Tuesday 12 July 2011

Confessional, part 2

On Friday it will be five years since I nearly died. I should have died. I fell through a skylight, cracking my head on a stone wall and falling 30 feet onto a stone floor. Somehow - most likely a combination of luck and what a neurosurgeon later described to me as an "unusually thick" skull - I escaped with the only the loss of 2 pints of blood and two broken bones in my neck. Both of these things are, of course, fairly serious in themselves. However, I was almost literally able to walk away. Three miserable weeks in a halo brace and an operation to reattach my odontoid peg with a terrifyingly large screw later, and here I am.

I'd been thinking about what to do to mark the event. I decided that perhaps the best thing to do is talk about it. My friends like to tease me about how I go on about it all the time. I'm pretty sure they're joking because I try not to. Believe me, I try not to. It was without any shadow of a doubt the worst time in my life. Even with their support and the support of my family, which was beyond any reproach. I died inside on 15th July 2006. To be honest, I don't think I was resuscitated until this year.

I could have easily turned this in to a post eulogising the roles that everyone around me played. It would be completely and utterly heartfelt. To Anna, who kept me conscious at the bottom of the stairs. To Pete, whose courage and friendship I can't even begin to overstate. To Kate and Ian, who kept me in the loop and subsequently invited me into their families' lives. To Femke, whose visit to me in the hospital is my most abiding memory from my time there and who has always been there for me. To Thomas, who visited me every day in the hospital. To my parents. To the Kevins and the Eds who visited me at home. To everyone who visited me, to everyone who phoned, who sent cards, who gave me presents. I hope you'll never need to find out how much I appreciated it. I hope you do know how much I love you all.

I cried all through writing that last paragraph. This is one more time than I cried during the whole experience. If I could give one piece of advice to anyone in my position it would be to admit to yourself how wretchedly miserable you are. Don't kid yourself you're "just happy to be alive". That's complete bunkum. You live and you die on happenstances, but the person you are is deep within you. It's what I did, of course, and it was even more numbing than the haze of opiates which I had to take to get through the physical pain.

I felt nothing at all until New Year, when I cried so hard I was sick all over my friend's floor - another triumph in what had been my most triumphant twelve months - just with relief that the whole retched business of 2006 had finished. But then what? 2007 was a really very dark time indeed. I considered suicide once. But I was just not willing to do that to the wonderful people who had helped me through, because not one second of it was their fault.

So, I got into a way of living where I was thinking only of doing things for everyone else. It sounds like a pretty nice thing to do, and I certainly have many treasured memories from the past five years. Life has been more intense and vital. But frequently I've felt completely dissociated from it, still and alone in the middle of everything. I'd forgotten myself.

If I were a sensible person, I'd have sought help. There's no question in my mind that I had post-traumatic stress as well as goodness knows what other issues rattling around. But, being very British about it - and being a dope - I did nothing. It wasn't until other, more current, family events took precedence last year that I was awoken from my slumber, that I started to talk to people more, to open up, to have the courage to admit to being miserable, numb and alone.

In the five years since 15th July 2006, I'd wished I'd been killed countless times but mostly, I've felt nothing at all. Nothing. Last night was, hand on heart, the first time that I'd thought to myself how glad I am that I didn't die. It was like being reborn.

It's not the end. It's probably not, to be Churchillian about things, the beginning of the end. But hopefully it will be the end of the beginning.


Rob said...

A very British response is to not know how to reply to that, but it;s great to hear how you seem to have overcome it all. PTSD is very understated, but often worse than the incident that triggers it.

Chris O said...

Blimey mate... had no idea you've been through all that. You have my total sympathy.

Great to hear that you're now emerging from under a metaphoric cloud after so long. What's the physical legacy you're left with? Are you all patched up with no lingering problems now?

dotmund said...

I've got a 3-inch long screw in my neck, but it's there for decorative purposes more than anything now. Some scars.

Plus a chip on my shoulder and a fear of heights, but they were both pre-existing conditions.

Monglin said...

There is a reason you have so many brilliant friends, you know.

Amerella said...

You big lummock.

I should've bullied you more. Now I know, I will bully you more.

I'm glad you've come out the other side though *squishy huggles*

Sarah said...

Oh, Edmund. *hugs* and *more hugs*

I am, of course, glad you're still here.

colin said...

Edward Stanley Carter, I only read blogs that give me free music, so I'm not quite sure how I saw this.

Still, two things spring to mind.

1. It's possibly just as well I ripped the painting I did of you while trying to fix it.

2. I am pretty much going to make you man-pregnant. But from a distance.


Chopper said...

Wow. We don't even really know each other and I cried reading that 3rd paragraph.

That said, I also cried watching the sad bits in "Despicable Me".

Giles said...

Having taken the British approach to depression myself, I recognise a lot of what you're saying, all be it to a lesser extent as my cause was less gravitational in nature.

I'm glad things are turning around for you and that you're putting yourself first. Thank heavens for your unusually thick skull.

Anonymous said...

Having just read the confessional Pt 2, I think you should consider being a writer and an artist...
Oh yeah - so you are...
Much love from the Graham in North yorkshire


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