Darkness Into Light

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When a blogger disappears if you’ve been reading them for any length of time you notice when they’re gone especially if they just drop out of sight without warning.

But when it happens slowly over time with posts becoming less frequent, you may not even realize they are gone until one day you can’t remember the last time you saw a post of theirs pop into your inbox or show up on your reader list with something new.

I have watched that happen to quite a few bloggers and a couple of years ago, I joined those  who slipped away with barely a word of explanation.

So here it is.

I went through a phase where every time I sat down to write I would have a series of thoughts running through my head that were not very positive, things such as who really wants to read this stuff, there’s so much out there being said, why waste time on my blog, what’s the point anyway … and loads of other negative self talk.

I had been feeling a bit of this before our car accident in early 2013 when we were hit by a drunk driver in Wales and afterward it grew like an unchecked water leak leaving a dark stain over everything. My sense of security was severely affected by an event out of our control and became disinterested in things I had enjoyed and I could not find my way back to something that had once given me a lot of pleasure.

I dipped my toe back in the water a couple of times only to shake off the possibility of writing here again by distracting myself with something else, usually something sugary that only made me feel worse.

My post accident neck pain got worse rather than better and I began to have severe and debilitating hand cramping with such frequency and intensity that I found myself Googling motor neuron disease and other scary topics.

I never considered that the initial diagnosis of whiplash would turn out to be two ruptured discs or that my growing desire to isolate and withdraw from activities I once enjoyed would lead to a PTSD diagnosis. After an MRI and several talks with surgeons along with two clinical psychologists who shared the same PTSD opinion, I had more insight into why so many parts of my life were affected.

Having reread the above, I feel like deleting the whole post as it seems like one big  “poor me ” moan which is not really my intention. I share it not only as an explanation for my absence, but also in hopes that it might help someone else who like me doesn’t see a problem until it becomes life changing.

My neck and the limitations from the damage are what they are. I don’t expect to be able to do any rock climbing again and I can no longer hold my cello bow or do simple things such as moving hangers along the rack when shopping or blow drying my hair without resting when my hand spasms. The list is longer, but I won’t add to it here.

Additionally, there is always the chance that my right hand will go into spasm when driving the car for long and it can happen after only a few miles. While distracting, (think severe charlie horse in your hand) it becomes a big issue when driving a car with a manual transmission like we have because pulling over is tough with only one working hand. I’ve found ways to hold the steering wheel so it puts less pressure on my neck and now it happens less often when I drive, but I’m never sure when it will occur.

I’ve also found ways to do some of other activities that were affected by the accident and have been trying to move forward, but last December when I realized that I was going to have to let go of the idea of ever being back to normal, I did go through a bit of grieving. Saying goodbye to things you enjoy because someone decided to drink and drive still makes me angry. People say, ” At least you were not killed or seriously injured … ” and yes, I am certainly grateful for that, but make no mistake this accident was caused by the selfish act of one person. It has had a lasting impact on my quality of life and I’m not over it!

In a few weeks I will be in America seeing my stateside family and friends and when I return I will be starting a 12 week course of treatment that has had good success with people suffering from PTSD. I had not heard of this type of therapy before the accident and I’m keen to try it.

EMDR : Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing is a fairly new, nontraditional form of psychotherapy that has been useful in treating post-tramatic stress disorder seen after military combat experiences, physical assault or car accidents.

According to WebMD,  it is sometimes used experimentally to treat:

  • Panic attacks
  • Eating disorders
  • Addictions
  • Anxiety, such as discomfort with public speaking or dental procedues.

Knowing there is something I can do to try to eliminate the anxiety I feel as a passenger or  when driving, particularly when on two lane roads helps me feel more consistently positive again, which is my normal state. I will probably do an update on this subject sometime in the new year when I’ve had the recommended 12 sessions. Wish me luck and I promise not to abandon GOTJ without warning again. My plan for posting is to aim for two posts a week and go from there in frequency.

Thanks for still being there and please say hello in a comment if you feel like it.

Sleeping For England Or Taking A Break?

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I would not want you to think that I have been sleeping my life away during my absence from my blog, but the last year or so has certainly been one with major blank spaces with regard to blogging, writing in general, and to some extent, my photography.

This photo of me napping under the MacKenzie plaid (one of my family lines) was taken last week after being in the US for two months. I don’t usually suffer from jet lag when flying back to the UK from my family home in Atlanta, but I have enjoyed a short, early evening nap most days since being met by my husband, John at Heathrow last Wednesday.

I have never been a big sleeper. Five hours a night is my normal, but over the past 18 months my normal has been way off.

I’m the sort who tends to tough things out, pushing myself to get things done even if the activity seems overwhelming and when I fall short or I’m disappointed in the outcome, I have trouble letting it go.

The last 18 months have been a lesson in letting go.

After writing over 600 blog posts, I kind of lost my drive (no pun intended) after our near head-on collision with a drunk driver in Wales. I’ve had increasing problems with my neck and hands since the accident which has affected my ability to do normal activities without numbness and pain. What was supposed to get better with time has not and my GP has ordered an MRI to see if something needs sorting in my neck.

Added to that, a shocking revelation about someone who had been our friend and neighbor sent me right round the bend about 8 months ago which made us briefly consider leaving the village we call home. The two events together made me want to withdraw from a lot of things I had enjoyed and even easy interactions became an effort.

Finally, I’ve hit a wall where I have grown tired of filtering certain aspects of my story but have not been able to figure out how to say what needs to be said without freaking out some of the people I love.

I know I have an amazing life so please don’t think I am ungrateful or having a big moan, I just wanted to give friends and readers who may have wondered, a little explanation.

I don’t have answers to most of what I have mentioned, but I am going to get off the couch and see where some forward movement takes me.

If you’re still reading GOTJ after my time away, please drop me a comment and say hello.

Catching Your Death

Angel Gravestone, St Willow  Cornwall, Photo Credit, Elizabeth HarperDuring my teen years I was always being told to put on a coat because like most young people, I almost never wore one when I was going out. No amount of wheedling or the many times I heard, ” You’ll catch your death,”  had any impact and my coatless habit continued into adulthood until six years ago when I moved to England.

Living in a place where the weather can change in minutes and we walk more most days than we drive, I quickly learned that a good coat particularly one that is waterproof is as necessary as a decent pair of wellies when you live in a place where you may get your feet wet even on a dry day.

I know that one doesn’t catch cold from getting caught in the rain, but after our day out with friends I woke up with a sore throat that turned into a nasty head and chest cold. I’d intended to post some photos from our Monday walk on Tuesday, but today is the first day I’ve felt up to it.

The funny thing about getting sick after getting a good drenching is that I was actually wearing a coat.

Even with the rain we had a great time out on our first coast path walk with Cathy and John who live within walking distance of our house. We’ve known them since we met in the village pub on quiz night about five years ago and we finally made a date to do a long walk. Monday was actually a second date as our first choice was rained out. The weather was supposed to be iffy, but having changed the date once we decided to risk it.

After a hearty lunch in Polruan, we felt sufficiently full of carbs to combat the grey sky and the rain that was beginning to sprinkle so we headed briskly out of the village.

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Here’s one of ‘my John’ with Cathy. Notice how John has only the beginnings of a beard … he shaved it off for the bare-faced selfie drive a few weeks ago to raise money for Breast Cancer research.

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Once we walked into Polruan for lunch there was nothing we could do but walk back in the rain. We made the best of it laughing and  joking that Cathy and John would never come back out with us if this was our idea of a good time.

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I asked Cathy’s permission before posting these two photos of her. I thought they were too cute not to so I’m glad she was a good sport. She was not expecting to be slip sliding up and down the coast so her boots were not the best on the muddy path and she had to do a balancing act to get up the hill near Lantic Bay. I like her technique.

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Here we are at the top of a steep and slippery, long hill. Once we reached this point we were only a few fields away from the place where left the car and the relief is showing on our wet faces. John and I don’t usually do long walks in the wind and rain especially along the coast so this was really a first for us. (John said to speak for myself regarding this being a first, but it was a first for us together on the coast path)

The next time we go back with Cathy and John we’ll aim for a sunny day, but only after I shake off this cold and consider a better coat.

How about you … have you done any weather be damned activities lately?

Going Bare To Raise Money For Breast Cancer Awareness & Research

Makeup Free E For Cancer Awareness

When I noticed some of my friends were raising money and awareness for breast cancer research on Facebook this morning by posting makeup free selfies, I had a little moan to my husband about how much I dislike things like this because I feel obligated to participate. Friends link to other friends suggesting they post a selfie too and off it goes spreading faster than a forest fire in a California drought.

Sure enough, it didn’t take long for a link to show up in my inbox with my name on it and you can see the result. I only deliberated about a half second  before snapping my makeup free face and posting it. Grumbling aside, my uncle died from breast cancer and I know some women who were left motherless and who lost sisters and aunts due to breast cancer, so if I can help spread the word and raise a little money with 15 minutes of my time and an easy online donation, I’m going to do it.

I still think it’s kind of silly, but it was fun too and it is for a good cause so if a ‘go bare’ request pops up on your Facebook page, I hope you’ll consider it even if you, like me, have to have a little moan about it first.

It must be working because according to this article over 800,000 donations have been received in the last 24 hours.

I know we are all thinking and talking about the big picture with these little selfies we’re posting, but don’t forget to check your own breasts regularly and talk about breast health with your friends and family.

That goes for the men in your life too.

The Last Photographs Of My Life … Not Yet

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Multi-Car Accident on A40 in Slebech, Wales ( I took this from inside the ambulance. The blue van in the middle of the road is the one that hit us. She also hit the car to the left, near the sign.)

Four days ago my husband John and I were hit by a woman in a van. It was 2:20 in the afternoon on a Friday in Wales.

The driver was drunk … almost twice the legal limit.

She drove head-on into our lane and only John’s quick reactions saved us from something that could have been very ugly. I don’t know why she made the decision to drink and drive or why she felt it necessary to try to pass a delivery truck on a crowded two-lane road after having had the equivalent of four pints of beer, but she did.

None of the cars were moving slowly although 40 to 45 miles an hour may sound slow to those used to higher speeds on major roads. I imagine the drunk driver was also accelerating when she pulled out from behind the large truck that witnesses said she’d been trying to overtake for a while before reaching us. They said it almost looked as if she had someone else in the car jerking the wheel back several times before she drove into our lane.

I looked up from a book I was reading when I felt John shift suddenly and saw the van coming at us, his quick response moved us to the edge of the road or what they call ‘the verge’ here. She hit the side mirror before striking the back side car near the tire which caused our car to go into a spin. We left the road temporarily while spinning … moving through the grass and mud before going back into the road and coming to rest across both lanes.

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We were traveling in the opposite direction of how the car is facing in this photo.

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The blue van in the middle of the road in the distance is the one that caused the accident. She also hit the car near the sign to left in the photo. You can see the grass we brought with us after spinning through it. The white car was behind us and stopped to help. (That’s our tire jack on the right … it flew out during the spin. We lost a big suspension coil as well)

Knowing there were other cars traveling in both lanes, I expected to feel the impact of more cars even after we stopped moving, but all was still afterwards except for the sound of my own coughing. As the dust from four airbags cleared, I knew I was unharmed, but I had to force myself to look at John because I knew his side of the car had taken the hit.

I was afraid to look for fear of what I might see.

Seeing him unharmed except for a bit of blood on his lip was unbelievable given the wild ride we’d just experienced and before we could say more than, ‘Are you alright,’ we heard a man yelling, ‘ Get out of the car, get out of the car!’ It turns out having four airbags going off at once can give an impression of a car filling with smoke and as we jumped out I didn’t know whether the car was on fire or about to be hit by something larger.

Having my camera in my lap at the time of impact proved useful and I snapped a few photos before a mad adrenalin rush and uncontrollable shaking had me sitting in an ambulance being evaluated. I took a few more photos from a sitting position inside the boxy vehicle which is larger than most American ones.

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My window to the world from inside a Welsh ambulance (enlarge to see the Welsh writing on the wall.)

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After hitting us and the delivery truck she was trying to pass, she hit the wall to the right and scraped the road. Somewhere during her out of control ride, she also hit the white car on the left side of the road too.

My title would suggest these were the last photographs I was referring to, but at then end of our day after being released from the hospital and having arrived by taxi at our B&B for the night, I was going over my photos when I came to those I’d shot less than an hour before the crash occurred.

I told John as I flipped through them that had things not gone as they had, someone else might be looking at the last photographs of my life … my final view.

These are some of those images.

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I don't usually take photos that include the car, but I liked the cloud's reflection in the hood.

I don’t usually take photos that include the car, but I liked the cloud’s reflection in the hood.

My Last Photo ... Not Yet

My Last Photo … Not Yet

The photo above of the rider-less horse … is the very last one I took before the crash occurred. The rider had dismounted just before I took this shot.

Big big thanks for all of the kind thoughts from our Facebook friends. You heard first about our encounter with the drunk driver and your supportive comments were very much appreciated.

Safer In the UK – One American Mother’s Perspective On Gun Control

Mountain View Elementary School (Internet Photo)

Mountain View Elementary School (Internet Photo)

Few things were certain for me in my early years, but some things were absolute.

School was my safe place, home was not.

Watching the news yesterday as the reports came in of the murdered children and adults in a Connecticut school, I could not help but flash back to the shootings at Virginia Tech in 2007, where my daughter was a student at the time.

I wonder how the recent mass shootings affect her, but I don’t know because she doesn’t talk about it.

My husband, John and I spend a fair amount of time talking about gun laws in the US and the UK. Having lived in the UK since 2008, our conversations are different from when I first moved to Cornwall. While it’s based more on how I feel here than the statistics John has quoted, it’s difficult to argue with the facts.

John frequently cites the numbers of gun deaths in the US. It used to annoy me, but having lived in a place now where I feel safer because guns are so restricted, I wish I could have the same relaxed attitude when I’m in the US.

I kept a .22 revolver for years in my home in the US. It was an old family pistol that my dad gave me and it made me feel safer. Unlike some of my handgun owning friends, I had weapons training in the military firing M16 semi-automatic rifles, and a M60 machine gun. Additionally, I’d had some experience with handguns as well.

I always recognized how deadly guns could be, but felt the risk necessary to ensure my daughter and I were safe if someone tried to break into our home and cause us harm. My gun was meant for protection at home which is the argument most Americans make when people talk about new laws intent on restricting their ability to own handguns.

Statistics still show that most gun deaths occur in the home with family members killing those they once wished to protect, a reality that makes the protection at home reason more difficult to justify. While the right to bear arms may be protected by the constitution, it has long been one with frequently deadly effects.

Here’s something for gun enthusiasts in the US to consider. The most recent figures I’ve been able to find show 87 people die each day in the US from gun related injuries while in the UK, only 58 die each year. It’s difficult to argue with those kind of numbers.

87 Deaths A Day versus 58 Per YearI feel safer living in the UK. I never ever worry about being held up at gunpoint or shot while shopping at the mall. Church is still a place of sanctuary and while I might get a rude gesture by someone with road rage, I know I won’t get shot. I could go on listing … public transport, movie theaters, and University campuses, but I think you know where I’m going with this.

Britain didn’t wait for as many reasons to push for change … after the Dunblane massacre of sixteen elementary school children, they did what was needed to keep it from happening again.

The Brits I meet are always talking about the US and our need to have so many guns. They tend to make ‘Wild West’ jokes about it, but they’re not really trying to be funny. I think they’re shocked by how much Americans will sacrifice to carry guns, a question I’m beginning to consider now myself.

I’ve chosen to focus on change in this post because I can’t bear to think about any more sadness and loss. This year alone has had more mass shootings than I want to consider and the grief of the families who’ve lost those who were precious to them, breaks my heart.

The End Of The Tunnel – Health Care & Me

I thought I should check in to say I’m still here.

For over a week I have been really ill with a ferocious bug of some kind and yesterday, while the topic for many was the American presidential election, my communication with John was tight and short due to stomach pain so severe I actually suggested a trip to the hospital.

After John made a quick call to the doctor’s office, I was able to be seen within about an hour of his speaking with the receptionist. There is a nasty virus going around but my doctor is concerned this might be something more as it has gone on so long.

He’s doing some tests to rule out a few things and until the results come back I’ve been told to rest. Rest suits me and I’m content to not do anything more strenuous than a walk between the sofa, the bathroom, and bed.

Food causes a violent reaction so I’m eating little, but the medicine he prescribed yesterday helped ease my stomach pain.

Towards the end of the office visit, our conversation turned to the election and as you might think, American healthcare.

I think ‘appalling’ was the word he used to describe his thoughts as he talked about a country as large as the US with no basic health care available for all of its citizens and I have to agree.

I was grateful that insurance or money was not something I needed to consider while writhing in pain yesterday morning trying to decide if a trip to A&E (what the ER is called here) was in my future.

I wish that kind of peace of mind for all my friends and family in the US and I hope with President Obama’s re-election, our politicians in Washington can find a way to work together to ensure no one goes without health care.

It’s a scary thing to be ill and not have the resources to do anything about it.

Living in the UK, I’m fortunate that it is no longer a concern for me.