Stepping into the Sun

By Katherine Stairs |

I couldn’t remember anything after waking up in a hospital room, trapped in a screen bed.

From what my parents told me, I couldn’t take care of myself either. I was like a toddler learning for the first time what everything was, tripping over my own toes and figuring out how fingers worked.

I suffered mildly from Tourette’s; the F-word became as common to me as sneezing, and I sang Pink’s song, “F**kin’ Perfect,” very explicitly on repeat.

The strange part about all this is that I only remember glimpses of what I experienced in that white room. It was like I was stuck in an endless purgatory. I wanted to die and even prayed to God that I would either wake up or, at the very least, pass on. It was terrifying how second nature it became over a couple of weeks.

My days in the hospital passed in a blur, but one day stands out from the rest. I received a text message from my friend Chloe, which at first, all I could really do was look at it in confusion. But then like a switch, I remembered I had forgotten to reply to her last text the day before everything happened. My memories came flooding back, shocking my family and the nurses. I didn’t understand why it surprised them so much, but I was about to learn the answer.

It all started on Jan. 28, 2014 around 6:10 a.m. when a Coca-Cola semi rammed into the side of the car I rode passenger in, totaling it. One of the side doors of the car was crashed into me, but since there were airbags, I wasn’t crushed to death.

After being carried into an ambulance unconscious and driven off to the hospital, I suffered various cuts and bruises, a couple of broken bones and two brain bleeds. At first, I was proud of myself for recovering so fast since the doctors were so baffled. They told me “I blew the charts out of the water,” because they never expected for this to happen. This made me believe everything would be fine. I was completely unprepared for the hell I was to go through after returning home.

I was a freshman in high school at this point, almost through my first year. So, as expected, when I returned to school I had a lot of coursework to learn and make up. Due to my brain injury, my parents were able to get me two different plans which had a great effect on how I learned and managed my work for school. These plans allowed to have extended time and helped me navigate through the rest of my time in high school. Also, my parents hired a tutor, who really helped me in my English class that year. The book we were given was a hard read and I needed more time than the others to process it. My 5o4 plan also helped me out me when I missed my classes for therapy and doctor appointments.

Some of my relationships turned sour during this time and I didn’t understand why; I didn’t realize that I was not the same as before, this being I had no filter what so ever and had a hard time keeping up with conversations. Every time I spoke I would speak my mind without processing what I was really saying . This is how I found myself in a dark place. It was painful but I managed to realize that there were some people in my life I needed to let go, especially a girl who I thought was my friend but kept putting me down every time I spoke with or was around her. I did make new friends who loved me no matter what I did and that helped me cope with the loss.

Throughout sophomore and junior year I had moderate anxiety attacks daily since I was still having a hard time adjusting and I felt frustrated that I still needed a tutor to help me out with math work. I wanted to be able to do it myself because I thought that by getting help, I was “dumb.” I had reached a breaking point during my junior year due to all my anxiety and panic. It was so bad that I was even dealing with thoughts of suicide and more.

The feeling of worthlessness became a state of being, so much to the point that I would curl up on my bed and suffer softly in my sorrows. After a few months, my emotions got the best of me, which made me finally open up to my mother. I told her I was absolutely terrified I was. She did her best to calm me down and told me I would have to start seeing a psychologist and thank goodness I did. She told me I was dealing with severe depression and offered me many good coping skills. I have been keeping high grades and I use writing as an outlet to express my thoughts and feelings now.

Since then, I have had weekly psychologist appointments and bi-monthly psychiatrist visits. I am participating in the therapy and am on the correct dose of medications.

To this day, I still don’t understand what kept me going. It was like something in me just wasn’t ready to give up yet. No, instead I became compassionate and more determined. I learned to give my heart to the world so people can learn about how I persevered.

It taught me something about myself, and who we are as humans. That we’re not only fighters, but also survivors. We can face every challenge thrown at us and win. Being accepted into Flagler is one of my greatest achievements, alongside publishing my work. I never thought I could learn so much from so many different and amazing people. I never thought I could achieve all of this.

There are days I wish I could turn back time, but now that I’m older I’ve started to think about that less and less. I was in the accident for a reason. It was a gift, whether I liked it or not, and I don’t think I ever want to return it.

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