Approximately 4550 days ago, a man stole a car, drove it out of a no exit road at over 40mph, crashed into my car and changed my world forever.
The furore that followed is still a blur. There was blood, there were flashing lights, there were strangers, there was kindness, there was pain. The ambulance arrived – and the nightmare started.
That driver, as far as I know, was never caught. Eye-witnesses identified him as one of the owners from a shop on that same road the accident happened. The police told me there were previous warrants out for his arrest. After six months, they wrote to me to say it was no longer an “active” investigation. As far as I know, that man never thought of that day again. He looked me in the eye as he ran away, straight past my window, leaving me trapped in that car. He looked me in the eye and he kept on running. I had nightmares about that face for years. I can’t remember it now. I think that’s a good thing.
Somehow, as astonishing as it seemed, I had no broken bones. I did, however, have severe whiplash and extensive damage to my musculoskeletal system. This in turn, led on to Fibromyalgia and CFS, both of which went undiagnosed for over 9 years. So I spent years trying to justify the fact I was still in pain to Doctors who told me I shouldn’t be. BUT I WAS. And still am. To date, that’s 12.5 years of chronic, festering pain. Anyone who has lived with anything similar knows how soul destroying this can be
Please don’t get me wrong. I am *so* much better than I was once. It’s now incredibly rare for me to be out of action completely. I live with pain, yes, but it’s manageable, mostly. Like anything else in life, you learn to adapt. I know my limitations, I pace (not always, I’m still know to overdo it) and I get what needs to be done, done. I have a child who needs me and I made the decision to not let him be affected by my circumstance. Even on the occasional bad days, I put him first, always.
But…this isn’t a post today about pain. It’s about hope. And about closure.
Today, I learned that the 12.5 year legal battle that has followed all this has come to an end. At times, this has been more stressful than the accident itself. As there is no insurance company involved, I’ve had to work with The Motor Insurers Bureau. They work differently to most – there is no option of No Win No Fee, they don’t pay for private medical care, and they can be very, very slow. On the upside, they arranged for me to go into residential rehab to learn how to function properly again, and they have been good to me at times. For over a decade though, I’ve been poked and prodded by specialists working for them, who try to disprove the fact my injuries were related to the crash. I have had to justify myself, over and over again, until even I doubt my own feelings. I’ve had to have my lifelong medical records exposed, every personal moment of my life used against me, every member of my family criticised, my mental health questioned, my every move analysed. I’ve had reports written, by people who have never met me, tearing my character to pieces, despite conflicting evidence. My friends have had to give extensive statements about me as a person, about my work, about my world. Every relationship I’ve had has been affected in one way or the other. Friendships have been strained, partners have left – the stress has not just been on my shoulders, but on those who love me too.
Please remember – this man stole a car, drove out of a no exit road, hit me, and ran away…Yet I have been treated like a criminal.
There are many, many times during this process I have wanted to give up. To just throw in the towel and walk away from it all. But every time I have been that low, my fantastic friends and family reminded me I had to see this through. To get some kind of justice, some kind of closure.
Today, I did.
It’s over. The claim is settled and I never have to talk about this if I don’t want to. I never have to be afraid opening my inbox, that there will be another summons for another assessment, or another problem.
I finally get to put this behind me, and move forward.
When I saw this year in with some good friends – I proclaimed that my word of this year was freedom. I wanted to be free. Free of everything that has been haunting me. Free of the past, and free of the fear that has been following me.
I’m so happy to be able to say, I’m finally free.
I get to be whoever I was meant to be now. Whoever that young 24 year old was destined to be before that day, plus a bit more. I can’t get the last 12.5 years back, ever. But I can make the best of what’s ahead, without this hanging over me.
And despite everything? All I am taking from this whole process are positives. I am infinitely better as a person than when this happened. I’ve learned to understand life through a different lens. I’ve made friends with people I’d never have met if I’d continued on that same path, and I am eternally grateful for them. I appreciate the good, have learned that the bad passes, and have developed the ability to understand that everyone is fighting a battle, just on a different field. I know how to be a good friend, I know how to cope, and I have learnt how strong I really am, even if I’m still a little bit broken.
I’m grateful for this experience, strange as that may seem, as it’s made me whole again. It’s highlighted how lucky I am, in so many ways. It’s shown me how wonderful my friends are, and made me appreciate every moment so much more.
I will be raising a glass or two this week.
To freedom x