Sunday, November 9, 2014

Ten years later....

I tried to write this yesterday and couldn't make myself do it. For some reason, I can today. 10 years ago, November 8, 2004 I started my day thinking that I was moving forward and was going to get through the most difficult period of my life. Little did I know that difficult hadn't even started yet. I am not going into a great deal of detail, that is for a longer story that I must put down on paper this winter. However, I will say that as I dropped my girls off at school that Monday morning, I had no idea that my private life was going to explode - in every way possible.
6 months before - Mother's Day 2004

Those who were there and witnessed my trauma and pain - know that I almost didn't get through it. Those who came after, much later, couldn't believe I could hold my head high again. My family were my strength and the only reason I came through it. If not for my girls needing me so desperately, or for my parents stopping everything in their lives to be by my side or my brothers giving their strength and encouragement - I would have been lost. My father was the only man for me for a time and I hung on to him tightly. My mother was with us day and night and although she suffered for it - she stayed - God bless her!

On November 8, 2004 my children's lives changed forever. They lost their father in a motor vehicle accident; my baby - 12 days before her third birthday underwent trauma that will affect her for life; my oldest was about to turn 10 years old and watched her family torn apart. 

For now, I will say this, my children's father took my youngest daughter without permission, he put her into a vehicle forcefully without a car seat and he hit a minivan head on which was carrying a mother and her 4 year old son, the mother was critically injured but survived, the young boy did not;  that vehicle then slid and collided into a second vehicle injuring one of the two passengers. I can't ever take away the grief or trauma from their lives - I can never give them back their innocence, the healthy bodies they had or the beautiful child that they lost. I have had to find a way to heal to move on. I only hope that they have been able to do so as well.

6 months later - Father's Day 2005
I spent the next several years helping my baby heal from her physical wounds and trying to assist her with her emotions. Years of medical support, physical therapy and clinical psychiatry - to get to a point where we could cope. My oldest suffered nearly as much, albeit not physically but psychologically. She had to find a way to survive her fear, anxiety, depression and pain. She, as well as I, had to live with survivors guilt. There are still times when the PTSD symptoms come up, the inability to focus or complete projects, but for the most part, we are doing pretty damn good.

I had always lived my life privately and held in my thoughts and secrets. I didn't share - even my closest friends were shocked to see what life had been like - the constant fear we dealt with. Unfortunately you can't go through a public ordeal without everyone knowing your business. You are no longer entitled to privacy and can't go out in public without feeling as though people are looking at you, judging you, watching you - deciding if you are the reason the world blew up that day. You can't protect your children, you can't stop them from the bullying or meanness of others, you can't turn on the news or pick up a paper without wondering what it will say but still having to know. 

Life changes immensely. The inability to get up every morning, the need to sleep all day but unable to rest at night, the lack of motivation or able to prepare food for your family, piles of laundry surrounding you, the overwhelming senselessness of life. Watching every move your child makes, trying to pre-determine what the outcome will be, how will they manage, am I failing them? Periods of inexplicable crying, inappropriate laughing and constant physical pain.

Anyone who has suffered a trauma will know that PTSD can stop you from living. If it had not been for friends who checked up on me, brought me food, made me put one foot after the other to continue on - if it had not been for family who called me constantly to make sure I was doing what I needed to do - if it was not for the man I fell in love with who trusted that I would get strong and stop being an unreliable flake - if not for all that - I would not be here now. My girls are my everything, they were my reason for living. My husband is my rock, he helps me when I feel I want to give up. I however, am the person who kept going. I had strength I would never have believed I possessed. 

I had to change things. As much as I tried to heal things kept creeping up on me. As often as I thought things were behind us, something would show up in a news story or in the paper. If I didn't see it, people were sure to tell me. My daughter was tormented by children in school who taunted her and threatened her. After going through what she had gone through, this was not simple childhood antics. It is through learning to speak up, show our truth and getting past the fear that we could heal.

Part of my strength came from leaving my old life, forging a new one, starting fresh and naively thinking that I could leave the past behind me. Thank god for Google, how would people spy on other people? Well, Google let my skeletons leak out of the closet and Google shared the highlights - but I learned not to care. If people like me, great, if they don't that is ok too. If they judged me and made me or my girls suffer for that judgement, well too bad for them. They lost out on knowing some pretty special, loving people. To those of you who stood by me, who remained my friends, who were able to deal with my nightmare, you are amazing. To those of you who left me, who couldn't cope with it, that is ok, I would rather you were honest than try to be near me when you couldn't.
Marrying my soul mate 7/7/7

I feel as though not talking about my past, not being open, makes me a fraud. At the same time I am not interested in being part of idle gossip or innuendo. I know who I am . I am Sarah and I am a survivor. The past 10 years felt endless at times, it also feels as though it flew by. I have blocked out more than I remember and this winter I have to try to tap into those memories to become whole again.

In my being an independent adult, or someone in a confused relationship - I let myself drift away from my roots, my family. I have realized that through everything, it is family that stood by me, supported me and showed me love. I am so happy to have started to regain the closeness with my extended family - aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. I hope I never lose that again, whether we live near or far.

me and my babies 2014
I am so grateful to have a strong loving man by my side. I am so fortunate that my kids have pulled through to the other side. Yes, there are moments of bewilderment and confusion but they are infrequent now. The moments of frustration and anger are almost gone. We all have our own memories, recollection of what happened and our own truth. This is MY truth.

Yes, when I look at my babies and see physical and emotional scars - I am sad  - but I think, I believe, that I am teaching them that we can't live in the past - we are our future and we can be victims or survivors. I vote for SURVIVOR!

And the best part of it all?
I have learned it is OK to be happy -
 and I am HAPPY!