Earlier this month I was involved in a fairly serious accident while playing basketball at my local gym. The player, who I actually do not know, went up for a shot and I was unfortunately too close – expecting a rebound opportunity. Three days ago I had surgery to repair the two facial fractures that had resulted in that unfortunate collision.
In some strange way, time seemed to slow down just milliseconds before the impact occurred. My mind told me that I was truly in the wrong place at the wrong time. The resulting impact was perhaps the most pain I’ve experienced to date – and it’s one limit that I would rather not exceed anytime soon. Immediately following the collision I knew something was truly wrong. My jaw – actually my entire face – felt like it had shifted. Something inside my face had moved out of place.
Once I was able to walk off the court, my fears slowly creeped in and by the time I had left the gym I was in tears – not because I was in pain (amazingly), but because I was afraid and very much alone. Those feelings quickly escalated once I made it to a local medical center to have my injuries looked after. I was unable to speak to the receptionist and tried desperately to get my feelings stabilized. Feelings of strength and confidence can be quickly erased when trauma occurs, and this was proof positive of that.
Soon after being looked after and an X-ray taken, I went to the emergency room for a CT scan (computed tomography). It was here where my mind transitioned into another place – a place where my situation became less about my fears and more about the technologies that would help diagnose my condition.
As I was rolled into the CT unit I focused my attention at the multitude of red lights that scanned over my face and the mechanisms that resided within the clear circular frame. I listened to the whirring of mechanical servos as the scan progressed and smelled the “magnetic” air that was a surprising byproduct of the procedure. While others can feel claustrophobic in such a machine, I felt strangely at peace. I was able to focus my attention outside of myself and into the overall experience.
When the day of surgery arrived, my anxiety was minimal to none. While I had my family’s support available to me, my mind was again placed outside of myself. My mind focused on the logistics of the pre-op room, the personalities of the nurses who interacted with me, the IV inserted into my arm, the layering of wavelengths that displayed on the screen above me, and the intermittent alarm when my respiration levels dropped below “normal.”
For some reason, I wanted (needed?) this medical team to remember me as someone who was thankful, cool under pressure and empathetic – qualities that I strive to possess but do not always achieve. I wanted to build perhaps the most important self-fulfilling prophecy of them all – a prophecy where feelings of positivity and confidence allow for a speedy recovery.
By its very nature, trauma forces the inflicted to slow down and process thoughts with greater intensity and focus. Slowing down allowed me to step outside of my current reality and find ways to stabilize my emotions in a way that was natural for me. Being able to find and fabricate a temporal world where I was able to gain some emotional and physiological stability allowed me to gain the strength I needed to move beyond this accident and procedure in a positive and constructive way.