When I was 24 years old, I was in a debilitating car accident that killed all of the other passengers and left me with severe brain damage and memory loss. The deaths of those who were in the car with me, my mother and sister, aren’t difficult to talk about, because I don’t remember them. I’ll have instances of feeling something when I look at an old picture or someone tells me a story, but other than that, I’m empty. I became a fresh slate. I had a chance that I can’t help but wonder if other people would want: to be completely wiped of all the memory of their suffering. Because isn’t that what suffering is? To hold on and torture ourselves with what’s out of our control?
My memory came back in bits and pieces, but there are still huge parts of my life that are missing. Huge parts that, as friends have told me, were rather tragic and from which I suffered from greatly. I think that’s the first interesting thing, honestly. That the things I don’t remember are very specifically what I suffered from the most.
They tell me that I’m not inherently different than I was. I find that comforting. I like knowing that I was true to myself all along. But what is also striking is that I have physical or emotional reactions to things that I would associate with having suffered from, but I can’t remember them. I’m not conscious of it, but my subconscious most definitely is.
They weren’t going to tell me the truth, I found out. They being my friends. My doctors and therapists had differing opinions, most leaning toward the fact that those in my life should be honest with me so I can clearly understand what happened and not be affected by the “unknown” for the rest of my life. For some reason, my friends just wouldn’t comply… not initially at least. They wanted me to carry on in my happy unknown because they thought that what I didn’t know wouldn’t hurt me anymore. But that simply wasn’t true. It wasn’t true because I suffered from all of these symptoms of problems that I was frustrated I couldn’t remember.
And so one night, while still in the hospital, in almost a sort of experiment of epic proportions, my friends brought in a group of people I used to know in college. I was pretty indifferent toward them all, as my college years are still a bit fuzzy, except for one. I saw him and I had a rush of emotions, like love and lust and… hatred and anger, all at the same time. He just looked at me, and I looked at him, and I said… I love you and I hate you. Everybody laughed. He cried. He cried. I didn’t know that was abnormal for him but the reactions of those around me clued me in. I was told that this person was the love of my life, but as so many great love stories go, ours went terribly wrong after a year or so in. It was never a lack of love but rather the rest of the world getting in the way. I could sense that. I could sense it all. It was the most honest proof of the fact that sometimes souls are just supposed to be with one another, and they’ll recognize each other even if they don’t recognize themselves.
It was after meeting and understanding him and our story that a little piece of the anxiety I had went away. I knew, and I understood, but I didn’t have the memories of being in pain to carry with me any longer. So they told me the rest. They told me I had been raped and severely bullied. They told me that after all of that, I had fallen into flirting with drug use, and that when this man came along, things changed for me. That he opened me up and I began to heal. And it was in eventually leaving me that I began to heal even more– I had garnered enough respect for myself to want to heal myself without something to lean on. (This is the abridged version).
Many people who I tell this story to feel bad for me, but they don’t have to. The point is that there are a few things I learned, and just to fit in with the crowd I’m going to list them here.
1. Love, when it’s real, does not go away, it stays in the heart and it stays there for good.
2. Pain does not go away easily either, though.
3. Sometimes the most difficult situations lead to the greatest breakthroughs.
4. Most tragedies are great blessings in disguise.
5. You should allow yourself to be a clean slate every day, in the same way I get to be. Be aware of what happened, but don’t hold onto the memory of the pain in the experience.
And so I go on with my life pretty simply now. I’m working part time, doing a lot of rehabilitation for other injuries and of course, therapy and such for my mental ones. The man I discussed before has been in contact with me regularly. I have hopes for us, though he has said he doesn’t want to get serious before I’m completely comfortable with my life and I have worked through the issues of the past. I’m grateful for this: he knows this is a journey I have to take alone.
I share it all with you because I want you to walk away appreciating what you have and don’t have, and to maybe even feel validated for your experiences by mine. What I mean by that is, dealing with tragedy and letting go of things are never easy because they almost become a part of you. And it wasn’t until I lost another part of me that I could see that clearly. I hope that you can start to see that clearly yourself, and allow yourself to be a clean, blank slate by working through what will inevitably remain until you do.