Suffering with a smile

My mom broke her shoulder on the fourth of July.  She’s been miserable with pain ever since and I’ve been trying to comfort and care for her the best I can.  Her injury takes me back to my own accident seven years ago.  During an episode of severe psychosis, somehow brought on due to an interaction between my migraine medication, Imitrex, and my antipsychotic medication, Geodon, I got in an argument with my mom about calling the psychiatrist for a medication change.  I got in the car to blow off some steam while she went up to take a shower.  First bad decision.  I started to make my way to the park to cool off and recompose myself.  Here’s where it gets hazy.  I became suspicious of the cars around me, in particular a black panel van.  Try as I might I couldn’t lose my tail, so I started driving erratically.  Charging down the highway, I, for some reason, decided to take an exit ramp I’ve rarely used that lead up to a bridge over the river.  The car dragged, a flat tire slowing my progress.  I didn’t see the van any more, so I slowed to a stop on the shoulder and got out to investigate.  No sooner was I out of the car than the van showed up behind me.  Panic set in.  I was backing slowly away from the van, being unable to depend on the safety of the car.  Two men in black suits got out and walked slowly towards me, the way that the villain in Halloween movies did.  A sense of impending doom came over me.  They drew guns from their holsters, still creeping towards me at a snail’s pace.  Petrified, I continued backing slowly away, but towards the edge of the overpass.  In a state of total confusion and fear, I backed clean over the calf-high guard rain and began my descent towards the pavement below.  I don’t remember much after that, the falling or the impact on the street below.  I don’t remember dragging myself off the road and onto a grassy area under a tree to escape traffic but the grass stains on my jeans told the story.  I had fallen a total of one hundred and ten feet.  After hauling my broken body off the road, there is no way of knowing how long I laid there in agony, but eventually a nurse jogging on a nearby trail near the river spotted my shaking form beneath the tree.  She called 911, thinking I was having a seizure.  The ambulance report indicates I was combative, in keeping with the seizure story.  When I arrived at the hospital, unable to speak, they assumed I was not a native and called in translators to try to determine who I was, as I had no ID on my person.  As they started to remove my clothing and assess my neurological state, one of the ER doctors noticed that my ankle was oddly out of place.  Further examination revealed more broken bones and collapsed lungs.  Suddenly it didn’t seem so plausible that I had been having a seizure.  Still unable to speak, I couldn’t provide any helpful details.

Flash back to the overpass, where my idling car was discovered by a state trooper.  After looking up the owner from the plate number, he called my parent’s house.  I had taken my grandmother’s car, and my mother had assumed I would return shortly having quelled my anger.  She couldn’t have been more wrong, and she knew instantly.  As they pulled up to the car, the police office and my mother searched for clues as to where I had gone.  But it didn’t take long for mom to figure it out.  She looked over the guard rail and shuddered, a deep chill running down her spine.  She described the moment to me once, tears creeping into the corners of her eyes.  They started calling local hospitals, and discovered that a Jane Doe with serious injuries had arrived shortly before at one of them.  The officer whisked her away to the hospital, where she found me lying on a gurney moaning in pain.  She spoke to me, trying to comfort me, and explaining what had happened to me.  When she described the situation, my first response:

“Thank god I didn’t die.”

And that’s the truth.  On average, fifty percent of people die when falling thirty feet.  I survived a fall from nearly four times that height with “relatively” minor injuries; broken and dislocated ankle, broken tibia and fibula on my left leg, some severely bruised and busted ribs, collapsed and bruised lungs, an a fractured shoulder (or so it looked).  The surgeons took six hours to remedy my obvious problems, telling my mother that there were likely to be more problems surfacing within the next twenty-four hours.  I spent three days in ICU, waiting for the worst.  But no other injuries showed their faces.  When I awoke after the surgery, I had such a dry mouth it felt like it was full of cotton.  Refusing to give me a drink following the anesthesia, they offered that my mom could brush my teeth.  She started to gingerly scrub with a toothbrush, hoping not to cause my any undue discomfort.

“Did you know that you’re horrible at brushing other people’s teeth?”  I asked her and promptly took over the brushing with my uninjured arm.  She knew immediately that I would be fine.  Three more weeks of recuperation got me out of the trauma wing of the hospital and back on my feet, sort of.  But then it was down to the psych floor.  “Did you try to kill yourself?  What happened on the bridge?  Why did you go there?”  Their relentless questioning almost drove me to madness.  But I couldn’t remember then.  All I knew is that I had fought with my mom, got in the car and ended up in the hospital, with no recollection of the time in between.  I scarcely remembered being in ICU, let alone everything that transpired before that.  But the voices inside my head, which were ever-present, spoke out against the doctors, spewing curses and hatred, telling me that I had done nothing wrong.  That was good enough for me.  I denied any problems and after about a week, they gave up trying to suck the truth from my exhausted mind.  I was overjoyed to go home.  But at home I became depressed and angry inside, although I was optimistic and happy on the outside.  Screaming inside my head choked the energy out of me and I rarely left the house.  Everything ached.  My boyfriend, who had not known the truth prior to my leaving the hospital, came shortly to be by my side, but I couldn’t enjoy his company.  I couldn’t enjoy anyone’s company.  I pushed his affectionate attempts away, and scarcely enjoyed his visit.  “Isn’t he so innocent?” the voices inside proclaimed.  “How easy would it be to send him off the bridge too?  He doesn’t deserve to be happy when you’re suffering.”  Distraught with their suggestions, I withdrew from everyone and tried to calm the murmuring inside my head.  Adam left and I returned to my quiet recuperation, still avoiding leaving the house and suffering through immense pain in silence with that characteristic smile on my face.

My mother doesn’t share my ability to suffer while smiling these days.  Though her fracture is severe, she is uncharacteristically whining and complaining whenever she has someone’s ear.  Her suffering is visible in the wrinkling of her forehead, the clenching of her hands, the moans issuing from her across the room.  It brings me back.  The pain, the torment, the suffering.  It brings me back.  I hope and pray that her surgery next week will quell some of the hot poker pain she is experiencing regularly.  So she can resume suffering with a smile and a sense of humor, as she and I usually do.



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