was only in Edinburgh, not Berlin, her presence was felt and she was definitively on the journey with us.
“It just felt like,” Julia-Rose says. “Edinburgh was where we finally got each other and actually became friends. And then everything that happened in Berlin; I just felt…” she pauses; eyes downcast as she swills her drink around. “…it just felt like it was unfair. For us to finally be friends, and to have that just ripped away, y’know?”
There’s a certain kind of person who deals well with these sorts of things, and I’ve been lucky enough to call a bunch of these people my friends. As I was finally repatriated back to normal life, the English-speaking world and English-speaking internet, a selection of these people made themselves quietly and firmly available – many of whom I didn’t expect. You may not know it, or mayhaps you do, but every word of support, every dumb Facebook “like” or comment or coffee or any other modicum of encouragement, cyber-based or real-life, every single act went some ways towards rebuilding me as a person. Fear would slide in during the night and attempt to smother me while I slept, on the regular, but it was and is these examples of fortification and love that have helped to pull me out of this black mire; this weight of sadness and weakness. To these people – the Julia-Roses of my world – I just have to give my heartfelt thanks. I have nothing intensely poetic or dramatic to add, I only want to say thank you.
In 2010 a good friend of mine named Stuart passed away at his own hand. I have gone into this previously, but one of the most bizarre and infuriating fallouts from this act was the reactions – suddenly, everyone was his best friend, everyone wondered if they could’ve saved him, everyone wondered why he hadn’t let them in, what had they done?
In the days that followed this act – the long, slow, sad and drunken days – Facebook became a sort of festering breeding-ground for these thoughts, for everyone to scream to the world in letters a quarter of an inch high: “I LOVED HIM MOST”, “I KNEW HIM BEST” and, hence, “I HAVE BEEN HURT THE MOST BY THIS.”
After my repatriation, I was able to experience this for myself, about myself – a bizarre online eulogy, chock-full of people’s opinions on what’d happened, how I was faring, how I might fare. In a sense, I’ve been able to see for myself a slice of my own cyber-eulogy, and people spurting out the above in their own manner – questioning, sympathetic, genuine or elsewise. I’ve left the Facebook message stream, now, but about a month’s worth of messages sits there, tempting me, begging for attention, and in the darker moments, I give in and reread them. What I’ve realised now is that they don’t offer me anything, anymore – support or anything else. If anything, all they do is show me what it’d have been like to be someone in my life – legitimately or tangentially – around that time.
In whatever way I’ve arrived at where I am today, I feel I’ve somehow managed to bolster and ground myself, moreso than ever before. If 2014 Chris was anxious, paranoid, semi-alcoholic Chris, then 2015 Chris is… someone I’m still working out, but is a damn sight more stable and grounded. I have no interest in indulging myself or anybody else. I don’t believe that I ever had an interest in indulging myself, but now I do have an interest in becoming the person I actually want to be, and past Chris would certainly let himself indulge these puerile emotions. Beyond anything else, that car smashed a tonne and a half of emotional bravery and maturity into my broken body, and I think that I still need more, but it’s a start.
For now, let it simply be said that I am done. Done with the bullshit, the insincerity, the social uncomfort, and, yes, the car crash itself. No more jokes. No more relying on it. No more being defined by it, in the eyes of others or my own. I’ll feel what I need and discard what I don’t. Love who I need to love, and reject my fear of rejection. My broken bones have healed, and my emotional backbone has a backbone, now; I’m fortifying myself for better or worse, and not in a way where I’m hiding or frightened, anymore, but in a way where it’s legitimate – where I know who I am, I know what I want and need to do, and I go out, and I do it.
"And maybe, instead of fear, somewhere, someone says: this is who I was, and this is who I am, this is what I know, and this is what I want to know, and then, best of all: this is who I want to be. And maybe we could achieve that, all of that. Maybe we could do better. Or maybe we could try."
I'm stealing from myself, here, but if I'm truthful, this is the first time I've legitimately felt like this. Like the world itself really is open, truly open: perhaps not to be or do anything, but certainly to aim high and proud: to centre my body, to aim myself at where I want to end up and to give it all my best fucking shot.