Post Car Accident: When Will I Be Whole Again?
It doesn’t matter that the tires screeching in the darkness don’t belong to me. It doesn’t matter that I can see that the truck is, in fact, able to stop, or that I know everyone inside is safe. It doesn’t matter that it has been two weeks since the accident. I am there again.
The tires screaming, begging the road to hold us. My daughter screaming, begging me to make it stop. “Mama! Mama!” With my whole self I try but I cannot.
Torn. My skin is here but the rest of me is there… falling. When will I be whole again?
It doesn’t matter that the baby who screams in my workplace doesn’t belong to me. It doesn’t matter that for more than thirty years I’ve raced to screaming babies and their mamas to see if I could help. It doesn’t matter that it is daytime, that my children are safe at school, nor that at thirteen and fifteen, their voices haven’t sounded like that for many, many moons. It doesn’t matter that I just want to be myself. I am not. Not yet. And so I run away.
The lights are too bright, the shelves too high, the rows too long, and the floor too far away. The baby’s screams pour into my soul. I can’t take it and I run and hide and plug my ears, and when someone asks what I need, I scream that “I need that baby to leave!” And I am too upset to even care about the kind of person I just became.
When shapes shift in the darkness on the side of the road, it doesn’t matter that my beloved Jetta is now a paperweight taking up space in a junkyard somewhere. I can feel it around me. My hands tighten on the wheel as the warm, slick leather seats appear beneath me. It takes everything I have in me to keep from pushing the brake pedal through the floor. That shadowy figure leaves me, once again, torn between two moments in time.
It does not matter how brief the confusion, my body is occupied by the accident. The flood gates are thrust open and that same exact hysteria pours in.
I’ve heard that after a major flood, the landscape is altered in such a way that space will flood more easily in the future. I don’t know if that’s a permanent change, or if it’s even true for that matter, but it feels true based on what I’ve seen here in Nashville, Tennessee since the flood a few years ago. It’s certainly true about traumatic experiences. And it doesn’t matter what kind of trauma it is–car accidents, sports injuries, domestic violence, rape, war, serious illness, and on and on–it changes us.
My inner landscape has been altered. Time will tell to what extent but these moments stop me in my tracks. They are coming less frequently now. It’s been three days since the last one. Yes, it makes it harder that I know how long it’s been. The clock is ticking. I’ve begun to dread it and it doesn’t take a mental health expert to declare that unhealthy. Instead, maybe I’ll just focus on my breath today.
I will do that because while I know that I cannot opt out of this part of the process, I can affect it. I can make the most of it and when it’s over, or at least as it continues to evolve, I will heal. I think that’s the choice we must make in moments like this: We must commit to healing, to recovery… to allowing our life-changing experiences to alter our lives in the most empowering, beautiful, and divine ways.
I’m putting together a list of things I’ve learned about cultivating peace after a traumatic experience. I would love to hear from you too. What helped you recover from your life-altering experience? What do you wish you’d known about or done differently at the time? I welcome your comments here, or you can email me through my website.