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.


Terry V.
Terry V.3 years ago


Larry W.
Larry Weeks3 years ago

For just that kind of trauma you should try dianetics.. it will get rid of it. However...there is a caveat cannot be on any mood altering drugs or this will prevent it from working.

Celia Daniels
Ceil Daniels3 years ago

I would say to Christy, Kimberlee and anyone else who would listen--please find a psychotherapist to work with you. PSTD doesn't go away by itself--it keeps recurring until you work things through emotionally and a good therapist is a wonderful help on your healing journey. It doesn't matter how long ago it happened --a month or a decade or more--you deserve to feel what healing--and forgiving or accepting or overcoming-- feels like. I found a book called Aftershock helpful--I don't know if you can track it down or not.

Like many unpleasant experiences you will find in time that this one CAN make you a better, more empathetic, more caring person. Something good can come out of it. What will it be? You decide--with help from God or fate or serendipity or whatever you beleive. Will you stop and help when you see a car accident? Will you say a prayer everytime you see an ambulance with lights flashing? Will you find the time to volunteer to work with children with disabilities or start a support group? Turn your trauma into a force for good. Think of what John Walsh did for other missing children in the wake of the devastating loss of his own.

I will add that you also need to give yourself the gift of time. Take baby steps, go slow, let your body and psyche heal. Get medical help if needed. Walk away from anyone that hurts instead of helps. And remember there is something magical about our measurements of time-- a day, a week, a month, and especially a year--when it comes

Kathy K.
Kathy K.3 years ago

I'm just reading Surviving Survival: the art and science of resilience by Laurence Gonzales. Some of it sounds just like what you're describing. Maybe it would be interesting to you. May you find peace.

Mary Kloss
Mary Kloss3 years ago

I haven't had such a horrific physical event in my life. But,,with the emotionally troubling events I've used the Bach Flower Essences and EFT.

It's amazing the results I've had. Even more so then those I know who have gone for counseling.

I hope you'll consider at least checking these two therapies out and hopefully giving them a try. Use of them has changed my life.

Christine Stewart

Terrifying experience. I know this doesn't really help, but be kind to yourself and don't be upset at yourself if you're not healing as fast as you think you "should".

Deborah F.
Deborah F.3 years ago

My heart goes out to you.

John B.
John B.3 years ago

Thanks Christy for sharing your continuing journey to recovery.

Kimberlee W.
Kimberlee W.3 years ago

but I still haven't.
Eight weeks later, I was able to purchase a cherry, Mazda Miata convertible. I'd never had a convertible before and was really excited.
Two weeks after that, I was on to my 3rd date with my husband. He was going to cook me dinner at his place. I drove the 50 miles there.
I pulled over for an ambulance. As I pulled back onto the road, very carefully because the fog was soup, a huge pick-up truck came careening around the corner and SLAMMED into me.
As the truck sat there in the dark, I crawled out of my seat and fell on the road. I waved my arms. The truck came forward a couple feet then suddenly went into reverse and disappeared into the fog.
My car was totalled, the insurance paid for only the car. No insurance, state or otherwise to tend to my injuries. I'm now 2" shorter and find physically difficult things that used to be easy have become much harder to perform.
I still drive that car. I can't afford another. I had to live off that insurance for the next 8 months. It wasn't much since the car was 10 yrs. old.
I think what still hurts so much is the injustice. The injustice of that woman getting away with it. Knowing a hit&run driver got away without too much damage and no charges. Having the cops BLAME me for driving at night!!! Having the chiropractor tell me he thought I must've been in some scurrilous profession since my accident happened so late and what business did I have being on the road at that hour any way?
All I c

Kimberlee W.
Kimberlee W.3 years ago

Then the insurance. It ZOOMED. 100% NOT my fault, but when you're dealing with these companies and their actuary tables, that doesn't matter.
You're better off causing the accident than being the victim of one.
Got thrown off Travelers and had to wait 7 yrs. to be accepted again.
The woman was sued by my friend and I was awarded 40 grand. Good luck collecting any of that ever. The woman's license was suspended for an additional 10 yrs., but the judge told me that according to TN law, the onus was on me to make sure she wasn't driving. They never issued a warrant for her arrest and my lawyer couldn't afford to hire PI's to track her down.
I guess you can guess how I feel about TN law. It's total Bullshit!

But after the accident, I found that 8 months later, the nightmares subsided. I didn't startle as badly or as quickly. Unfortunately, 6 yrs. past that accident, I was rear-ended when my husband was driving my car. That poor kid. I don't know what came over me.
I jumped out of the car and ran behind, banging my fists on his car, screaming bloody murder that he better get out of there cause I'm gonna KILL you!!! My husband had to tackle me down. He explained to the kid and told him to apologize to me.
I went kablooey on that kid. I totally lost it and told him he had 1 second to remove himself from my presence or I WOULD KILL HIM! I raked my nails over both palms til I drew blood.

I wish I could tell you that some day you'll get COMPLETELY over it, bu