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From the Wreckage: A Personal Tale of Rebirth and PlayStation

July 19, 2013 Written by Chandler Wood

WoodMotorcycle

I watch the tire of the car rolling straight at my face. Instead of snapping my neck back and being done with it, the wheel miraculously hops over my head and I feel the full weight of the car bearing down on my skull. Still alive, I am now trapped underneath a car moving 45 miles per hour with less than a foot of clearance between the road and the underside of the vehicle. As my body is tossed and dragged with no remorse, feeling starts to slip away and I find myself embraced by total blackness.

This story has been a very difficult one for me to write, particularly because I have had to revisit some very dark places in my past. What do I want to share? Does it involve games enough to validate an article? Perhaps the most important question of all is: Could my story help anyone else? Depression and mental instability are traditionally taboo to discuss in an open forum, but if my story gets through to even one person, then I’ve done a bit of good in the world.

I’ll give you a spoiler alert for the end of this story: I’ve dealt with my inner demons, overcome some major obstacles on my journey and am a much better person for it. But before I got to where I am now, I had to travel through Hell.

I was once described in the past as ‘emotionally unstable’. Chemical/situational depression is what the ‘professionals’ called it. Some imbalances in the brain that caused me to process situations irrationally and often over-emotionally. “Take this pill,” they said, and sent me on my way. I was just another fucked up kid. Another pharmaceutical statistic.

The lights of the operating room are blinding. I hear surgeons talking around me. One of them is trying to have a conversation with me but the general anesthetic is taking effect and for the second time in less than two weeks, the empty blackness embraces me. In the darkness I hear screaming. I can’t move at all. The pain filled screams echo in my head and as I begin to come to, I realize that the infernal sounds are originating from me.

While it’s getting easier to be an out-of-the-closet gamer, it hasn’t been a simple life to be so enthralled by games at every turn. Growing up, games were the “odd thing”. They were toys. They were for nerds, for outcasts. They weren’t as commonly accepted as they are today and many shunned them and those who played them. I was told to grow up more than once and that my aspirations of a career path within the video game industry were foolhardy and laughable. I tried to force myself through sports and other “socially acceptable” activities, but I couldn’t relate and always found myself with a controller in my hands again. No matter how many long hiatuses I tried to take to “cure” myself of my gaming habit, I always came back to my PlayStation.

WoodTrophy5000

My bonding link with most people is through games, and the culture and conversation that they bring about. I really couldn’t care less about sports, so I don’t get involved in the seasonal guy-fests that any game involving a ball brings around. I’m not ‘one with nature’, so much to the chagrin of my wife, I tend to not make much of an effort to go out hiking and camping. What I do love is technology. I see the ever-changing and exponential evolution of tech as we know it and I embrace the evolution in order to thrive on being a part of that movement.

I lie in the road wondering if this is what death feels like. There is a crowd of people beginning to gather. I realize that I am very much alive and I try to stand up. As I stagger around in the middle of the busy street people are yelling at me to lay back down. No problem. Something is very wrong with my leg anyway. Is my foot supposed to face in that direction? With my back returned to the pavement my senses begin to kick in. My face is covered in blood. I can taste it. I can feel it. I also hurt. A lot. All over. I am reassured by a face in the crowd hovering over me that an ambulance is on the way, but I’m beginning to think that, in my condition, trying to stand up was a very bad idea.

Video games have been a core part of my life for as long as I can remember. Depression had also once been a part of my life, for as far back as memory serves me. I won’t bore you with the details, but I wasn’t the most popular of kids in school. I attempted to end it all more than I would like to admit. Yes, I’m talking about suicide, another taboo subject, I know. But what helped me through everything? Video games. PlayStation. The challenges, the stories, the characters. The passion that the people in the industry had for what they were doing and being a part of what they loved. That drove me through a childhood that is probably more common in the world than most realize.

Then it happened. The event that changed my life, first sending me down (quite literally) into the ground and to the lowest point that I had ever been in my life. That low point allowed me to search deep inside myself to rekindle the flame and return an infinitely better person than I was.

Wood Neck Brace

June 10th, 2008. I ride bullet bikes. Crotch rockets. Sui-cycles. Whatever you want to call them, I’ve been riding motorcycles since 2006. That Tuesday morning I was headed into work on my Yamaha R6. Shortly after 8:30 I was forced to slow from (slightly faster than) the posted speed limit of 45 MPH to under 5. The guy behind me didn’t get the memo. I still vividly remember the stages that I went through as the collision occurred.

  • Thought one (at first impact): ”Shit, somebody hit me! My new bike is going to get messed up!”
  • Thought two (as I begin to catapult forward): ”Damn, this is probably going to hurt!”
  • Thought three (after I am catapulted off of my bike): ”I’m pretty sure I’m fully airborne. Hey, is that the front of my own motorcycle? Fuck, this is going to be really, really bad.”

Thought four was of course “I’m going to die. I’m going to die. I’m going to die,” all while my body crumpled over the trunk of the car in front of me, slid to the road, and was run over by the car that had hit me. I was very fortunate to have put on a helmet that morning. Imagine if you will a watermelon being run over by the tire of a car. The more solid outside would buckle and eventually break, making a mess of the inside of the watermelon. Now imagine a watermelon in a helmet getting… you get the point. I watched the tire as it hit my face and then somehow miraculously rolled over my head. As it was, I still ended up with a few pressure fractures in my face, but I’ll take that over my spine being severed at the base of my skull any day.

The next part is mostly a blur, though somehow my body managed to remove the gas tank causing the back tire to come off of the ground for just enough clearance to free me from my pain filled prison that I had been dragged in for nearly half a block. Seeing the light of the sun shocked me. I had given in. I had gone to a very dark place and I was filled with sheer terror as my being floated in the most empty blackness one can imagine (then times that by infinity and add ten). So when I saw the sun, of course I tried to stand up. My mind was not in the right place, but neither was my ankle for that matter. So I laid back down and waited for the ambulance, and with the adrenaline of the situation wearing off, the pain was taking hold.

Wood Leg Bandage

I shook violently for the entire ambulance ride to the hospital. I was told later that I was going into shock but they wanted to keep me conscious for risk of losing me if I did fully succumb. Then, in the ER, a team people got to scrub my wounds to remove the pavement that was embedded deep into my leg, sides, and shoulders. That was in no way a pleasant experience at all. When all was said and done I had a broken collarbone, a collapsed lung, three pressure fractures in my face (including one in the back of my eye socket), an ankle so twisted that it had torn the skin, and numerous abrasions and road rash wounds. That’s it. Nothing more. I overheard doctors, nurses, the police taking my statement, even witnesses saying that they couldn’t believe that I had even survived the entire ordeal, let alone come away with injuries that wouldn’t leave me crippled.

Two days in the hospital, painful breathing exercises to reinflate my lung (It was either that or get jabbed between the ribs with a giant needle to drain the fluids that were accumulating), and a gamut of tests later, I was allowed to go home the evening of June 11th on strict instructions of bed rest and as little movement as possible. I couldn’t walk, could hardly breathe, had to have my arm in a sling to heal my collarbone, and was on a plethora of fun medications, but the best part of going home was that I could still get a DualShock 3 in my hands and I could play my PlayStation 3 again. I lived on my own in an apartment at the time and when my mom came to see me the next day she brought an amazing surprise.

I had preordered Metal Gear Solid 4 long before my accident. So on June 12th, the day that the game came out, my mom picked it up from GameStop and brought it to me. I guess somewhere in my delirium at the hospital I had mentioned that it was coming out and couldn’t wait to play it. I had picked a hell of a great time to get myself stuck on bed rest for a couple of months. I played and completed Metal Gear Solid 4 about three times in my first two weeks home from the hospital. It helped to take my mind off of the pain, and more importantly, the post traumatic stress disorder that was beginning to take hold of me. Coupled with my history of depression, the PTSD ultimately led me down a very dark path, but more on that in a moment.

Wood Shattered Collarbone

It was during this two week period that I noticed something very amiss. The entire right side of my body was bruising, turning into an odd purple-greenish color. My skin was starting to sag, and there was a large lump sticking out of the right side of my neck. A follow up trip to one of the specialists that was working with me revealed that it was actually my collarbone. Instead of breaking into three pieces as they had previously thought, my collarbone had actually shattered into many pieces. Apparently striking the trunk of the car had snapped it, and the churning of my body underneath the car had repeatedly battered the broken chunks together, creating hairline fractures that had separated into multiple smaller shards over time, rather than healing properly.

So two weeks after the initial accident I was in a hospital again. It was supposed to be a same-day surgery, with a titanium implant and nine screws to replace the shattered pieces and hold the broken ends from poking out of my neck. Looking back, I would have rather been run over by a car again. The surgeons put me under, sliced me open from sternum to shoulder, and went to work. Then I woke up. Unable to move or open my eyes, screaming in pain, I was convinced that I was still on the operating table with the incision wide open. I was not. The quick explanation is that although the general anesthetic had knocked me out, the local anesthetic did not have the intended effect of numbing the pain for when I came to, meaning that I got a full dose of hurt from what the surgeons had done. Needless to say ‘same-day’ flew out the window and I ended up staying overnight while they put me on a steady drip of painkillers and monitored my vitals.

The recovery during the following months is hard to reconstruct precisely. My mind became entirely unreliable. I became severely dependent on heavy painkillers to fend off the effects of the accident. My post traumatic stress disorder was pairing up with my dormant depression, wreaking havoc on my life. Attempting to cut myself off from my medications cold turkey didn’t help matters at all. I convinced myself on numerous occasions that the accident should have killed me and that I didn’t deserve to be alive. I was on a rollercoaster through some very dark places in my mind, and yet through it all I still had games to help me cope and deal with it.

Wood Fixed Collarbone

Somewhere during my recovery I broke through. During the darkest of hours and in the deepest places of my mind I found the strength and the flame to break out of my downward spiral and be reborn. I had fended off depression previously in my life, but I had buried it under spats of drinking and excessive promiscuity. This time I had really defeated it and I had PlayStation to thank as a lifeline during the most difficult and lowest points. Through the darkness I became better than I had ever been before. I was reborn a new person, a stronger person for having succeeded in my trials. I wouldn’t trade these hard times because they made me the individual that I am today.

So here I am, a man in his mid twenties with a whole new outlook on life and what it has to offer. I realize that life is fleeting. I have never been more eager to embrace what I love and fully own it. I have never been more carefree and willing to pursue my dreams, regardless of what general society says I can or can’t do. In November of 2012 I was granted an opportunity to actually begin working with the games industry as a journalist for PlayStation Lifestyle, simply for being a fan with a passion for PlayStation! Then on June 10th, 2013, exactly five years after the brush with death that forever changed my life, I achieved my childhood dream by flying out to Los Angeles to attend E3 and managed to get into the Sony press conference in which the PS4 was detailed. Fate has a funny way of working out like that.

Some days I still have a little trouble breathing. Some days the implant formerly known as my collarbone will ache quite badly. But I can still grin and remember the events that changed the course of my life forever. I’ll always remember Metal Gear Solid 4 as my recovery game. I’ll always credit PlayStation as being one of the best things for helping me get through the many challenges that life has thrown at me. And I’ll always have video games and the industry as a dream work for and a goal to keep me going in my life. I don’t care what society tells me. Games are my life. They always have been. They always will be. If anyone is trying to tell you what should and shouldn’t be important to you, don’t let them. Pursue your dreams with a passion and remember that every day should be lived to its fullest.

Greatness awaits.

Wood Greatness Awaits

Chandler Wood is a writer for PSLS and host of PSLS’ Morning Wood webshow. You can contact him via email Chandler@PlayStationLifestyle.net or on Twitter @FinchStrife. Read articles by Chandler here