Saturday, 17 March 2012

Empty road

I know why the pain happened when it did. The therapist raised the question a while ago why the car accident left me with chronic pain, but the bike accident, only 15 months earlier and causing arguably more 'identifiable' injuries, didn't.

The reason is nothing to do with the accident itself; it's all about what happened next, coupled with what was already going on elsewhere in my life.

Immediately after the crash, there was a line of traffic coming the other way, headed by a gravel truck. Coincidentally, it was exactly the type of truck my father drives. And the driver seemed just like him: he got really stroppy that he couldn't get past. He was yelling and cursing that he was being inconvenienced, apparently oblivious to the two wrecked cars in front of him, or the injuries afflicting their drivers. All he cared about was himself.

I remember after the first guy came to see if I was OK, and stabilised my neck, after the ambulance arrived, before the fire brigade started smashing windows and chopping off the roof, there was a moment when I looked out down the road.

The stroppy truck driver was gone, and so was the line of traffic. The paramedic said something about 'that helicopter' being for me, and the road having been cleared for it to land. I could hear an engine somewhere up above.

Looking down that empty road, even then, in that confusing, terrifying situation, it felt like I was looking into an abyss. Like I was peering back through time, and seeing the years stretch back before me. Like that empty road somehow WAS the endless, all-encompassing emptiness I felt inside me.

I felt an incredible sense of loneliness and abandonment and betrayal looking down that empty stretch of asphalt. I'd never felt anything like it before, and it terrified me. I desperately wanted it to stop, and the relief that washed over me when the helicopter landed and filled up that space had nothing whatsoever to do with being rescued.

The emptiness I felt looking out at that road, although I didn't know it at the time, connected on a deep subconscious level to feelings I was having - but hadn't yet registered - my mother. In fact, it would take another four years, and a new abandonment - last March - before those feelings started to surface.

My relationship with my mum was on my mind because I was now back in a work environment which meant we couldn't chat on a Tuesday morning any more. And that meant we couldn't talk at all, because I refused to chat with her when he was in the house overhearing her phone call; the fact that she had stayed with him, despite what he did, angered me. I didn't realise then how much it also hurt me, how betrayed and abandoned and re-abused it made me feel. It's only over the past year that those feelings have crystallised, but they were clearly there long before.

There was also the fact that I was now back in an office situation - something I had found unbearably claustrophobic the last time I'd been in that position - 5 years earlier - and which I'd run away from when I quit my job and went to Uni. I was worried nothing had changed and I still wouldn't be able to cope with those feelings. And there was the fact that for the first time in years, I was back living close enough to my family to see them regularly. And close enough to risk getting pulled back into the ridiculous, hurtful family politics. To be reminded of what they'd done before, and to risk it happening again.

So although I didn't know it, my father's abuse and my mother's neglect were very front-of-mind when the accident happened. That empty road, with everyone having gone off and left me (even the gobby truck driver who reminded me of my even-gobbier father) - it was just a very graphic, very real representation of my family.

Tie that in to the worldview I'd come out of childhood with - that the only time people will love and care for you is if you're ill, and suddenly, developing a chronic pain condition is not at all surprising.

Everything I was seeing and thinking and feeling about my family was too much to bear. There was already too much pain and hurt and fear, and there was the sense that there was so so much more to come - that I'd barely even scratched the surface so far.

It was all just too much, my mind couldn't cope with it; it needed a distraction, something to hide behind. So it retreated to that skewed worldview - illness=love - and came up with the perfect 'solution'. Fill me with pain so that I won't have the time or the energy of the capacity to look at the scary feelings. Fill me with pain, so people will love and care for me. Fill me with pain to make me pay for all the terrible things that have happened, because surely they must be my fault - what other explanation could there be?

The accident had left me with whiplash, including torn tendons in my shoulder and clavicle: the perfect vehicle for the pain.

Job done, and suddenly my life is over.

Posted from Blogium for iPhone

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