DECEMBER 30, 2019
A stranger just walked up to me on the street and greeted me by name. He knew nothing of my accident and treated me as if I were the same person he remembers from a chance meeting in 2012. I don’t know how he recognized me from a fleeting glance at a distance, but said we pounded doors together for Obama in Pennsylvania and then recounted personal details of my life, making me feel violated when I already feel extremely vulnerable, especially as I have no recollection of any such encounter. I have bandages across my eye and forehead, a bulky hood drawn tight, thick scarf wrapped multiple times around my neck, and had just removed the large dark sunglasses which all make up the protective layers that make me feel more safe when out exposed in the world. I froze mid sidewalk as he came up to me from behind, gripping my mom’s forearm and digging my nails into my hand with alarming anxiety. He spoke and kept speaking, not meaning any harm, but repeatedly adding context and offering up information to try to jar a memory I cannot access or put my obviously nervous body and brain at ease, neither of which are able to reach a calm state. I tensely mumbled short responses, doing my best to deflect without exposing my stutter, shaking body, spasming eye (now spurred yet again), panicked mind or how desperately I needed to escape. He finally retreated. I didn’t even make it halfway down the block before the paralyzing fear overtook me entirely, collapsing weak, breathless and nauseous in tears into the arms of my loving mother, who was attempting to process just how devastating the seemingly harmless experience was for her daughter. I want to disappear. I want to scream. I want to hide. I want to never venture out again. I continue to push myself to do more, challenge my comfort levels, put myself out there, interact with others, but all proves impossibly difficult, especially when I simultaneously seek to be treated “normally” (aka not as an invalid, cripple or helpless child) though still clearly need special accommodations based on my traumatized and fragile state. I am not the woman he met (if we even met, which it seems we did, based on the strong impression he says I left and specific personal information he knew about my life) seven years ago, not the same Erin any of you know — and while I cannot expect people to know how to handle those troubling shifts and certainly do not wish to burden others with my harrowing post-accident complexities, I have definite needs that I must learn to express and communicate, to dear friends and strangers alike.