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2018 American Black Film Festival Honors Awards - Arrivals

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Last summer, Melyssa Ford was involved in a serious car accident, where her jeep came in contact with an 18-wheeler truck. As we’ve reported earlier, not only did the collision result in severe head trauma and brain injury for Ford, the aftermath was intense depression.

Ford, who worked previously with Hollywood Unlocked immediately before the accident, has returned to the show permanently. And in her return, she spoke with co-hosts Jason Lee and DJ Damage about everything she endured with the accident, battling back from depression, and emerging from it all as a strong, better person.

See what she had to say below.

Melyssa: Tank was getting married to Xena, who’s now his wife and I was on my way to her bridal shower when I was in an accident.

The reality of the situation is it was 12:37 pm, bright and early. 80 degree, perfectly clear day. I had my phone that had directions, mounted. I had my seatbelt on. My jeep wasn’t in its convertible fashion. It had its roof on. That becomes part of the story later. And I had all my facilities, meaning no open containers, nothing.

Jason: You know they say the Illuminati killed you.

Melyssa: You were trying to sacrifice me apparently.

Jason: We’ve never really had the conversation about it but I just want to say from my mouth to your ears, I didn’t call the Illuminati. I had nothing to do with that.

Melyssa: A few people sent me stuff, ‘Watch your life. Jason tried to sacrifice you.’ But it was a bright afternoon but there were actually signs that this was going to happen.

Jason: I’m sitting here watching you and you’re in a much better place now than you were before. What people don’t know is you had actually come back to the show.

Melyssa: I tried.

Jason: You were dressed. I thought you looked beautiful as ever, the same as you do today. You were ready to go and then you had a crazy breakdown.

Melyssa: Part of what happens with traumatic brain injury— there are so many symptoms that you experience. There’s emotional and social irritability. When I say the onset of depression is a monster that—it was stronger than me. And I’ve dealt with bouts of depression almost my whole life. I remember my first time I ever felt feelings of depression, I was 9. The depression that comes with a traumatic brain injury is just something that I wasn’t equipped to handle. You gotta understand that your serotonin and dopamine receptors are your natural mood stabilizers. And when they’re not functioning properly, it means you succumb to these abysmal lows.

A lot of people didn’t know how to process it because for a lot of people I’ve been one of the strongest people in their life. I’ve been the source of— I’ve been an auntie, a mom, a voice of reason. I talk people off of ledges. And I’m very private. I don’t talk much about my mom, my dad, my home life so I think people kind of thought of me as like an island, just in and of myself. I’m not a tangible thing. So when something happened and my life was almost taken and a lot of people had to envision me not being here…I had grown men like bawling on the phone. And they were crying because they were confronted with mortality, in a way they were not prepared for.

The accident

Melyssa: I felt the impact and it was enormous. I can drive anything with a steering wheel. Once the impact was felt, I’m driving a jeep and it’s on a 3-inch suspension kit. So it’s high and it’s got the big 36 inch tires. It doesn’t feel the most secure when you’re in that. Once the impact hit the back tire, the car just started to spin out of control. So I started spinning the wheel in the opposite the direction, counterclockwise. But then I took my feet off the pedals, in order to not increase or decrease speed. But the way it was going, I knew it was going to flip. I knew it. But then I also thought to myself, I’m not going to make it. It’s seconds but they also feel like an entirety at the same time.

When I could feel that it was about to flip, I was buckled into my seatbelt, so I took my hand off the steering wheel and my feet off the pedals. And I just sat there and waited for it to happen. There’s no point in tensing up. You have a better chance of surviving if you just let your body go slack and go with the movement of the vehicle. And whatever come what may.  I just started flipping and a lot of memories after that is just the sound of metal on pavement, which is the worse sound in the entire world. And in the process, of my jeep flipping five times, my roof flipped of.

And in the process with the EMT’s, I could hear him saying, ‘She was driving a convertible jeep with no top.’ And I remember thinking, ‘Who the f*ck is he talking about?’

Because I had my hardtop roof but the roof had gotten ripped off.

So when my jeep came to rest upside down. Once it landed, my head hit the pavement. So that’s what cracked open my head. I had a skull fracture, my head was cracked open like an egg. My brain was bleeding, massive concussion. I was knocked out. I don’t know how long I was out. But from what I’ve been told, good samaritans, whoever you are, thank you for everything. They stopped and apparently, three guys picked up my jeep and the fourth one pulled me out. The pictures you guys saw, I saw at the same time. One of the guys took pictures to prove that he actually stopped to help someone on the highway.

It was a shock to see this. I wasn’t offended but it was an out of body experience. And it told a very specific story of the best of humanity. Because was a White guy, a Latin guy, a Black guy. There was a White girl there. I don’t know who these people are but one guy had taken his shirt off and he was holding my head closed. Another guy took his hat off and was holding it above my head because it was a very sunny day. And I don’t remember them at all.

The next thing I remember is I was laying on my back and I felt the warmth of the pavement. I didn’t know anything had happened.

DJ Damage: Did you feel any pain at that time?

Not at that moment because shock…Other than the fact I couldn’t really open this eye because there was so much blood pooling in it. Then I start to see these faces above me. And I could see a flurry of activity. And I looked to the side and I could see my jeep smashed upside down. To see it there, I felt like I was suffering another death.

Jason: Was there ever a time when vanity came into play? Like I hope nothing happened to my face. People don’t really know, you’re not really a girl’s girl, where everything has to be perfect all the time but…in the position you were in, you could have lost an arm. You could have been decapitated.

Melyssa: If I were any taller, I probably would have been. But because I’m so short and the jeep was so big, when my head hit the pavement, it caused significant damage but if I was any taller, I probably would not be sitting here. I feel like the jeep saved me from a lot of serious injury. The majority of the injury was the front of the forehead and into my scalp.

My friends kept mirrors away from me while I was in the hospital. And I really didn’t think about it because of the drugs they gave me. The first two days, I needed to be under serious medication. Because when the pain set in, it was like someone had taken a sledgehammer to my head…or that my head bounced off pavement.

Jason: People may not remember this is the second head injury that you had had. That one time a gorilla hit you with a bottle. She was at a zoo.

Melyssa: Don’t listen to him. I did a reality show and one of my cast members in a fit of rage decided to pick up a full bottle of Magnum and smash me in the head with it. I’ve never fully understood what the purpose of that was. You can still feel the dent in my skull from that.

Jason: I’m looking at you talking and I’m like, ‘Gotdamn, Melyssa’s back.

Melyssa: I had to go through a lot of therapy.

Jason: There were a lot of people who didn’t care about you, who all of a sudden did.

Melyssa: There is something called synthetic love that is like a virus going around. What has happened with social media is that a lot of people like to insert themselves, oddly enough, into a tragic situation. It’s very f*cking weird.

DJ Damage: Who was that strong friend for you?

Melyssa: Claudia and I—people weren’t used to us being besties because we weren’t. This is an industry that pits women against each other. So there’s always been this you stay on your side, I’ll stay on my side type of attitude towards each other.

But Claudia was in the hospital with me and my friends were just sitting there with me and they were like, ‘Melyssa we need to talk about your medical bills. You were not insured.’ And I faced a lot of judgement about the fact that I wasn’t medically insured.

If you have a corporate job or you work for UPS that has benefits. But when you work in a business like ours where you self fund your life and your dreams, there is no backup plan. You don’t just have $100k sitting in the bank. Before this and before the incident with the bottle, I’ve been healthy my whole life. I’ve never had anything happen to me. And to be faced with $52-$70k-$100k in medical bills, that was frightening.

Claudia said, ‘We’ve been talking and we think that you should let us set up a Go Fund Me.’ I was adamant. ‘No!’ I was humiliated. I was so embarrassed at the idea of people knowing that much about me at my most vulnerable, weakest moment.

And when they started to lay out the bare bones facts, I didn’t have that kind of money. So I said, ok. I could not be responsible for anything at that moment. And it lasted for months and months. I left there in a walker. I had gait training and balance issues, which I still have to this day and take medication for.

The hardest part for me was the depression. One of the symptoms of traumatic brain injury is depression, sense of impulsiveness, mood swings, irritability. I couldn’t find what normal was. I posted on Instagram on September 22 about my depression and I felt like I was going to end my life that day.

And after that, my door was practically broken down by my girlfriends. Miriam, Tocarra, Alicia Renee. They would be at my house, crying. You know me, I’m so private. To put those things on social media, is not me.

With all that time to think, there were a lot of moments of reckoning to identify behavior I had before the accident that just wasn’t—it literally like I died and came back and I had to come back as a different version of myself. Not everything had to go. I was dope…having to deal with things about me—the fact that I did not like conflict, the fact that I am not combative by nature, led me to just— I just held it in.

It gave me a lot of time to think about what’s important to me. I’m not married and I have no children but it made me think about legacy. I had to think about a lot of the stuff that I had been sweeping under the rug.

You can watch the full interview in the video below.

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