6 Years Later: A Diary of Trauma


Today marks the date of July 7. To most people, it’s just another day that come and goes; however, to me, it’s a day that brings back the worst memories and feelings I have ever experienced. Two months after I turned 16, I was involved in a car accident that still affects me exactly 6 years later. I was left fighting for my life in the Intensive Care Unit in Kingston General Hospital, unsure where I’d end up or if I’d even live through it. Many things were unknown to me back then. Every day was a struggle to wake up and face what could have been. Beyond the bowel resections, abdominal reconstruction, and wound packing, my mind was the most damaged. You can only heal so fast, and I wish I would’ve known that back then.

Dealing with trauma is a funny yet terrifying thing. As soon as you think you’re over something, your heart will activate and suddenly you’re crying in the passenger seat because the car stopped too sharply at a stop sign. There isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t think about what I went through. Every July 7th for me is a badge that I receive.  At 4:30pm I look down at my phone or watch and think “it’s happening.” In that moment I’m taken back to where I used to be. I’m left wishing I could say bye to my mom and dad, to tell my cousins I’ll miss them, and to tell my friends they were pretty great people. The scariest thing, though, is realizing I was holding onto life not being who I really was. I wasn’t fulfilled and I was dying empty.


Fast forward through procedures, mini surgeries, and having an open wound for the past 3 years that won’t close, I’m probably the most depressed I’ve ever been. 2011, 2012, and 2013 were strong periods of growth for me and I wouldn’t have become as strong as I am today if I didn’t go through the feelings I felt back then. I felt like I wasn’t getting anywhere with healing. Physically, I became stronger. I was able to walk but was still in immense pain. Staying back a year in high school to finish because I was a part-time student was even worse. The Emergency Room visits filled my veins with Dilaudid and the Gravol made me look up to the ceiling wishing things were different. I had a lot of time to myself and my mom always made sure that I was doing something I liked to keep my head out of despair. My proudest moment so far is graduating high school in 2014. I know it sounds dumb, but when you don’t think that you’ll live as long as being able to do anything a normal teenager would do, it definitely means the world.


The pinnacle of independence comes with university and I wasted no time getting into it. While recovering, I kept a goal in mind and this goal gave me the ambition to keep moving forward no matter how scary things got for me. Even though hospital visits and deteriorating health made me drop course loads and become a part-time student, I was and still am determined to graduate. The people I’ve met have helped me become stronger and my desire to learn keeps me afloat during difficult times. The illusion that I can be “somewhat” normal and be a student and eventually be able to move out gives me so much strength. In May of 2016, I finally have a big surgery that ends up helping a lot and it went the best it could go. I end up with no colostomy bag. In 2016, love trumps trauma and I’m surrounded with interests and passions that can finally make me smile for real.


In the here and now, I’m alive and I still have my mom’s eyes. They’ve seen enough to make me into someone strong who can survive anything life throws at me. Since the accident, there is only before and after. In 2011, a part of me died the second two cars went head-to-head. My childhood, my innocence, and who I could have been disappeared the second the seat belt tore into my body. On July 7, 2011, the old Jesse I thought I knew so well was forced to turn into someone who could constantly fight for survival every second of the day and show no signs of giving up. I think that’s the key concept here: I couldn’t give up. My support system, my future, my goals… these are the things that encouraged me to live up to my full potential, no matter how disabled it may be or how much help I may need. The health problems I still face daily are a detriment, but the help I have makes it bearable.

On July 7, 2017, I am someone who I wanted to be. I am someone who I wanted to turn into. Unfortunately, trauma does not change. You have to live with it at the same level for the rest of your life. Even though there isn’t a successful way to make your PTSD or anxiety completely disappear; you as a person are more than capable of change.

Over time, my mental wounds have flexed and bent into foundations where I now walk. My stomach still hurts and I still swallow morphine like vitamins but I am alive and ready to face each July 7 with balance and love. Today marks the date and I will not be deterred. The way I live with trauma is realizing every year that I once wanted what I have now.

Thank you to Jesse Lesniowski for sharing his story.

Jesse Lesniowski, a 22 year-old student at uOttawa in the Environmental Science program. Loves writing, gardening, coffee, wine and making new memories.

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