She Inspires: How My Accident Saved My Life

I was eighteen when I left my home town. At that time I would do anything to leave the Southside of Chicago. I was going through a lot. When I was younger I always envisioned myself wealthy and successful, but my immediate family wasn’t on the same page. I was offered a job selling books and magazines door to door across the country and took the job. It was cool for me because I got a chance to meet so many different people and learn about diverse cultures.

While on the road, I had a couple of relationships, made lifelong friends, and made money. The latter was a terrible thing because I didn’t handle it well. Every time I got paid I would buy clothes and drugs. I took on the habit of taking ecstasy. I liked the way it made me feel, and the things it made me forget; like my rough childhood.

I went through everything from molestation, to being in a street gang from the age of 9, seeing family members on drugs and moving all over the city because of evictions. Using ecstasy became a coping mechanism; I was having fun with my coworkers, and enjoying life. Later down the road I noticed how much weight I was losing and because drug addiction is very high in my family, I made the decision to stop taking them.

Taking a Turn for the Worst

Photo Credit: Renee Walters

I started dating a guy, I had known about a year before, from working with the same company. I couldn’t call him a friend because he was so quiet and never hung out with my friends and I. But, we were affiliated with the same street gang so I guess that’s where we kind of bonded.  He also got a chance to see my wild side which later caused problems for me.

Our relationship started off great he was so nice, respectful and very helpful. I got him into taking pills, and that’s when I started to see a side of him I didn’t like. He became very temperamental, angry, and then shortly after the hitting started.

The first time he got physical he choked me. I can’t remember what I said or did but I remember us being in the bathroom and his hand around my throat. He cried to me after, saying how sorry he was and that he would never do it again. I think it was the tears that made me believe him; it only got worse after that. I had to walk on egg shells around him, any little thing set him off.

One day I don’t remember what I said but it lead to a big fight and I tried to stab him with a pair of scissors. He ended up getting fired for that, and moved to Atlanta. I had lost all my friends. They couldn’t understand why I chose to stay with him. They felt I was weak, but they didn’t understand the mind games he would play. So, I moved to Atlanta to be with him months later.

He promised the abuse would stop but it didn’t.  One day I ended up with a black eye and one of my supervisors at my new job saw me. She said “you are too pretty to be letting this man hit you”. That conversation really resonated with me because she was a couple years younger than me, and didn’t judge me. He worked nights, so I waited until he was gone and left in the middle of the night to a women’s abuse shelter.

While going through that my self-esteem was very low and I never got a chance to heal properly from that experience. I believe that’s why I allowed so much to go on in my next relationship. I thought this new guy was different. He sent me flowers to my workplace and text messages throughout the day; I thought I was in love. Once he and his three year old daughter moved in with me, things changed.  He wasn’t affectionate. When we were newly dating I thought he was being gentle but there was no affection at all unless we were being intimate. I put up with it because I liked the fact that I was in a somewhat normal relationship.

The Unexpected

Then I ended up pregnant.  Even though I was no longer happy in the relationship, I stayed because I wanted my son to live a life of normalcy- something I didn’t have. After 8 years of an unhappy relationship, a relationship built on convenience, I decided to leave.

On September 15th, 2013 two months after we broke up I sustained a spinal cord injury. I went to his mother’s house to get my belongings out of her attic. The attic floor gave way and I fell 15 feet through the ceiling and on to the floor. I was rushed to the trauma center and was told by the surgeon I’d never walk again.

I looked that surgeon in his eyes and told him “I can’t let you predict the rest of my life like that, I will walk again”. My son was six years old at the time and I couldn’t imagine his life being altered because he had to help take care of me. Thinking of all the other things I loved to do, like traveling, I couldn’t let anything hold me back. After my hospital discharge, I was in rehabilitation at The Shepherd Center for four months and had to go to therapy every day.

Renee participating in Therapy in Rehab

 

Eight months after my accident, I was walking unassisted. Two months later I met the man of my dreams.

After going through everything I went through, I knew I wanted a best friend in my mate.  I wanted someone who could love me for me.  Someone I could talk to about anything. I wanted a genuine relationship centered on love, and that’s exactly what I got. I told him everything I went through and he was so patient, caring and really loving. I think it’s because he was looking for the same. We got married July 1st 2017.

Photo Credit: Sonnys Designs Photography, Atlanta, Georgia

“Not all bad things are meant to hurt us, sometimes it’s just an eye opener.”

This journey has taught me three things:

  1. Whatever it is you want, go for it, do not settle! That goes for relationships, employment, and life.
  2. If you want better you can have it.
  3. Don’t let people predict your life you are in control!

It took a lot for me to get to this point because I was angry and felt my accident was punishment for all the bad things I did. But, it saved my life. After my breakup I saw myself going down a different path, as well as reconciliation with my son’s father. I felt like God had to stop me someway somehow. Not all bad things are meant to hurt us, sometimes it’s just an eye opener. God opened my eyes at the perfect time. For anyone going through something, pray about it, talk to God. He only gives the toughest battles to His strongest soldiers, so please don’t give up. If I found happiness anyone can.

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