From 2009 – 2013, I had constant health issues, starting with neck problems (that would become chronic), to back problems, to repeated ear infections, to a chest infection, to a bad sinus problem where I couldn’t breathe through my nose for months, to digestive issues (involving excruciating stomach pains) that took six months to diagnose, to bad anxiety and depression (related to starving myself because anything I ate caused pain), to reactive hypoglycemia (that took months again to diagnose), and then all the way back around to the neck and back problems.
Every morning I woke and my mind would automatically perform a self-scan to see what might be problematic. I died every day repeatedly anticipating the worst. Because so many of these issues were overlapping, it was difficult working out what was what, and on a few occasions they feared some pretty dire stuff. There was a period for several months that BEST FRIEND called me daily, because she was worried I was going to take my own life.
When I finally wrestled back some equilibrium, I decided to exercise vigorously, taking two-hour walks most days, alternating between swimming forty laps and cycling twenty kilometers every day of the week, and hitting the punching bag for half an hour without a break. This is what I used to be: super fit. I started to feel better about myself. It was like reminding my body what it used to be. My back and neck also began to improve.
One night, after completing a problematic edit, I was feeling pretty chirpy as I set off for my evening walk. This was just about always the same route. But now, instead of setting off to the left, I turned right and did the route in reverse.
This meant when I reached the one intersection I had to traverse, the traffic was now coming from behind me. I had the WALK signal and started to cross. A turning driver somehow didn’t see me, despite that intersection being brightly lit. She hit me when I was halfway across the road.
I thought somebody had come up behind and shoved me. Then the car came into view, right on top of me. Everything froze and I had the realization, “Shit. I’m getting hit by a car. I could die here.” And that was it. Next thing I knew, I was sitting up in the middle of the road. It wouldn’t be until months and months later, when I walked past that intersection, and I pinpointed where I sat up that I identified I would’ve been tossed ten or fifteen feet at least. (Later, in hospital, EX would remark my back was all bruised.)
Rewind: I can’t exactly recall my position when I was hit, but I can only imagine (given the damage I incurred) that I was in mid-stride, and my right leg was caught under the front of the car, breaking both bones. (Once I was in hospital, the surgeon would regularly ground me and my expectations of recovery by reminding me, “This is a really bad break.” It became his mantra with me.)
I didn’t feel the act of the leg breaking. When I broke my right arm as a sixteen-year-old playing football, I felt that. It was like snapping a piece of wood. The pain was sudden, excruciating, and instantaneous. Then, from the park (in Fitzroy) where we were playing to St. Vincent’s Hospital, one of the bones kept bouncing up and down on the nerve so that the ring and pinky fingers clutched spasmodically, and burned with searing, unbearable pain – like somebody was applying the flame of a blowtorch. None of this happened with the car.
The sense of it hitting me pissed me off more than hurt me. When I sat up, I felt no pain as my brain prioritized getting me off the road before another car turned into the intersection and finished me off. I had to crawl off, my right foot fish-tailing behind me because the bones were broken clear across the ankle.
Once I was safely on the nature strip and my adrenaline was declining, I started to feel it, this fingernails-against-the-chalkboard discomfort. It flared when paramedics moved me onto the stretcher. But I’ve felt worse, like with the digestive issues.
When I had the string of health issues, the possibility of dying terrified me. But now, when I think of dying suddenly, it doesn’t scare me: here then gone.
Like being hit by the car.
Like BEST FRIEND.
Either I’ll only be capable of experiencing the pain fleetingly, or my mind will only be capable of processing it fleetingly, if at all.
Going slowly, though, I couldn’t do that.