It ain’t easy being…broken.

Constructing the Past – LeGoff and Nora
Art and its Histories – Edwards
On Violence – Arendt
Trauma and Recovery – Herman
The New Art History – Harris
Places of Public Memory – Ott, Dickinson, Blair
The Affect Theory Reader – Gregg et. al

These are the books, among others, that are on my comps reading list. These are the books I’ve been trying to read for the past three weeks. I pick them up, and then put them down. Up, down. Up, down. I can’t focus. My brain is mush from the vicodin that dampens down the pain in my back and side. I have slowly started becoming more mobile, with small victories being pulled from the simplest of tasks: making refrigerator pickles. Doing a load of laundry. Putting my hair into a (very messy) ponytail. Putting on my own pants.

I read and re-read my blog post about the crash. Every time I get to the part where I hit my brakes, my heart clenches, my body chills, and my brain starts to freeze: a panic attack. I know these well, from my history of a generalized anxiety disorder. I know that my first time on the bike will be even worse. But, I keep thinking “maybe I should practice reaching forward on a chair – from the bars, to the drops, back to the bars, to the drops, as exercise.” I trace paths I know in my head. Maybe a first ride is to go down the Greenway to the little coffee shop next to the trail. Even now, with these thoughts, I’m vibrating with anxiety.

Because I study trauma and violence, and having been through this with a friend, I know there are cycles of emotions that come through the experience. There’s the resilience that just gets you through it. I couldn’t have told the night nurse that the care I was receiving was inappropriate if I’d gone into paralysis and shut down.  Tears do no one any good when you are trying to get things done. But now, 3 weeks out, I cry. I shake. I collapse from exhaustion. I try to maintain the cheery front of being “On the mend!” with a thumbs up and a strong handshake from my right side.

I am on the mend, physically. What was a mess of scabs and road rash is now a pink layer of tender new skin that will hopefully fade before I have to teach in the fall. I have a small scab on my lip. A few remaining stitches. I’ve been able to, for the most part, make the necessary phone calls and manage the day-to-day needs. I am going to the zoo with a friend for a trip outside (I’ll be covered in sunscreen, don’t you worry.)

When the boyfriend first rode by the accident scene, he had a physical, involuntary reaction. There was no blood, nothing that would indicate anything had happened there. And of course there wouldn’t be. I am one of the lucky ones. I survived. It was a small incident. I am sure the family that caused it has forgotten about it by now. But I haven’t. It’s not just the emotional toll. It’s not just the strain on my preparation for my comprehensive exams, which I am due to take in October. It’s not even the limited energy reserves that I spend working on planning for my fall teaching. It’s the money. $515 for the more permanent filling to prevent my tooth from getting infected. Next Tuesday, an additional $1400 for the crown, since the tooth is cracked across the front surface. $250 co-pay for ER visits. $40 co-pay for specialist visits. Prescriptions for Vicodin, Valium, antibiotics (and I’m the girl who barely takes advil.)

And months off my bike. We were going to try the Buff Bicycle Classic September 9th, either the 1/2 century (which I’ve done before) or the 70 mile route. Now, I will consider myself lucky to be able to ride the 14 mile loop. At that rate, why bother putting on road shoes or a kit? I can do that in commuter clothes.

I don’t want to give the impression that I am feeling sorry for myself. I am blessed to have wonderful people in my life, and blessed that so many helpful people were on the trail that day. But I am still shocked that the people who had a part in the accident have no culpability. That they could easily leave the scene, with no repercussions.

My biking budget this year was for a bike, a couple jerseys, and 2 sponsored rides. I’ve not only blown through my bike budget on medical bills, I’m now cutting into my research budget, for my trip to Europe over winter break, to research the post-WW2 social implications on victim classes. I’m supposed to be going to Paris and Berlin to look into the lives of the Sinti and Roma, and now instead, I’m making sure that my tooth won’t break off and get infected, or fall out. I’m healing a broken bone that prevents me from walking my dog. I’ll still be traveling, as the tickets have been bought, and the apartments rented. But it just makes everything that much harder. And I am one of the lucky ones.

 

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One thought on “It ain’t easy being…broken.

  1. If the family had stopped, what would you/boyfriend have said? What would they have said? Would anything be different (in a positive way) from what it is right now?

    Hear me out: there will always be variables, whether you are on the trail or on the road. People of all ages who stop suddenly in front of you. Dogs who lunge at your ankles as you pedal by. Cars and trucks will pass too close in both directions. Roads with no shoulders, gravel and massive potholes.

    You are still here. A bit banged up (ha! understatement, no?) but here! And this is the best possible outcome.

    Allow yourself to recover, not just physically but mentally. Acknowledge the anxiety and allow yourself to experience it and then let it go – kinda like they say in yoga. Perhaps when you are feeling better, a walk on the path where the situation occurs would be helpful in reclaiming the area as a safe place – not one that will provoke anxiety.

    It’s tough to want to just get back in the saddle and brush everything off and not be able to. But please don’t feel like you have to. Boyfriend will still want to ride his bike with you in one month or six months.

    Kitting up and doing the 14mi Buff ride in September because that’s where you might be is not “hardly worth it” – it’s acknowledging that you are making a steady recovery. It’s an acknowledgement of your strength and perseverance over adversity. And it will feel good. Any ride is better than no ride.

    You are very much loved and those of us who have ridden with you in the past can be patient about when, how much, and how long those first rides are. You’ve made great strides even in the past couple weeks.

    xoxo

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