I don’t know how it’s been a decade. Trauma is weird in that it can control aspects of time in a cruel DJ-like way. Here comessss the drop (oh god). A decade ago, a teammate of mine was in a horrific accident that happened right in front of about half of the team, myself included. She ended up losing her left leg and nearly losing her right one in an attempt to save her life. Somehow the press got ahold of the story which turned what happened into a seemingly national headline (Good Morning America eventually interviewed her). Thankfully, today she’s doing great and has handled the whole thing with such grace, power, and humor. To this day, she still does work to help others on their own path (ex: she met up with some of the Boston bombing victims).
The trauma of that time goes beyond just the initial accident and the horror of that day to deeper, more emotionally salient moments. I have memories of walking around at a local soccer tournament trying to raise money for her only to have parents stare straight ahead ignoring us (we were 16/17 years old). It infuriated me and left behind a pervasive feeling of helplessness. I couldn’t believe it. I wanted to yell, “What if it was your kid?!” Parents with crosses around their necks snubbed their noses at us as we tried to tell her story. I was very Christian at the time and the astounding hypocrisy left an impression not to mention the emotional state it left me in.
I remember coming to class one day and on the front page of the newspaper was an article about my teammate and the accident. I spent the rest of the day on edge and panicked afraid to read just about everything in case there might be more triggers waiting for me. In my last period, I walked into class only to have the teacher show me the paper saying, “This is your friend, right?”. I think he meant well but it nearly sent me spiraling after I spent all day trying to avoid that exact paper. Looking back, I think he might have saved the paper to give me but thought better of it upon seeing my reaction.
A few months after the accident, a middle schooler stood up in front of the entire school at our assembly to announce that she was going to help raise money for my teammate. She tried to explain the story of what happened and I sat there absolutely incredulous that she had the audacity to pretend to know anything of what happened that day. The versions of the story were so bizarre at times and it only compounded the struggle I had to get what actually did happen out of my head. I approached her afterward to talk to her and shared I was a teammate. We chatted and I pointed her towards the fund her parents were doing. As far as I know, nothing ever came of her specific fundraising idea which almost made the whole thing worse.
Ugh and the gross, violent, and terrible things adults shared with me as if to say, “Look! I can relate!”. My worldview was already shattered and the last thing I needed was a bunch of adults sharing more proof about how terrible life can be.
Don’t worry – this isn’t more proof. I could truly write a thesis of memories from that slow motion time but that’s now firmly in the past (a decade feels firm for some reason). That accident rocked my world but rocked it in a direction I’m ridiculously thankful for. It spurred drastic emotional growth as I crawled my way out of the darkness and developed strong coping mechanisms. It helped eventually lead me down the path towards understanding how I felt about surrogacy and creating a relationship with my birth mom thanks to a therapist I had at the time. It forced me to begin to define my identity outside of being an athlete due to how triggering playing soccer was afterwards. In some ways too, it contributed to my first kiss with a girl who suddenly realized how she felt about me due to the bizarreness of that time. I still feel remnants of that part of my life particularly with how blunt I am in sharing how I care about others, the lengths I’ll go to see loved ones, and my steadfast understanding of what’s important to me. Ultimately, I tried my best to take the important lessons trauma can teach you and held on as tightly as I could to those while waiting patiently for the rest to fade. With my eyes shut & grip tight, somehow a decade has passed.