The author of this list, Zoe Robertson, gave it a different title: ‘The Car Crash The Changed My Life’ which I loved, but not as much as I love her Instagram handle @mybeautifultrauma– which felt like the perfect articulation of her journey, so with her permission, I have borrowed that instead.

  • At the beginning of 2012 I was 31 years old. I was married, I was mum to two young daughters, I had a good job, a nice house and went on nice holidays. I was living the suburban dream. 

  • Fast forward nearly eight years and my life couldn’t be more different. I am divorced, I have a different job, I live in a smaller house, in a different area and drive a cheaper car, but I am so much happier. Mainly because I am finally living for me!

  • I came out as a gay woman just over three years ago, I have since met and am engaged to the most amazing woman I have ever met. We both have children from previous marriages, that coupled with the distance between us, it’s not possible to live together at the moment. This means that Monday to Friday and every other weekend I am a ‘single mum’ which is the toughest, most rewarding thing in the world. Life can be tough and lonely and tiring, but I wouldn’t change any of what has happened over the past 8 years, because I am happier than I ever imagined and why I am so grateful for my Beautiful Trauma.

  • Saturday 12th February 2012 was the day that everything changed.

  • I was driving my Renault Scenic, on the M3 from my house in Hampshire to London (a journey I had done a million times, as I grew up in West London) fortunately I was in the car alone.

  • According to the police investigation (I don’t remember anything about the events of that day) a large stone or nail pierced my rear tyre. The loss of pressure in that tyre caused me to lose control of the car, it careered of the motorway, into a ditch and rolled several times.

  • When the emergency services found me, I was hanging upside down by the seatbelt. I had a GCS of 3 (15 is normal 0 is no sign of life) I was intubated at the scene and flown by air ambulance to Southampton General Hospital, where I worked at the time. A Busman’s holiday at it’s worse.

  • I spent the next six weeks in hospital, I had fractured my pelvis in two places, suffered a interventricular haemorrhage and hydrocephalus, a haemorrhage in the left basal ganglia caused by a traumatic brain injury (TBI) I spent three days in neurointensive care, three weeks in neuro high care and three further weeks in a neuro-rehab ward.

  • Rehabilitation is nothing like you see in films and tv dramas, you don’t just open your eyes, blink a bit and everything comes flooding back.

  • For the first three or four weeks I has something called Post Traumatic Amnesia, I had no idea where I was, who I was and most scarily that I had any children.

  • During this time, I would have ‘neuro obs’ done every four hours along with normal observations (temp & BP). I would be asked ‘what year is it?’ I would give different answers each time, I remember saying “1978” one time, but I wasn’t born until 1980! I would be asked where I was? I replied, “New South Wales”, but I have never been to Australia?! When asked about my family I answered differently each time, sometimes I said I had no children, some days I had four. It was a really tough time for my family to witness. The human brain is a very strange thing.

  • During my time in the hospital, I lost lots of weight and muscle tone, a combination of being tube fed and being bed-bound and inactive for over a month. Gradually things started to improve with daily physiotherapy and occupational therapy. To prepare me for coming home I had a couple of weekend visits to see how I would cope when I was discharged. My daughters were four years old and ten months at the time. I was desperate to get back to being their mum, but new it would be seriously challenging.

  • After six weeks I was finally discharged. Coming home was when the hard work started. I realised how supported and protected I had been in the hospital. Being home was harder than I imagined. I was exhausted, I was too weak still to lift my daughter and the fatigue I suffered from meant I needed regular rests. I wouldn’t have survived this period without the help and support of my mum, my in-laws and good friends.

  • The first few months at home were very lonely and isolating. I couldn’t drive (you have to surrender your driving licence after a head injury) and couldn’t walk unaided and was stuck at home with two preschool children, not knowing if I’d ever be able to work again and all the financial worries that come with that. My mental health went downhill during this time.

  • Through all this, I was continuing to get stronger physically and was able to walk unaided a few months later. The fatigue was getting more manageable and on the whole, my memory was improving, and I was learning techniques to manage it.

  • By far the toughest thing to recover from and come to terms with where the effects of the brain injuries mentally.

  • The type of brain injuries I suffer typically affect cognitive, emotional and behavioural changes. I found planning and organising things that I had done with ease in the past, were now much harder. I became easily irritated by noises, temperature changes and touch. To this day my short-term memory is not as good as it use to be (my girlfriend’s nickname for me is Dory) 

  • The biggest change was in my personality I have become far more outspoken and assertive or more argumentative (depending on who you ask?) Whether it’s the head injury or surviving what I have done that I have a much more determined need to want to enjoy the moment, to collect memories and not things. This has meant that I am not always great with money, as I believe in living for the day.

  • By the end of 2012 I had started back at work. I have no visible injuries or scars, so to most people, I appeared to be back to normal. However, things inside my head were very different.

  • The head injury affected my personality in more ways than I had realised. One of my earliest hazy conscious thoughts, waking up in a hospital ward was telling. I can remember opening my eyes and looking around, I was in a four-bed bay with three other women. As I was on a neuro ward, one lady had a bandage on her head, on had a shaved head from brain surgery, we were all in tracksuit bottoms and vest tops (the ward was really hot despite it being the beginning of March) The facts I kept being told after having my ‘neuro obs’ must have been starting to sinking in? I remember thinking (in what I believed was a logical way?) “remember it’s not 1978, its 2012’ and ‘these days they probably have extra wards, not just MALE/FEMALE, they have GAY/LESBIAN ones too’.

  • I remember the realisation that that meant I was on the lesbian ward, but calmly thinking that was fine, “I’ll just have to tell people I’m gay now?!”

  • I didn’t tell anyone about that for a long time. I was constantly being told by the doctors, nurses and therapists that I was a mum to my two girls, I was married, I was a Biomedical Scientist and I lived in a nice house in a nice area. I also remember after one of my home visits before I was discharged, thinking ‘why did I choose this life?’ What was I thinking getting married at 27? 

  • I continued my rehabilitation at home, with hydrotherapy and physiotherapy in the community. It was improving my strength and confidence and my pain was reducing. Counselling was helping me come to terms with most aspects of the mental injuries from my accident.

  • I would tell myself that if I kept ‘trying’ to be the person I was before the accident and practised this, that eventually everything would fall into place. I would go back to being the person I was before the accident and the doubts I had about my sexuality would disappear.

  • The reality was that the love that I innately had for my children, that almost instantly returned, never did for my husband. For the next few years we both tried to make it work, the girls had already been through so much, my husband had been through much and supported me through everything, I felt I needed to try and keep the family together. 

  • The car accident wasn’t fair on anyone, I had changed, I wasn’t the woman he had married. It was exhausting trying to be someone I use to be and feeling like I was constantly disappointing people because I had changed. Sadly, our marriage ended three years ago.

  • I started to build my life again. I needed to find my identity, not a shadow of who I use to be.

  • I needed to live a way that made me happy.

  • I decided I needed to explore my sexuality. This was the scariest thing I have ever done; I was terrified of how people would react. It’s not been easy at all, I’ve lost some people I thought were friends, but on the whole, those who mean the most to me have blown me away with their acceptance and support. They can see how much happier and content I am with life.

  • I went for my first date with my now fiancée, on 30th December 2016 and life hasn’t been the same since. Four months after we got together my father sadly passed away. She was my rock during this time, she moved in for a week, cooked for me (and my mum) looked after me and let me grieve for my Dad. I already knew but this confirmed for me she was a keeper.

  • She loves me for me, warts and all, she helps me be the best version of me. She is my soul mate and I can not imagine life without her.

  • Our family, me with and the girls, her and her boys are perfectly dysfunctional and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

  • Whilst I wouldn’t choose to put my family through what they had to endure throughout my accident and recovery, I feel so fortunate that it happened to me. I have been given a second chance at life. It has taken time and resilience to learn to accept and embrace the new, improved version of me, I have learnt to love her and started to believe other people can love her too….my beautiful trauma.

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1 Comment

  • Reply Hannah November 26, 2019 at 7:29 pm

    Wow what a hugely brave lady. Inspiring but scary story, reminds you to love in the moment. All the best for the future my dear xx

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