I knew he wasn’t staying home when he pulled his travel mug out of the cupboard. I watched him from my place on the couch as he poured: coffee, cream, sugar. Each addition seemed to steal the air from my lungs. The two of us were thinking the same thing—dreading the same thing—but neither of us dared to say it out loud. Because maybe today would be different. Maybe today was the day we could get through it, and mentioning it would be the catalyst to bring our fears to fruition. So, we stayed quiet and let the room fill up with the sounds of feigned normalcy: our 19-month-old son narrating the Thomas & Friends episode that was playing on the television, the occasional newborn squeak from the bouncy chair in the corner, and the scraping of a metal spoon against stainless steel as my husband stirred his coffee.
How do you know it’s Autumn? Outside the changes are everywhere. Fall knows how to make an entrance with its vibrant colours, falling leaves and endless Pumpkin Patch This Way signs. And while I am one of those people with a deep-seated love for pumpkin spice and scarf weather, for me, the realization the season has changed is far more subtle than the altered landscape and seasonal menu at Starbucks. It’s in the air—and inside of me.
It caught my eye out the front window—an ambulance pulling in to the driveway across the street. My brain said trigger warning, but if you’re anything like me and possess an incessant curiosity, trigger warnings only work to peak your interest. So even though my reactions to ambulances haven’t been great—the worst being a full-blown panic attack after seeing one race down the road with its lights flashing and sirens blaring—I couldn’t look away. I thought let’s see what happens this time.
Most days I feel like I have found my place. I have purpose, independence and feel grounded in my sense of self which reaches far beyond the simple terms of mother, wife and paraplegic. I find safety in our routines and notice that I laugh far more often than I cry. My injury, like everything else, exists only as a part of me and I venture through the days and weeks much like anyone else. It’s as though I’m following a trail through the forest, not quite sure where it leads but enjoying it knowing I will come out the other side. Then there are days where I reach a breaking point. The days where I take a wrong turn and lose sight of the trail. My injury fuels my anxiety until I’ve blurred my reality enough to believe that without it I would never have to deal with anything difficult. And that is when I struggle to see anything except my injury; That is when I struggle to get out of bed.
There is a quiet knock on my door. I convince myself it’s nothing even though I know you’re out there. But, you see, you’re very controlling and the last time you came in it took me years to fully recover. I’m going to try and ignore you – pretend you don’t exist – but I’ve dealt with you enough times to know you don’t leave on your own accord and will manipulate me until I take a stand. Even from the outside you have begun to entangle me in your own version of my reality.