Updated: Jul 1, 2019
So, earlier this year I outed my deepest and most personal "secret" in a blog called Defining Moments.
It was about the fact that I had survived a horrific car crash that took the life of my friend Dawn and left my then-boyfriend Steve in a coma for a while.
For those of you who have read the story, there are a few questions that haven't yet been answered.
Hopefully this blog will serve up the final words on that night and fill you in on the missing pieces that I haven't yet shared.
I'll start with the verdict.
The accident happened on 8 December 1989. It was a Friday night and as you already know, we had a head-on collision with a truck. There were four of us involved. My friend Dawn who died at the scene, my boyfriend Steve (who was driving) who suffered head injuries and was in a coma for a couple of months, and then there was the driver of the truck, and me.
As neither Dawn nor Steve could testify, and because there was a question as to whether Steve or the truck driver was potentially at fault, I was the only witness.
From memory, the inquest happened around April 1990, about 5 months after the crash.
I had already walked away from my relationship with Steve, had come out the other side of a nervous breakdown and was surviving as best I could. My dad and my friend Carol came with me to the courthouse.
As you can imagine, Steve's family would have been desperately troubled over this verdict as it could potentially throw their son under the spotlight and as far as they knew, maybe he was at fault. And what would that mean?
I was no longer in contact with them and you can read all about why in my blog Broken But Not Forever. Suffice to say, I wasn't exactly over the moon when I saw his dad and one of his uncles sitting outside the courtroom when I got there.
In fact, I wish the ground could have swallowed me up because it became another chance for his family to use me as a scapegoat and take a stab at me with their projected pain.
As I sat waiting to be called, Steve's dad came over to me.
"Why did you say you were travelling at 40 miles an hour?"
He had been given a copy of my statement (that had been taken a couple of days after the crash), and he was far from pleased with what I had said. Even though it was the truth.
I honestly don't remember what I said in response but I do remember feeling mentally bashed (once again), and totally appalled at his lack of respect, lack of compassion and basic lack of human spirit as he venomously spat his thinly-veiled accusation at me.
Like it was my fault his son was in a coma and that my friend was dead?
I don't think I need to tell you, his spiteful words didn't exactly help me feel better about an already stressful situation.
Thankfully it wasn't long before our case was up and I was called to the witness stand. Declaring my oath to tell the truth and nothing but, the judge proceeded to ask me a bunch of questions which I answered as authentically as I could remember.
The verdict was given almost instantly: Accident.
That's right. Neither Steve nor the truck driver were held accountable. The verdict was that the accident was exactly that: an accident.
As for Steve's health? I don't know the answer to that. I have never heard from him since. Bar one phone call a week after I left him there has been no contact. I heard that he suffers from epilepsy and walks with a slight limp, but that's hearsay and not something I can verify.
I did write him a letter about 4 years ago. I found an address for someone with the same name as him at an address that was in the vicinity of where we lived at the time. I never got a reply. But when you think about it, it took me 22 years to write that letter, so it could take 22 years for him to respond. If it even ever reached him. Which I guess I'll never know.
The final question that I may have left unanswered is about whether I've ever actually been in love since I walked away from my first love. I wrote in Life Sentence that I hadn't ever loved a man as wholly and completely as I loved Steve, and that's at least partially true.
However, just for the record, and to clear up any misunderstanding (especially for my exes…!), I should make it clear that yes, of course I have been in love since then. The point I was making is that I had come to realise that part of me had stayed locked in that situation. Until I saw it more clearly, which is why I wrote about it.
It's not that I've never loved anyone since then, but I had a definite sense that some part of me had been holding myself accountable for walking away, and I hadn't recognised it until last year when it was the 25th anniversary of the crash.
My writing about the Life Sentence wasn't so much to say that I have been a stone cold ice queen for 25 years, it was merely that I had come to a new level of understanding of who I am in relationships and that maybe, part of me had been holding back because the first time I'd fallen in love it all ended terribly. And that maybe a part of me had held on to that because I was scared to love at that deep level incase I ended up feeling as hurt as I had back then.
So, in order to set the record straight, I should acknowledge that I have been in love many times.
There was the sensitive musician who I had a 2-year relationship with when I was 21. I definitely loved him because I was distraught when he called it off. Then there was the DJ who stole my heart and who I reconnected with 15 years after our first fling. Still love him. And of course, my longest relationship – 9 years with the kooky creative who was a brilliant athlete and all-round funny guy. That was a love that had its own recipe and came to a natural end.
They're the ones I call my most important loves, but to be honest, I fall in love on some level all the time.
So my Life Sentence wasn't about never having loved since then, it was about having baggage that I hadn't fully let go of. Which as far as I can see, means not fully allowing myself to love in the way I did when I was 16 when life seemed so bright and full of promise.
Lucky for me, that baggage has been put down and I am now in a far more available position than I can ever remember.
Maybe this is where all of us arrive at some point? I don't know. But what I do know is that I feel different. More free and ready to dive in to new things without holding on to the unconscious belief that I still owe my ex for leaving him.
So there it is. The conclusion to my 25 years of unconscious "suffering".
Having been through such an awful experience as being involved in a fatal car accident it's worth saying that I believe the worst things that happen are truly our greatest gifts.
Losing people we love and being forced to get up and dust ourselves off when all we want to do is crumble and fall is one of life's most humbling yet empowering opportunities. And I'm glad I went through all of it. Because now I get to look back on past events and see how far I've come.
I can look through the window of the past and notice how strong those painful moments have made me. They provided me with a choice to grow and become a better person. And they have certainly made me more compassionate.
I hope you've enjoyed travelling that road with me as I relived the pain and unearthed those memories that, until writing this blog, had been stored in my cells, waiting to be set free.
Because now, I'm well and truly back on the road and loving every minute.
And I hope you are too.