It is hard to believe that the brain injury became my reality 27 years ago! It was a defining, shattering, life altering car accident not long after my 16th Birthday. It may finally be time for me to unravel it all through words, although it has been a part of my every fibre ever since. A car accident that almost kills your Mother and best friend naturally becomes a part of you that you would gladly hand back if given the chance. It also becomes a part that ultimately shapes you for the better.
What was life like for the 16 years before the Brain Injury?
My parents divorced when I was 12, amicably, calmly. I remember them sitting my brother and I down to let us know that Dad would be moving out, that they still loved us, they had just grown apart and wanted different things from life. That was over 30 years ago yet I can still picture the room, the weather, what my Dad was wearing and how many tears I cried at the thought of a broken family. Little did I know that day our family was far from broken yet.
Before the divorce was 12 years of relatively ‘normal’ suburban family life, whatever that is! I was born in Blacktown in the West of Sydney when my parents were both barely out of their teens! Looking back at photos of them as new parents is surreal .. at that age I was worlds away from parenthood! I think it probably had a lot to do with them eventually going their separate ways. My Mum realised that she wanted her 20s back.
We rode bikes, climbed fences and trees, explored our neighbourhoods, moved from Sydney to the Central Coast and enjoyed the typical childhood rites of passage along the way. Our grandparents were all vivid role models, extended family and friends fill my memories as far back as they go.
After the divorce we moved a couple of times, the distance between Dad and us became greater and I remember a lot of long car drives. I remember a seething anger and jealous outbursts when my Dad started dating, locking myself in my bedroom on occasion when Dad wanted me to meet someone he fancied. As a single Mother myself now I look back on that naive pre-teen with a mixture of feeling mortified yet absolutely empathetic!
The effects of your newly split parents dating can be far reaching, it is amazing the details that I can recall and I often wonder how all of this has shaped me and my own relationships. I am approaching 43 and am yet to meet my soul mate, for want of a better term, is this a part of the reason? How is my own dating going to affect the future of my own child?
My head is spinning at the thought ..
Before the Brain Injury life was complex in its own ways, at the time and in context some of these things were big things. They would all pale in comparison to what lay ahead though.
My Mother was only 20 when she had me so we were always destined to be friends, especially as I approached my teens and my fascination with her knew no bounds. Before the Brain Injury she was a hard working, party loving single Mum in her early 30s. She was doing all the things she missed out on the first time around, like dating, travel and a full social life.
As a teen I was lucky enough to be a part of this, and up until the day of the Brain Injury she was my best friend. I was 16, she was 36 .. the age difference was becoming less significant as she relived her 20s and I eagerly approached mine.
As fate would have it, the Mother and the best friend I knew and treasured would never return from a regular Sunday drive on our own street in late 1989. Before the Brain Injury I knew nothing about hospitals, life support, ICU, comas, rehabilitation, loss, trauma. My happy little existence was forever shattered and everything I knew was changed in ways that I could never have imagined.
It has taken me years to build the strength to tell this story. It can only be told in small chunks, for my own sake. I think the next part will be the hardest, trying to put into words what a traumatic brain injury looks like when you are only 16 years old.