It’s been almost three weeks since my car accident, and enough time has passed that it doesn’t feel fresh anymore. It’s okay for me to write about it now, much like I had to wait months to write about leaving nursing school because the intensity was just too much when it happened.
Here’s what I wrote on Facebook the night after my scariest car accident:
Last night I was involved in a car accident: totaled car, air bags deployed, fire trucks, the whole nine yards. Fortunately, no ambulances were necessary and I’m amazed I managed to walk away (trembling, but still walking) and not have an anxiety attack. We no longer have a car, and I’ve got some neck pain, but it could have been so much worse.
One thing I’ve learned in the twenty-four hours since: traumatic events create a space for growth and perspective. I have been in too many accidents for only 33 years, but I can say I know what they are like from all perspectives. I know what it’s like to be the irresponsible teenager who is at fault with an injured passenger. I know what it’s like to be the injured passenger in a car where your friend is driving, and they are at fault. I know what it’s like to crash and no one is at fault, only Mother Nature and an icy parkway. And now I know what it’s like to be the slightly injured driver in a crash that wasn’t my fault at all. Events like this can bring out the worst or the best in people: it’s up to us which way our thoughts and actions will go. Compassion, or anger? Perspective, or short-sightedness? Acceptance or denial?
Have you ever had a traumatic event that sent you to one extreme or the other? Did you feel you were lacking compassion, or immediately trying to place the blame on yourself?
And now, my thoughts three weeks later? I still feel incredibly thankful that it wasn’t worse, and I wasn’t seriously hurt.
I’m thankful that it happened close to home, so Andy could run over as soon as I managed to call him (this was a double-edged sword, of course, because I can’t avoid the this intersection and so faced flashbacks and anxiety in the week afterward).
I’m thankful for the good Samaritan driver behind me, who stopped to help me, let me use her phone, and stayed to give her statement to the police.
I’m thankful it wasn’t worse for the other driver and his passengers, because they are only teenagers and have their whole lives ahead of them. I would have been even more upset at the scene if they were hurt, even if it was their fault.
I’m thankful for my parents, who helped us find a new(er) car in only a few days, one that we like and runs well (and gets the same gas mileage as our Civic did)!
Of course it wasn’t all gratitude and positivity and wisdom at first; I was also angry and frustrated and more anxious than I’ve been in a long time. Car accidents are stressful. The aftermath is stressful. There’s just no way around that: dealing with insurance companies and tow truck companies, finding, purchasing, and registering a new car, and working through some complicated emotions is a lot of work. That’s where I’ve been lately, in a heightened state of stress. When not dealing specifically with accident-related things, I’ve been working, trying to have fun friends and family, being sick with allergies and pink eye, and spending a lot of time outside.
It felt particularly stinky because everything was going wonderfully right before it happened. My last post before the accident is titled My Time to Shine! There I was, expounding on possibility and joy and love, and then it all seemed to crumble with the crash. I was derailed, and I still feel like I’m trying to get back on that track.
More than anything, this car accident reiterated for me how unfortunate things can happen out of nowhere, despite any and all precautions on my part, despite not doing anything illegal or out-of-the-ordinary. It’s a reminder to not take anything for granted, to practice gratitude, and like I said above, to practice compassion and allow the room for growth and perspective.
It’s not always easy, but I’m trying.