28: One Second Changed My Life Forever

28: One Second Changed My Life Forever

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Count Your Blessings

One Second Changed My Life Forever

One of the secrets of life is to make stepping stones out of stumbling blocks.
~Jack Penn

As a little girl, I dreamed of owning a ranch with horses and marrying a wonderful man. I never dreamed my world would come to a crashing halt after a traumatic brain injury. You see, I had to be a daredevil, riding the craziest horses, driving fast, always on the go. This time however, I pushed it too far. I had put a two-wheeled motorized scooter on the fastest setting I could. Next thing I knew, I was flying off the sidewalk. The machine had jumped the curb, hit the street and soared in the air with me still on it. Coming down, the machine was so heavy it thrust me head first onto the concrete street, cracking my head. Everything went twirling and into a blur; yet I didn’t pass out. I went into shock. Thinking “I’m tough,” I refused to go to the hospital. When I awoke the next day, I knew I was in trouble. When I spoke, I started with the end of the sentence and moved to the beginning of the sentence. My family rushed me to the emergency room, where they found a spot on my brain.

Sitting in the specialist’s office while the doctor told my fiancé that I was not the same person he fell in love with was hard. He said that both the front and back of my brain had serious damage. Because of the severity of the damage, he said, I would never be the engineer I had been. He urged me to find jobs that required only one task at a time. I actually believed him. Taking a leave of absence from work, I started rehab.

My fiancé married me anyway. I told him that I would try my best to get “me” back. We bought that ranch I had always dreamed of, with beautiful horses, and settled in.

At first, I seemed normal. You wouldn’t have noticed the subtle differences in my behavior unless you had lived with me. I “knew” without a shadow of doubt that I closed the horses’ gates so they wouldn’t get out. I saw myself actually closing the gates. A horse or two got out. You can guess who got in trouble. I knew I turned off the stove after cooking. I would talk about a memory and I would meld one from years before with one that happened recently. On it went. I soon found myself on my own because my husband would spend more time around friends and less with me.

I became suspicious of everyone. I thought people were talking about me, thinking I was weird, because that’s how I felt. What was worse was no one could tell I had anything wrong with me on the outside until, under pressure, I started to stutter. I would say sentences backwards, and they would get distressed looks on their faces.

I became self-conscious about everything I said and did. I began isolating myself from everyone, alone in the house or outside with the horses. Even my family did not know how to deal with me. I went from being well-liked to being cold and distant. I started crying all the time. I felt as though I had lost my mind. I didn’t understand what was happening to me. I was incredibly lonely and no one knew my pain.

As time passed, my husband and I fought constantly. I tried desperately to prove to him that I wasn’t lying about closing things, opening things, hiding things … you name it.

Not being able to handle it anymore, I said a prayer. “God, I know he didn’t know what he was getting into when he married me. Please tell me that I am not the lying person that he thinks I am. Tell me that I am worth something to someone, anyone, somewhere. Tell me that I am worth loving. Do you even care that I am literally stuck in here with my thoughts and I cannot get out? Do you see where I am? God, please save me and tell me what to do.”

Collapsing on the bed, I heard a little voice in my head that simply said, “I want you to leave. Just leave. I want you to leave.”

“But God, you don’t want us to leave a marriage!” I retorted.

“His heart is hard, and I want you to leave. You have friends and I will supply everything you need.”

“What friends?” No reply came.

There was no way I would leave without my horses. How could I afford to board huge animals on my minimum wage job? How would I pull this off? I decided it was better to obey and that is when the first miracle happened.

Old friends who I had distanced myself from a few years before offered to board my horses, free. That same day, another miracle occurred when an old colleague of mine said I could live with her for free until I got on my feet. Then, as if pre-planned, the third miracle arrived. Another old friend told me her husband was hiring at his office. The position was a perfect fit and paid more than enough for me to survive. Yes, just like that.

At my lowest point during this time, I had lost my dream home to foreclosure, been divorced, lost my stepdad to a rare disease, rushed to several hospitals for my mother’s weak heart, battled creditors, lost a few jobs due to “mistakes,” and I had put down my dear friend of more than fourteen years, my sweet dog, Nina.

Now, I manage an office. I successfully passed all four of the State Life and Health Insurance exams—which most people fail one or more times. My mom and I are best friends! I am at peace with myself while learning about the trials of head injuries and their impact on people’s lives.

It is amazing when everything falls into place once you are back on the track you started. I believe there is a place in you that can overcome obstacles you cannot see past. There is hope; there is a promise. It might take some time, but you will get there.

I sure did.

~Susie Dinsmore

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