Two days after the accident I had to drive my husband’s car from the rental car place to the dealership where we were going to leave his car to be repaired. I was surprisingly calm.
Two days after the accident I rode in a rental car with my husband at the wheel for nearly 13 hours for a previously planned vacation. I was…okay. I had my moments. I held on to some small “hope tokens” as I call them to get through the ride and let tears come when they needed to. About a week later, we rode back from our vacation again with my husband at the wheel.
Two days ago, I had to ride past the place of the accident to meet with our insurance agent. I hated it. It was awful.
Yesterday, my husband came home from a work meeting and said in the kindest voice possible, “Hey, do you wanna go for a ride?” I knew the whole day that I probably should go driving considering the next day I would need to tackle the same drive as the accident. I threw on my coat over my lounging clothes and we got in the car. As I sat in the driver’s seat adjusting the mirrors and gearing up for what was to come, the tears started to flow. I asked myself out loud, “Why is this so hard? It was easier before!” My husband gently put his hand on my head and said, “I’m so sorry, Dana. Whenever you’re ready, Take you’re time.” It was a few minutes later that I started moving. It felt like I had never driven before and yet felt like I had driven for longer than I’ve been alive.
I started with neighborhoods and upon my husband’s suggestion, I turned down a road that would lead me 20-something minutes toward my doctor’s office. All of this knowing that what I really needed to do was drive on the expressway. Both of us knew that where I was headed could lead me to the expressway and the we could ride north back home. As I got closer towards the town with another expressway entrance, I felt my chest tighten, my breathing became more shallow, and I felt the fear taking over. But something else happened: The left side of my face and entire body started to prickle with pain. This was the side that was impacted, but I was a bit surprised. It hurt and felt like the crash had just happened. After the pain started, I began to feel another sensation that I hesitate to describe. I started to feel as though someone was between me and the driver’s side door, I started to feel as though someone was holding my face and stroking my hair. It wasn’t my husband. It was so peaceful, it brought tears to my eyes and a smile to my face. This was what I had expected to feel during the accident and yet I was feeling it now. I was okay with that. I didn’t tell my husband in the moment that it was happening for fear it would go away. The feeling stayed with me for quite some time. I can’t remember how long it was now, but I felt more at peace when I turned on entrance ramp and started to drive on an area that looked identical to the accident.
The peace and sensations didn’t completely eliminate all of the other feelings. It just existed along with them. Tears still flowed as people passed me on the left. (The same side I was hit and the same action of the semi before it ran me off the road.) Worry about dying was still present. Anxiety as a truck came up from behind and started to pass me. My husband was right there with me the whole time talking to me first about other topics (a great conversationalist like him knows how to distract) and then about the accident whenever I brought it up. It was just what I needed. Another moment of gratitude. Thank God for him. Thank God for whatever this feeling is, for this presence I’m experiencing. Thank God.
Today I have to drive past the place of the accident. In fact, I have to drive 2 hours. One to get to a night rehearsal, one to get back. I’ll be alone. I woke up this morning with anxiety pumping. Thankfully, I was able to fall back asleep for a bit, but the fear still remains now as I write this. As my husband left for work this morning, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was going to die today. I told him and, of course, he told me that wasn’t going to happen, gave me a hug, and a kiss, and said, “I love you! I’ll see you later!” By now, you probably think my husband is made up. Well, he isn’t. He simply is the nicest person you’ll ever meet.
I’m not sure how driving today will be. I love driving: getting behind the wheel and seeing all the scenery pass by. Now driving is tainted with a fear that I might die any second or that my loved ones in their cars might die at any second. I think many people have this fear of driving for their own reasons. My fear of death is born from a much larger fear that I experienced at the accident. I don’t think anyone should ever experience that level of fear yet people do every day. It changes you. It makes you realize how small we are, like ants. We’re just these little dots walking around a spinning globe thinking we can just go about our days and lives like normal and then “BAM!” here comes the foot to stomp us out. I’m praying I lose this feeling…that I’ll forget it. I’m praying I can return to that place of ignorance because I know I can’t exist in fear. I can’t live there. It’s too harmful, too painful, and I wouldn’t survive. I think I can forget it. I’m a survivor already.