TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOUR TRAUMA STORY
I got hit by a car whose driver signalled me to cross the road, when I was waiting to cross the road on a busy market street in India, where the vehicular speeds are less than 20Km/Hr. It was almost a hit and run incident and this led to me being flung across the road and my right thigh bone sustaining multiple fractures. This necessitated a surgery where a rod was fitted inside my thigh.
WHAT WAS RECOVERY LIKE?
Recovery is a small word but encapsulates different meanings. At the physical level is where I had the maximum support from family and friends. Recovery with physiotherapy lasted 3 months with transitioning from a walker to walking with a crutch and then walking unaided. After that, once I started walking putting weight on the injured foot, there was a lot of agony. I also hit a plateau with physiotherapy exercises. Then started yoga which helped me heal a bit more gradually with deep breathing and slow movement exercises to revitalise and ensure flexibility and flow in my muscles.
To heal the mind and body at a holistic level, I also worked with a somatic experience therapist. We hit loads of roadblocks on the way. COVID-19 was the biggest roadblock. I could not walk outside because India had a stringent lockdown and hence even walking was forbidden. This put a spanner in my recovery plans. I did not visit my ortho doctor, yoga therapist or physiotherapist for 4-6 months, due to COVID-19 related restrictions and my own fears.
By then, I had hit mental and emotional exhaustion. It had been more than a year on my recovery journey and I was still not able to do simple tasks like walk for more than 15 minutes without discomfort or climb 2 steps at a time or get up from the floor without support. I had always led an active physical life with walking 5 kms on a daily basis and doing a lot of physical work at home like gardening. I have been so used to moving whole steel cupboards by myself without another person’s help. And everyday I was physically exhausted. It was as though the recovery process had snapped every bit of my willpower and resolve and there was nothing left but a puddle of flesh. I could just about turn up for my work which was coaching people, but I was empty inside and running on an empty fuel tank at all levels.
My mother could not recognise my pain. My friend told me to accept it and move on. Another asked me whether I was depressed – how does one answer such a question, when one gets up in the morning cheerful and after a few hours when I go for a walk, my leg starts paining and my mood and energy goes downhill. My father was one of the few persons who understood but he was away in another country. A lot of people have no experience dealing with pain at so many levels. So it was easier for them not to acknowledge my pain or chalk it up to the work of Satan or prescribe multiple methods. Nobody was there with me in my pain, except very few friends who knew that simple presence without fixing the person/problem was the best response in the situation.
Reading the book – “The Body keeps Score” by Besser van der Kolk was the turning point in Nov 2020. I had hit nadir in Oct 2020, what with the COVID-19 isolation coupled with fatigue and exhaustion at multiple levels. Even somatic experiencing, yoga or gym or physiotherapy could not address the psychic pain that I was processing – loss of a whole way of life and thinking whether this pain would be a constant companion in my life. Also the realisation that one has to depend on another person for difficult physical tasks makes one feel very helpless. Reading the book helped me process things at the mental level and then it all made sense.
Even now, I can’t say that I am fully alright. In December, we were doing the yearly cleaning exercise at home and I would do work for 3-4 hours and then be laid up in bed for the next 2-3 days with tiredness. I cannot predict which day my leg would ache and when it would not. I can only hope that the day is good to me on a daily basis and work on pain alleviation strategies.
What I am grateful for everyday is: the strangers, friends and family who helped me out and ensured that I could connect with the right professionals during the first 9 months of recovery.
WHY DID YOU WANT TO GET INVOLVED WITH THE TSN PROGRAM? OR WHY DO YOU WANT TO SHARE YOUR STORY WITH OTHER SURVIVORS/LOVED ONES?
The reason I am choosing to share my trauma story with TSN is for survivors and loved ones to read my recovery story. To understand that recovery is not a simple linear process. Accident survivors go through complex trauma. Decoding different aspects of recovery is a life long process. Rushing it through, demanding more of the body when it is not ready is not going to help. Also acceptance is key for the survivor; knowing sometimes that things won’t go back to what it was earlier. I also want family and friends to understand that recovery is a multi-faceted process and sometimes one needs to be patient with the survivor and help them recover at their own pace.
What I dream of is a world where such accidents are a rarity and even if they happen, irrespective of financial privilege, survivors are able to access support to make recovery an easy journey.