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Out of my Scar

I have a massive scar on my right arm on the outside of my elbow. That scar means more to me than any tattoo I could ever get. It was a major event that changed the course of my life. And it’s hard for me to think of where I would be [KB1] today if it was not for the events associated with the scar. I could still be accumulating more brain damage by taking Adderall. And I probably would not have graduated from college.

About halfway to a vet visit with my pet rabbit, a driver came out of nowhere and smashed into me, causing a T-bone collision. My elbow shattered against the steering wheel. The collision made the scariest sound I have ever heard. My car flew like a projectile across the road. I somehow gained control of the vehicle after thrashing around by jamming on the brakes.

When the car stopped, smoke poured out of the radiator. I thought my car was going to explode. I knew my elbow was broken. I could not move my arm. I grabbed my phone, pocketbook, and rabbit, somehow collecting the items all with my useable arm. Fearing a possible explosion, I rushed to the sidewalk to get away from the vehicle. I called my mother to tell her what had happened and to meet me at the hospital. Police officers approached.

The ambulance pulled up as the police were taking notes. I was in excruciating pain. As I sat on the sidewalk, they administered to me [KB2] pain medication. As they attempted to put my arm in a sling, I thought I would pass out.  I think the shock of what just happened kept me in the moment.  The next thing I remember was being loaded into the ambulance and rushed to the hospital.

They unloaded me from the ambulance and slipped me into a wheelchair. At that point, I felt truly disconnected from myself. I was wheeled into the emergency room, and they moved me from the wheelchair into a bed. My tension rose and I thought I should tell them I have anxiety issues. A few minutes later, a nurse appeared with a Xanax. It helped, but I was much more relieved when my mom showed up. At least, she could talk to the medical people about my needs, as by then, I was overdone.

The X-ray machine arrived and they manipulated my broken elbow into painful positions. Every time they made me move my arm, a shooting pressurized pain followed. It was so bad I thought I might puke and then pass out. Once that agonizing experience was over, the doctor came in to discuss the results. Sure enough, the X-rays confirmed a broken elbow. Finally, they wrapped my elbow and secured my arm with a sling. I was given another dose of pain medication. I left with instructions to follow up with an orthopedist and a pain killer prescription.

A few days later, I met with an orthopedic surgeon. In the darkness of the X-ray room, the med tech manipulated my elbow into three positions. The last one was so painful I freaked out and left the room. A nurse in the hallway led me to an exam room where I was told I would need radial head replacement surgery. A ballistic outburst ensued. My mother convinced me otherwise.

A heavy, bulky cast immobilized my elbow until the surgery, which was scheduled for four days later. Once in the car, the anxiety caught up with me. I was having a hard time processing the mandatory surgery and nasty cast on my arm. When I got home, since enough time had passed between doses, I took Xanax to control the panic.

The surgery was successful. But afterwards, the pain hit me harder than before the surgery. My arm took longer than expected to feel better, and even after six months, it still was quite uncomfortable. I had to endure six months of physical therapy to heal my arm after the surgery.

But the worst part about the accident was that I developed PSTD. I could not stop having panic attacks. I believe I was in a prolonged state of shock. I felt disconnected from reality. And all I could feel was a considerable amount of anxiety.

I have pre-existing mental health conditions, including bipolar disorder. The stress of what happened to me caused a massive flare up of my symptoms, and as a result. I was put on a lot of different medications for the bipolar disorder and anxiety. None of them worked. I started to take more Adderall, which I had been prescribed for ADHD. The dose I was taking before the accident was too low to help deal with the stress of my ordeal. And that is what I used to be able to deal with my horrific circumstances.

 It was a bad accident and it led to a lawsuit. I [K3] successfully sued the person who hit me. The legal process added to what was already a stressful experience. I acquired pictures and documents for the lawyer. It took a year and a half to settle. The end result was a monthly financial arrangement. Five years later, my elbow is doing well, and I have few limitations. But three years is a long time to feel like I had a normal arm again.

While the lawsuit was in progress, during the summer after my accident, I tried rock climbing. I was hoping it would help my panic attacks and strengthen my arm. The doctor gave me medical clearance, and I felt like I needed to do something to help myself on a physical and mental level. The instructor seemed like a cool guy and was very helpful. He also gave profoundly excellent life advice. I advanced pretty quickly, and we became friends. My panic attacks went away. Rock climbing brought me out of the state of shock I had been in since the accident.

But at the same time, I was taking more excessive amounts of Adderall. The ongoing problem I previously had started to rear its ugly head. My climbing instructor took notice. He would get annoyed at me because of it. I can’t say I blame him. After a climb we did in New Hampshire he told me I needed to get help, or he would not climb with me anymore.

And that is exactly what I did. Recovering from Adderall was extremely difficult. It took me six months [K4] to find the right bipolar medications and feel somewhat normal.

I have been sober for five years. I don’t talk to my climbing instructor anymore. But the life advice he gave me is worth more to me than what I learned about climbing itself. I have a file in my head of all of the wisdom he passed to me, and when I am having a hard time and need direction in my life, I pop that file open.

Before the accident, I was manic. My behavior was leading me in a destructive direction. The time I spent with my climbing instructor led me to getting sober and getting my bipolar disorder under control. Consequently, it enabled me to complete my degree in creative writing.

My scar, it represents my life-changing event. The accident brought about a broken arm and re-emerging panic attacks. Climbing, helped with the panic attacks, and led me to someone who helped me change my life. If I had never met my climbing instructor after my ordeal, I would not be in the good place in my life that I am right now. The fact of the matter is, I had an Adderall problem. Though I did not realize it at the time, Adderall stopped me from making constructive progress, and it was making my bipolar disorder a lot worse.

No one should feel alone in dealing with a traumatic or challenging event. I came out of a difficult situation; and I hope to encourage others to get through their challenges and trauma with a positive outcome. Knowing someone before you has gone through hell and ended up okay can make all the difference in getting through a very difficult time. While I would never wish such a situation upon anyone, everyone has a turning point, and if it were not for the events resulting from the scar on my arm, I might still be manic, driving myself to self-destruction. Tattoo thoughts enter my thoughts now and again, but then I look at the scar, and it’s enough.



Jessica Petralia is a recent college graduate with a bachelor’s in creative writing. She is looking to get her work out there and receive feedback. Writing is her passion, as well as her pathway to mental health.

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1 comentário

Angela Franklin
Angela Franklin
09 de mar.

Jessica, you wrote a compelling piece. Congratulations and please keep writing. Your stories of overcoming difficult situations are needed.

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