January 2020 Monica Chamberlain
January 13, 2020
Twenty-five years ago, on October 9, 1994, I had just started college and I was looking forward to the typical lifestyle all young adults think about when the worst day of my life happened. I didn’t realize this at the time, but I was in a domestic violence relationship and something as simple as jealousy almost cost me everything. It was my first relationship and we had been together since I was sixteen, and it introduced me to a whole new world. It was the experiences most teenagers at that age desire of hanging out with friends, falling in love, and gaining new-found independence. I felt like I belonged and it brought new friendships into my life, which increased my self-confidence. I was swept off my feet, pick-up lines and all, he always said the right things to make me feel special, and all I thought about was how good this felt. Due to this, I didn’t think the relationship would ever take the turn that it did.
On that night, I had gone out with my former classmates who were up from college, and he was waiting for me in the Kmart parking lot and he told me to get in with him. As he started driving, he was screaming at me, which he always did, accusing me of cheating on him, but this time was different. I don’t remember any of the details, but I was told by my roommate at the time, after he called her crying when I was in a coma, that my hand was apparently on the handle and I was begging and pleading with him to pull over and let me start walking. I knew friends would be on their way home and when they saw me, they could pick me up because I was terrified for my life. Before the car could come to a complete stop, I was pushed out of the moving vehicle and the next thing I knew was waking up in the hospital after being in a coma for 18 days. I was lucky enough to be alive, not be paralyzed, or even have broken bone after he had picked me up, put me in his truck and drove me to the hospital. Due to this, he had to explain to the police what happened, and he was charged for another OUI, but never anything else because even to this day he says that I jumped out. My doctors were uncertain of the prognosis or even if I would survive. My family never did pursue legal actions against him.
Recovery was a very long road because I had to relearn all the basic living skills including walking, talking, and eating. Everything I was able to do independently before, I now couldn’t do any longer. I was never able to be alone, especially due to seizures that were occurring because of the head injury. I was in the hospital for 2 ½ long months. They let me come home for Christmas, and then I went to two different rehab centers downstate for a few months each time. It was very difficult being there, because I was away from my familiar surroundings. This is when I realized the impact of my memory impairment leading me to be highly emotional and not wanting to accept my new life circumstances. I also started having nightmares and other PTSD behaviors, however, ironically at times I was grateful for the nightmares because they helped me recall some details of that night. I always made sure to write about the nightmares after they occurred, in order to remember.
Today, I feel the best and stronger than ever since my high school years. For the first time in my life, I feel proud of myself and all I have been able to accomplish. Since the accident, I’ve always wondered what my purpose in life is. Maybe it is to be there for others who have been through a similar experience or to share my story and have the ability to help others. I feel very lucky that the neurological operation I had was such a success and I was able to stop taking my seizure medications. I am focused on trying to take care of myself and am very grateful for who I am and all that I have, even though it is not much. I am very fortunate to have my own apartment, a car that I drive, and I am able to live independently.
One major setback in my life, not even 4 years ago, my mother passed away, which was the second toughest experience of my life. I feel so lost and alone without her because she was my best friend. To help dealing with the winter months, I enjoy volunteering at an elementary school and nursing homes. Being around both the children and the elderly is the best medicine. In honor of my mother I want to share that she was instrumental in my recovery and has always been a wonderful role model. Something I realized is how thankful I am for the area I live in, because I do feel the warmth from my community. Throughout my recovery, I have grown to appreciate all the love and support that has been fostered in this small town, which has helped me progress into the person I am. In my moments of weakness, my providers, family, and friends have carried me through, which continues to this day. I am grateful for my daily walks with my Mollie girl, which has been the best therapy of all. I also enjoy the ability to just look around at the beautiful nature that surrounds me. I know that I am blessed. I will leave you with one of my favorite sayings, even though I have many in my apartment that I look at daily.
“I am very grateful for who I am, what I have, even after what happened to me. I have been through a lot. I am a survivor. I am proud of myself. Look at me.”