Hi. If you are a family member , welcome. If you are my friend and I harassed you about reading this, welcome. If you don’t actually know me and are just curious about what the hell happened to me, welcome. I’m Amber. I’m writing this blog to help me muddle through the various adjustments to my new life I am currently dealing with, as well as hoping to lend some insight into my world for my more distant friends and relatives. For those of you who do not know me, something really awful happened to me almost exactly one year ago on March 13, 2016.
I was competing in a horse show in Thermal, CA when my horse and I took a fall during the jump off of our class. The footing was soft–too soft, and so my horse struggled to get his footing to stand back up. I broke both collarbones and a few vertebrae in my neck. In his struggle, he stepped on the back right corner of my skull, fracturing it in a number of places. This crushed my right internal carotid artery, leading me to have a stroke days later. The skull damage also led to the compression of my facial nerve, which is what brings me here to this blog.
For those of you who do not know, the facial nerve controls facial movement on one side (which is why we have two of them), and is what is affected in Bell’s Palsy. As you can imagine, damage to this nerve results in one-sided facial paralysis sometimes for life, and sometimes temporarily. Luckily for me it will be temporary, because my facial nerve was not severed, just smashed by a shard of bone. One of the things I have struggled with is my observation of how the people around me treat me differently as a result of this change; as I have mentioned before I am not a vain person, but there is a marked difference in how I am treated by others, and how I look at myself. I have had to find things I like about myself that have nothing to do with the way I look, which has been empowering but also more difficult that one would expect.
I am aware that if I didn’t want to be treated differently, I probably shouldn’t be advertising my accident. Duly noted, thank you for your concern, but I’m not going to walk around with a paper bag over my head for the next year so I am facing this (see what I did there) head-on. Now, if you are someone who has followed my progress and feels that I am maybe ‘milking’ or exploiting this situation that I am in, I encourage you to just for a moment imagine what this experience has been like for me: have you ever envied someone’s ability to drink a beer out of a bottle without dribbling some onto their chin? Or have you ever seriously admired an actress’ perfectly straight, scar-free collarbones? I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that you have not.
These examples are only a very small fraction of the thoughts that have flitted through my head this past year, and while there are a lot of struggles I have faced, there are also some bright spots. For example, this accident kind of jolted me into figuring out EXACTLY what I want to do with my life (or maybe 3 months in the hospital will make ANYONE want to be a doctor. Stay tuned on that one.) I have also learned the true power of a family coming together to help one another. Perhaps the most bittersweet, it showed me who my friends truly are. I know, I know I hate the cliche but I don’t know how else to put it. I feel like I have lost a lot of friends who initially didn’t know what to say, so they just kind of drifted away. This situation is just seriously shitty–there is nothing to say that will make this any less terrible. I get that. But the ones that tried to say something, those are the friends I will never forget.
Some of my very best friends have become even closer (if that’s possible); knowing that they were there for me when every day was a fight for my life is the most amazing feeling and nothing can take that away from me. For my friends reading this who feel like they stepped up; thank you. I cannot put into words what your support has done for me. For my friends that felt like they could have done better or weren’t there enough; I forgive you. I know that not everyone is good in a crisis, and it’s what you do to bridge the gap now that I’m most interested in.For my friends who don’t really care about any of this stuff I’m talking about, that’s fine. But I’m not the one still reading.
As I have said, I am not willing to be the only active half of any relationship but it’s not like I am writing anyone off here, I just need to see that I won’t be the only one trying to make it work. That being said, it’s not like I kept a list of who came to visit me and who didn’t while I was sick, but there are a handful of people that I never saw that I really missed.
That’s about all I can think of for now. I’m not sure how often I will update this thing, but I am thinking once a week is about all of the consistency that I can muster right about now. I will try to wrap things up every week with a grateful thought, so here is my first one: I just want to thank Suzanne Rico, an amazing family friend and seasoned, amazingly eloquent writer for encouraging me to do this, or at least get it started! I also want to thank my mom, dad, and brother for being there for me no matter what. And my grandpa for figuring out how to text just so you could keep in contact with me. And thank you to ALL of my awesome aunts (all bazillion of you), and thank you to my totally outnumbered uncles. And thank you to all of my amazing cousins. If I forgot you I promise it wasn’t on purpose. Can I still blame it on the brain damage? I know that this year has been a struggle for me, and I can’t begin to imagine how hard it is for you guys. So thank you. I love you!