Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Healer's Art - A Burden Made Light

On September 25th, 2005 a man in Maryland got in his car after drinking and changed my life forever.

My last memory before waking up with my car crushed like a soda-pop can ready for recycling was of a sign I passed a mile before I was hit. I still remember nothing other than the sound of screetching tires; a sound that is the background music for my nightmares. Investigators deduced from tire marks on the road and my impecable driving record, that my little 1993 4-door Suzuki Swift was stopped at a red light and the man hit me going 65-75 miles per hour with no attempt to slow down; the screetching tires I heard were MY tires.

My right leg is deformed from an unusually large femoral artery hematoma that did not reabsorb as predicted, which turned into a mass of scar tissue nobody really wants to operate on.

I know what it feels like to hit something with such forward force that one's sternum breaks, and the agony of waiting an entire year for the ability to finally breathe, laugh, cough, and sneeze without literally wanting to die.

This is why airbags were invented. Sadly my car didn't have them.

The force of my body bouncing back off the steering wheel broke my seat. I woke up laying down.

The sternum break alone partially disabled me from the waist up for multiple months. I had to buy paper plates and other disposable dishes and utensils because I physically couldn't lift a dish, wash it, and put it in the dish drainer. I can't even describe the torture of basic hygiene tasks; I once sat in my old clawfoot tub for well over an hour bawling because I couldn't figure out how to get up without using my arms.

I bawled through plenty of other embarassing tasks as well.

My stubbornly independent self was compelled to be humble because I was dependent on the kindness of others for many things. Lee, a homeless man in the neighborhood, helped me with my laundry each week at the Laundromat in exchange for pocket change and the opportunity to be indoors with me while we waited for the clothes to get done.

I was fired for the first (and only) time from my job.

I walked about 20 blocks round-trip twice a week through downtown Baltimore's infamous North Avenue, the (or one of the) largest drug-trafficking areas in the nation in order to get to physical therapy because most of the bus drivers refused to serve me due to my white skin.

Yes, that really happened.

I was diagnosed and on medication for 6 months (felt like an eternity) for Bipolar II.  In December 2012 my psychiatrist ordered an EEG on a hunch and discovered I was misdiagnosed.

Turns out I have temporal lobe seizures (primarily caused by traumatic brain injuries) which manifest themselves with emotional/behavioral symptoms often identical to those who suffer from Bipolar, depression, anxiety, etc.

Fortunately the blackouts/unexplained lapses of time I kept experiencing tipped the psychiatrist off that something else was actually going on.

Unfortunately I may never be able to eat grapefruit again (it messes with the seizure meds I'm on).

Even 8+ years later, that one man's poor choice to drink and drive haunts my every waking moment. I have no doubt that it always will.

Do I forgive the man who did this?

Of course. We all make mistakes and poor choices, and we are expected by God to forgive all our trespasses; seventy times seven, and again. I can't argue with that. I also cannot honestly report that forgiveness happened overnight. It was a very slow and emotionally draining process. To my dismay, the proverbial weight of this burden was not made lighter despite the sincerity of my forgiveness years ago.

And then today happened.

One conversation with the right person can be life changing.

You know that light, almost-fluttery, somewhere between excitement and nervousness, breathless feeling you get in the borders of your heart right before tears of joy appear?

Yes, thaaaat feeling.

That is what it feels like; to be relieved of the last chunk of a burden you've been hefting around for exactly 8 years and 6 months to the day.

Joy; this is what true joy must feel like.

I leave you to ponder the message from "Lord, I Would Follow Thee", hymn 220 from the Hymns of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints; my lullaby of March 25, 2014:

Savior, may I learn to love thee,
Walk the path that thou hast shown,
Pause to help and lift another,
Finding strength beyond my own.
Savior, may I learn to love thee— 

Lord, I would follow thee. 

Who am I to judge another
When I walk imperfectly?
In the quiet heart is hidden
Sorrow that the eye can’t see.
Who am I to judge another? 

Lord, I would follow thee.

I would be my brother’s keeper;
I would learn the healer’s art.
To the wounded and the weary
I would show a gentle heart.
I would be my brother’s keeper— 

Lord, I would follow thee.

Savior, may I love my brother
As I know thou lovest me,
Find in thee my strength, my beacon,
For thy servant I would be.
Savior, may I love my brother—

Lord, I would follow thee.


Anonymous said...

Joanna, that was beautiful.

Joanna Dickson said...

Thank you.