I Lived Through a Nightmare Yesterday. Twice.

This is about trauma post car wreck, so if that is challenging for you, might want to avoid this. I would love to have avoided it, but I couldn’t, because PTSD doesn’t let you do that.

My boyfriend moved this weekend, and there is a lot going on with that, including issues with his extended family, not feeling safe where he was and him re-establishing himself in a life he loves after not having the support to cope with what life has thrown at him for the past few decades. I’m so proud of him, and so glad that we finally figured out how to communicate right before so many things have hit the fan.

That said, it has been a lot for me to support him, and it is a lot for me to support anyone right now following a couple of years of putting my life on hold to support my family members while not being able to enjoy the same support for my fight with PTSD.

I’m a bit worn out, is what I’m saying, and his drama happened fast and unexpectedly.

That said, I was on my way to help him grab his stuff to move to his temporary living situation, which looks like it will have a lot of benefits as he transitions in his job, and I was driving through a metro area on a Friday, so I took the road that the Google said would be the fastest. I was listening to Educated on Audible and enjoying the book when the author got to the car wreck that her family had been in when she was a girl. The circumstances leading up to it were fine, the description of the wreck was fine, but when she began describing the injuries to her family, I suddenly found myself fighting to not pass out. While I was driving 55 mph. In a constrained bypass lane that I couldn’t exit for another two miles. It was the longest two minutes of my life.

I cut the audio, switched to pop music, rolled my window down, slowed my speed and put on my hazard lights, breathed deeply through my nose – anything I could do to maintain consciousness and control of my car. I almost died five and a half years ago because I lost control of my car, and the terror of thinking I might pass out and repeat that event was almost too much for me to handle. I have no idea how I did it, but I got out of the lane, pulled into a parking lot and parked. Then I sobbed.

I’ve never done that. Not with all of the triggers, not before I was diagnosed with PTSD, not with all of the symptoms and challenges and headaches and body aches and crippling anxiety and mental terror and spinning through absolute hell have I ever thought I would pass out or have that experience. It was terrifying, but perhaps more terrifying was the thought that I might lose my ability to drive.

I called my boyfriend, who didn’t answer, and I already knew my mom was busy so I pulled myself together, made a plan to stop at a particular Starbucks for a drink and set off down the road again. I didn’t stop being a bit shaky, but I was able to stay present and alert, and my boyfriend called about ten minutes later. I skipped over the cause so as to not trigger myself again, and he was pretty concerned. I could have gone home or called for a ride, but I was determined to help him get his stuff and get out (long story short his sister-in-law had picked a fight with him and was escalating things after two weeks, and he felt he needed to expedite his moving out), and I wanted him to have the support I’ve not had. He was not prepared to pack up in a 3-hour window, and I am nothing if not organized), and we pulled it off somehow, loading up both vehicles and making it to his temporary place on time.

I drove home after dinner, and passed the same place I had nearly passed out earlier because I didn’t want to take the higher speed highway. About three miles before I got there I went into high alert, and I was on the phone with my boyfriend so talked through how I was feeling with him and my concerns about what avoiding the constrained bypass in the other direction would do to my ability to drive where I wanted to in the future. I decided to go for it, and about 100 feet later it all hit again. He helped talk me through, and I was able to slow down and hit my hazards again, but it was horrible, and not something I want to repeat. I’ll go through the red lights next time, because I can not have that feeling while I drive. It was hard to make it home after that, and I was grateful he talked me through. I didn’t go anywhere today, and the effects have stayed in my body. That’s what PTSD does, it traps those experiences in your body so that they stay with you even when they don’t belong there.

I have to make a 300 mile drive for work on Monday, and I don’t even know how that’s going to go. I’d rather never drive again, and I still get the beginnings of that dizzy, out-of-control feeling when I think about it. I hate it, and it’s terrifying. Maybe I did make it, but the cost was high, and I don’t know when I might be able to drive again without feeling like I’m going to pass out. It’s way worse than being concerned that you might pass out, and my body hasn’t forgotten in the least what it feels like to lose control of a car.

I did not expect that after this much time and work I would be facing a new debilitating symptom, but this condition doesn’t play nice.

10 comments

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  1. suninthespring

    Aah, that’s so scary! It seems like an especially bad part is how the fear of the trauma happening again paradoxically makes the thing you’re afraid of happening more likely to happen. D:
    I’m impressed with how well you handled it though. Turning on your hazard lights when you weren’t able to exit sounds like a good move. I’ll have to remember that! I’ve felt like I was about to pass out several times while being a passenger in a car and while driving, and it was really scary. I generally pretty much do what you did when that happens, or when something similar flashback-y happens: try to pull over as soon as possible and cry, turn up the music really loud, open the window, focus on my breathing… sometimes I count 5,4,3,2,1 over and over and try to ground myself by reminding myself of the date and year, what I’m doing in this situation and how it’s different to the traumatic one (e.g. I’m in a different place), stuff like that.
    Remember that this IS different to what happened a few years ago. And both times on the road you handled it and got through safely. ❤️

    Liked by 2 people

    • Ashley

      That’s good advice, reminding myself of the now and how things are different. I know you know what this is like, thanks for sharing your experience and helping me feel like I’m not alone in this. There is just no way to get people to understand that I “was just strong and got through it.”, No, it was a living hell, and I thankfully survived to get to figure out what I can do differently next time. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

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