How do you start a personal series of events when you are not a ‘sharing’ kind of person? How do you be frank and honest for the first time in your life when you’ve always hidden behind a mask, a facade? I’ve never allowed myself to get close to many people, having lived my life in semi-isolation from the majority of society as did many of my colleagues. The work I did defined me and my outlook on life. I did not share personal details. Period.
That was then and this is now. My life has changed to such a degree that trying to pretend that the way I lived my life before my injury is the way to continue is folly. I’m not the person I was seven years ago and whatever dangers that I believed existed have paled into insignificance compared to what I now face daily. I’ve decided that the personal me needs to explain some things because of something I have decided to do. An undertaking and an obligation. So the best place is to start not at the beginning but somewhere near the end; the last few weeks before I lost all sensation in the lower half of my body.
By September 2008 I could barely feel my legs. In fact all I could feel was the incredible pain that seemed to be shooting from the bottom of my feet all the way up to my back. I cannot describe how intense the pain was suffice to say that I had never experienced anything like it before. The pain killers that the doctor had given me were useless and I would be moaning like a banshee, writhing around on the floor in complete agony. All I wanted was for the pain to end. I didn’t know then that I had more chance of winning the lottery.
In May 2009, after an operation to try and address the problem had been a little too late, I was told not to return to work again. I still had the pain in my legs but I had the unfortunate habit of falling over when I tried to walk. I was using crutches but my legs would just refuse to do what I wanted them to do and buckle under me. Whilst inspecting the carpet after one such incident I was ordered to see a doctor to find out what was wrong with me. The doctors didn’t know and did not have a clue on how to proceed, they just told me to take time off work. I knew then, in my heart of hearts, that I wouldn’t be returning to work again. Ever.
To say I was angry would have been a slight understatement. I was furious, livid, vexed, fuming, apoplectic and numerous other words for being really pissed off. My mind refused to admit that I was in some trouble and I was still fighting on. By 2012 the fight had been beaten out of me. I was worn down by the persistent and excruciating pain for which I was now taking morphine or, as my friend calls it, legalised smack. By the middle of the year I was barely lucid for a few hours of each day. I was fat, smoking like a chimney on fire and more depressed than a goth on a downer. I was a state, both physically and mentally. It won’t come as a surprise that I had already tried to commit suicide by this time.
What had gone wrong?
In a word? Everything. From being fit and healthy, I had been reduced to crippled and useless to both myself and society. I was in desperate need of help and none was forthcoming. My previous employers, once they had ascertained that I would never be returning to work, turned their backs on me and refused any kind of help. My insurance companies refused to compensate me for my injury giving pathetic excuses for their conclusions. The compensation that I did receive, from the military, was a token payment that didn’t even cover my medical bills. My life was a mess and I was fighting to keep my head above water.
That’s not to say that I just gave up. I may have been a wreck but I am a stubborn wreck. Even in my drugged up state I wasn’t about to let the insurance companies walk all over me nor was I going to be content with the insulting payment I have been thrown as some sort of compensation. I may not have been as lucid or as articulate as I once was but even at a fraction of my former ability I was still more than capable of beating some insurance nerds and the military. It was going to be a long haul and one that would be hindered by personal circumstances.
As the pain grew in intensity my drugs increased in dosage and potency. By mid 2012 I was on over 200 mg of morphine twice a day, as well as numerous other chemical concoctions that were designed to stop my pain receptors from going into overdrive. My mind had more holes in it than Swiss cheese and my memory was suffering. I was having hallucinations on a more and more frequent basis, once or twice a day and usually when I was drugged up to the eyeballs. Although this was affecting my own self esteem, I was so wrapped up in my own misery that I failed to notice the misery of others close to me. I didn’t see how my condition was affecting them emotionally especially the person most important to me. My mother.
My mother had had her own personal battles with illness and had fought through them with courage I could never emulate. Considering that she beat cancer, heart failure and a stroke, my injury was causing her more distress than her own ever did. My mother was with me as often as she could be, cooking for me even though I wasn’t eating, encouraging me and just being there when I needed someone to be there. She was the pillar of strength that I lacked.
In September 2012 she died suddenly and very unexpectedly. It was the worse possible thing that had happened to me in my life and it wasn’t until a couple of months later that I realised that my selfishness and self pity probably played a large part in her death. The stress I put her through was probably too much for her body to handle and I was too self absorbed to notice it.
My mother’s untimely death still haunts me and my role in it makes me feel worse every time I think about it. It was her death and personal incidents afterwards that made me take stock of the situation. I realised that I could not, no, would not continue as I had been, full of self pity and pathetic. I was supposed to be strong and yet I had proven to be weak. It had taken the death of the most important person in my life to realise that and, to be honest, I was very ashamed of myself. I was going to change.