Trigger warning for suicidality, depression.
When I was eight, my father took me sledding on the golf course in Watchung. It was a popular place to sled, and I jockeyed for a spot among dozens of other kids. Before my first descent, my dad reminded me that if I got hurt, I should wave my arms, and he would come to get me. I sledded without incident for over an hour. It was cold, and fast, and exciting. I got progressively bolder–running to beat other kids out of the best starting places, starting my sled first and then flinging myself onto it as it sped away. Then I got careless.
I’d gleefully hurled myself down what had looked like a fast, clear path, then noticed, too late to redirect, that I was headed directly for a sand pit. The sand pits were sand-filled depressions in the shape of rough circles, five feet deep and at least ten feet across. All the kids avoided these gaping holes in the hillside. They would interrupt your descent at best–at worst you’d slam into the hard, icy bottoms and break your leg as your sled skidded out from under you. Before I’d fully registered what was happening, I was sailing over the edge. I clung desperately to my sled, hoping I was going fast enough to make it across. No such luck. I landed with a resounding thump in the center of the pit floor, the iron runners of my sled crushing my wrists against the ice, backed by the full weight of my body. In shock, I lay half on my side at the bottom of the trap, the wind knocked out of me. I remembered that I was supposed to wave my arms. But I couldn’t move my arms. And my dad couldn’t see me in the pit. I knew I had to climb up the side of the sand trap and wait for my father to find me. But the sides were steep and icy, and I was hurt.
I gingerly tried moving my limbs. My legs were fine–only a little bruised. My neck was sore, but not badly injured. My arms didn’t hurt, but they were oddly numb and I couldn’t lift them. I let them flop at my sides and tried to shimmy up the side of the trap without using them. It was slow going. My boots, slick with melting snow, offered very little purchase, and my brain was fuzzy from the shock of the impact, making balance and coordination difficult. I’d been trying to get out for about fifteen minutes–I was about three quarters of the way to the top–when my dad reached over the edge and dragged me the rest of the way out.