I remember the moments, right before I felt the crushing impact of her car tire on the bones of my right foot.
Lightness and ease, shifting rapidly into a shattering, piercing, dark, terrorizing pain.
Committed to my transition into advanced-level yoga teaching, I had been anticipating this week-long Moksha Flow teacher training, for months.
I believed I was in good hands – getting picked up from the airport, by the woman running the training, the owner of the yoga studio, herself. I had spent $10,000 and 10,000 hours of diligent dedication to Moksha, consciously transitioning from my career in homeopathic medicine to the pursuit of yoga, movement, and meditation.
She was distracted. She was deep into conversation with her friend in the front seat. Did they forget I was there? Why didn’t they help me to put my suitcase in the car? Why didn’t she turn around to see if I was in the car, before she started driving?
It took less than ten seconds to change my entire life.
The impact of car, pummeling me to the ground. My head hitting the pavement just moments before I felt the excruciating pain of the massive tire of her grey Land Rover SUV. The weight of rubber, shattering my right foot, which has been turned sideways, on my impact with the ground.
Lightness, transitioning into shock, hysteria, fear, and terrorizing pain. The only words that came out of her mouth, were, “holy, f*&k, I ran over a trainee”. She didn’t say my name. She didn’t call an ambulance, or the police, or her car insurance. They scooped me up, and put me into the backseat of the SUV. I remember crying, telling them to drop me at the side of the road, so I could call my own ambulance. They sat in the front seat, and kept driving, talking about yoga.
When I finally arrived in emergency, they left. They left me alone at the hospital, 1,700 miles away from home.
Alone. Flashes of doctors moving quickly in and out of the room. An immediate emergency surgery was needed. Doses of morphine, ketamine & fentanyl, the doctors said. “Amnesia drugs, to it help you to forget the excruciating pain of having the bones in your foot, reset.”
The last thing I remember, is clutching my throat, and telling the doctors that I couldn’t breathe.
After two hours of terrorizing hallucinations, a rare reaction to the ketamine, I woke up, with doctors around my bed, telling me that “I had scared them”. I had stopped breathing. Alone.
This is what happens. What happened to me, in the hours, days, weeks, and months, following this accident. I lived alone. In an apartment, with stairs. After years of building a vibrant and bustling yoga career, my entire income and livelihood were dependent on the health and wellbeing of my physical body. I was in my prime years. My mid-thirties. I was single, and excited about the possibilities of travel that lay ahead. I loved dancing to dancehall and soca. I loved hiking and the warmth of white sand under my feet.
What happens to entrepreneurs, who live alone, and who’s ability to eat, to sleep, to have a safe place to live, depends on their ability to move their physical body?
A month later, I had a second surgery, to have external metal pins inserted into my foot. Five metal rods, protruding through my toes and horizontally across my foot, to hold what was left of my shattered bones in place.
The thing about accidents is that the trauma doesn’t end with the initial event.
It was a slow and heart wrenching process, to feel the muscles in my leg begin to atrophy. The violence incurred by one’s physical body is like a wave, rolling over you, again and again. There are invasions of skin and bone. Invasions of personal space. Metal rods jamming into your precious skin and bones. Heavy painkillers infiltrating your kidneys and liver. Nightmares and flashbacks inviting themselves into your thoughts and your dreams.
Many of the 12 months I was in a cast, ended with me, lying on my wooden floor, in tears. It was a learning process. Living alone, now on heavy doses of percosets, I learned how to navigate my space and my world, in a new way. I learned the true definition of perseverance and resilience.
I learned to become innovative.
My life became about healing. On the days when my arms were too exhausted to negotiate my small apartment or my slippery rain-soaked stairs on crutches, I carefully sat on the floor and used my arms to propel my body along. I eventually swallowed my pride enough to let my mum take me out for a few summer “walks” in a wheelchair. My family was, and continues to be, my greatest support team.
Months later, I started using a cane, to make my way to a physiotherapist. I have spent every dollar I could find, to attend healing appointments with chiropractors, osteopaths, massage therapists, acupuncturists, surgeons, doctors, energy healers, social workers and trauma therapists.
I’ve learned to ask for help, honestly, and to feel extreme gratitude for support that came from the most unlikely places.
The PTSD that comes in the form of flashbacks and nightmares is intense. I feel very grateful for the therapists and mentors who have sat with me, through hours of tears, to listen and to hear my story.
Functional movement has become the queen of my daily goals. I am no longer granted the luxury of simply waltzing into a yoga class for a few downward dogs, because I’ve “had a bad day”.
Three years later, yoga is no longer an easy refuge of healing for me. This has been a tragic reality to accept, after 20 years of immersing myself in this powerful form of movement.
I work hard, every single day, at my practice. And every day is different. Sometimes a yoga practice is filled with tears and resentment, being unable to bend my toes, to lunge, to jump, or to put weight on my right foot. Sometimes it’s filled with awe about the strength of my magical body. I’ve learned to be extremely aware, about who I train with, and who I practice with.
I learned to let go of self-judgement.
Cultivating self-worth as someone experiencing the financial and emotional impacts of trauma is a massive undertaking. Over the course of three years, I have had to sell my car, and put all of my belongings in storage. I’ve spent many thousands of dollars in medical appointments, casts, orthotics, supportive metal plates, and shoes that will allow me to walk. My evenings are spent sitting with my feet on circulation boosters, and in heated boots to minimize chronic and daily pain.
I’ve had to let go of the continual mathematics in my brain, calculating how many dollars I’ve spent on orthotic sandals, rather than a new yoga training, or a social media marketing plan, or a week-long tropical vacation.
Redefining the definitions of self-love and self-care have become my primary healers of trauma and loss.
I’ve had to accept, with some sadness, that I will never be the girl at a wedding in fancy heels or the woman running along the beach in bare feet. While these sound like small things, they are big. They are significant, because they represent the grander picture of choice and opportunity that feel stolen by someone outside of myself.
I have learned that self-worth isn’t dependent on my job title or my career.
The ability to feel like an independent female, is connected my capacity to create fulfilling work in this world, and again, I’ve had to redefine that narrative for myself.
At the end of the day, I can answer these questions – “have I been as kind and as generous as possible?”, “have I treated everyone that I know, with love and respect?”, “have I been able to cultivate dignity and grace in my life and work?” – with confidence and ease.
I have learned to be my own advocate.
One of my biggest life lessons, has been to understand that not everyone in yoga or meditation, automatically embodies love, kindness and compassion.
The sign on the door, outside her studio, “Metta Yoga” means “benevolence, loving-kindness, friendliness, amity, good will, and the intention to take an active interest in others.”
These are words. This is a title. This is a name.
True loving-kindness, happens in action.
Three years later, and she has never approached me with a genuine apology. She has never acknowledged her actions or her role in changing my life. I have never heard from her again. After a single phone call from the founders of Moksha, where they told me that my experience has propelled them to create a new “emergency protocol for their trainers” (they didn’t have one before?), I have never heard from them again. I have never heard from the yoga organization that I spent thousands of dollars to train with. Not a single phone call, to ask if I was okay, or if I needed support.
The pain of this betrayal has been agonizing. The emotional trauma of being left alone in the midst of the moments when I desperately needed to know that I wasn’t alone, has been one of the hardest realities to accept.
I’ve learned to absolutely trust my own intuition.
When someone or something doesn’t feel right, I listen to my instincts. I realize now, that I trusted women who deemed me as invisible from the moment we met. I didn’t realize it at the time, but, this was an indication of their limited capacity to offer love and support, in these post-accident years. I have left Moksha, which no longer feels like a safe space for me, and have become much more conscious about who I share my time with.
As women who are healing from generations of systemic and personal adversity, we have a voice that matters.
We are intelligent. We are brave. We are courageous. We have a story that needs to be told. Stories that remain stuck within your heart, can be an invisible barrier to moving forward.
There are women and men, who need to hear your words. The shortcomings of your oppressors are not your weight to carry. You are made for more.
Your strength is within your story. The words I live by.