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Talking about my trauma

By Herminia Chow

Herminia Chow was able to graduate despite experiencing a life-changing setback when she was hit by a car.

People repeated the same phrases to me over and over again. 

You were lucky.

You’re young. 

You’ll be okay.

Up until that point, I was young and lucky and okay. But suddenly, I didn’t feel that way anymore. 

February 6, 2018 was supposed to be a normal Tuesday at school.

I was crossing the street on my way home, the same route as always, when I saw a car coming on my right. It wasn’t something I even thought about. A red light means the car is going to stop. It has to stop. 

But, the car hit me instead. 

I fell down hard. I felt pain, most notably in my right leg and left arm. I started crying and screaming. 

Soon after, I heard sirens in the background. The sounds of the sirens didn’t fade over time. They got louder and louder. Eventually, I registered that those sirens weren’t for anyone else. They were for me. 

Through the tears in my eyes, I could make out a police car and an ambulance. I saw officers and paramedics getting out of their vehicles. 

Two paramedics helped me onto an ambulance. They took me to the hospital where I spent four hours waiting and getting X-rays done.

In the days to follow, I was miserable. I would crouch down in the shower with tears running down my face, thinking that my life will never be the same again.

I carried this burden of trauma around with me everywhere I went. I couldn’t escape it or pretend like it didn’t exist. I could lie to everyone else but not to myself.

At the very least, I acknowledged that my pain was valid. I didn’t try to downplay my feelings. Rather than pretending I was doing fine, I let myself be upset and frustrated and angry. I wrote about how I felt, trying to put everything in my head into words on paper.

Still, I stopped worrying about the future because I was so focused on trying to get through each day. One long day at a time, one painful step at a time.

I grew up in a family where we didn’t talk much about our feelings. I spent my entire childhood never so much as uttering a word about my mental health to family members. I became good at keeping my emotions bottled up inside, not wanting to bother anyone else.

So I was taken aback when my mom asked me a question I never thought she would. 

“Do you need to see a therapist?”

I said no.

I wasn’t ready to share my experiences with a stranger. I was still trying to process everything that happened myself. I didn’t want to tell anyone anything. I hated the thought of being a burden to others.

So, I never saw a therapist. 

I didn’t understand trauma until I went through it. I had no idea how to talk about trauma. In some ways, I still don’t know how to talk about it.

Being hit by a car made me take a step back and re-evaluate my life. Suddenly, the things that used to matter so much, like getting an A on a test, weren’t so important. And the small things, like being able to dance without feeling any pain, meant the world to me. 

It should come as no surprise that my grades suffered. School wasn’t my first priority anymore. Taking care of my body and my brain was.

I often think if the driver was going any faster, if the road conditions were worse, if this or that, I might not even be here. Or I very well could’ve ended up in a wheelchair.

Nowadays, I’m struck by how much our lives can change in the blink of an eye. This one day changed all the days that came after it. Tomorrow isn’t a guarantee. Nothing is. 

For a while, I saw myself as a victim of a traumatic event. But now I see myself as a survivor. I survived. I’m still here, alive.

I was fortunate enough to be able to walk away. I almost didn’t come home that day. But I came home a different person. And despite my trauma, or maybe because of it, I’m a better human being now than I was before the incident.


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