This is a piece on trauma and the long road to healing, originally published in The Mighty In this piece I share my story about a devastating car accident I was in, the trauma I suffered and the road to putting myself back together.
Dear 13-year-old self,
Hi, Olivia. I know you are not going through an easy time right now. You were just discharged from the hospital after a devastating car accident. Right now you are adjusting to living with vision in only one eye, still waiting for the medication to do its job and optimistic that the doctors will come back with the news you are hoping for: that the vision will come back.
I am sorry to tell you this, but it won’t. It is gone forever. I know that is devastating to hear. I know how much it hurt to learn that. I know the anger that is growing inside you to mask your grief at the realization that you may never feel “whole” again.
To the rest of the world, you have rebounded spectacularly. You left the hospital and jumped right back into life, as if nothing even happened — as if the moment that will define the rest of your life never happened. And yes, I am sure you are shaking your head right now, but I promise you that accident has set a new course for your entire life.
I am not surprised you are coping so well. That is the undeniable positivity in you, that resilience I am so proud of. I know what’s going to happen now. You are going to continue on like nothing ever happened. “So I lost my vision in one eye. I still have another one,” you will say to yourself over and over again. “I will not allow this to affect my life in any way. I will never let it stop me from becoming who I want to be” will become your mantra.
As the next few years pass, you are going to attract more attention than you would like.
People are going to ask you uncomfortable questions; some are going to say hurtful things. I want you to know they are not intending to upset you, they just don’t understand, but I know they still will.
You want to be strong, so you are going to bury the growing pain you feel deep inside yourself. You are going to think if you push it down far enough, then it won’t affect you. It will be like the accident never happened. Even though it seems like the perfect plan, unfortunately, I have to tell you it is going to fail.
By burying the accident, the trauma and the pain, you will unintentionally bury
the other feelings you possess — joy, hope, love, passion and enthusiasm. Even that positive attitude will slowly fade away. That anger you felt when you first heard the news your vision will never return will dominate your mind. Soon it will become the only emotion you will be able to express.
I don’t want to give away too much about what is to come, because there are mistakes
you are going to make. There are people you are going to hurt. You are going to make decisions you will regret, but all of these will bring you to where I am now. That is who I am: you, 11 years later. These choices and mistakes are things that need to happen in order for you to learn and grow. However, there are a few things I do want to tell you, just things to keep in mind and be aware of.
I know you don’t want to talk to Mom and Dad about the accident, and trust me, I understand. You don’t want to upset them. You don’t think they want to talk about it, but they do. They don’t know anything is wrong. They don’t know the pain you are experiencing, because on the outside you still look remarkably fine. I know this isn’t an easy request, but try to talk to them. They want to hear what you have to say. They want to know what you are feeling. They want to help. No one is ever going to know anything is wrong if you don’t ask for help.
But you need to ask for help.
In doing so, you will start a personal transformation that will leave you a better person
and a more complete person than you could ever imagine being.
Life isn’t going to be a breeze for you. The next decade is going to be hard. You are going to feel like no one else on this planet understands your suffering.
But you have to keep fighting. There are days you are going to feel weak, but you need to know you are strong. There are going to be days you feel worthless, but I promise you matter to so many people. There are going to be days when you feel hopeless, but even though it might seem far off in the distance, I promise you there is a silver lining and you will reach it because that’s what you do — you survive.
But the most important thing you need to know is that surviving is not enough. You
need to live. Surviving is merely existing. It gets you along but it doesn’t quench your determination or fuel your passion. That is what living does, and I promise you will learn to do that, too. Just give it some time.
You are going to be OK.
You at 24