fear (n). “an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.”
Everyone experiences fear, and the degree to which it affects them is dependent on the person. Some do not get easily scared by things, events or ideas around them. For others, fear can be so severe that it develops into a phobia, and medical attention is needed to help deal with the overwhelming senses. It is said that fear is often at the root of what drives some people…or controls them, in other cases.
If you have been keeping up with my blog you know that just six weeks ago, I was in a severe car accident. The survival rate of someone surviving a car accident when the car flips over is less than 15 percent. My car flipped seven times across four lanes of traffic on a freeway and I’m still alive. I’ll let you do the math.
If you’ve been keeping up with my blog posts, you also know that I did not black out during my accident, and I remember the entire thing vividly. Most people’s minds who undergo traumatic experiences block out the events because it is too painful for the mind to process. These memories aren’t just thrown away though, the brain holds onto them until that person’s mind decides they are ready to start dealing with the repercussions of what happened. Those people unfortunately deal with a lot of ptsd issues later on in life for an unknown period of time. Some never get over it.
However, my mind has decided it is strong enough to deal with what happened, and I am forced to deal with those visions every single day, multiple times a day. It is not just flashbacks from the accident either, I am experiencing other visions as well. These include every other possible outcome that could have happened in the accident, as well as every possible horrible accident that could happen as I am on the road during the day.
A lot of the people who have expressed their concerns about my accident have also shared with me their stories of car crashes they’ve been in or crashes involving other people they know. The biggest shock for people, aside from the fact that I’m alive, is that I am currently driving. Most survivors take several months to even years of dealing with the aftermath and their fear before they are able to sit in the front seat of a car again let alone drive.
In addition to people asking me how I’m feeling, they also want to know how I work through those feelings and that fear. To me, I thought I was dealing with it the way that everyone does, but it was my boyfriend who told me that the way I respond to those high fear and anxiety moments is unlike anyone else, and convinced me that I should write this post so that other people can benefit from my methods for dealing with those emotions, especially when it escalates really high at times. He also helped me realize that there may be many people who do not have the means to go and seek professional help they need or are too afraid to even ask anyone in their circle for help, so reading something like a blog post would be a way for them to cope.
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t face a high level of fear on a day to day basis now, because believe me when I say nothing I have experienced in my life even holds a candle to the fear factor I felt in that span of 15 seconds…and I have a hard time believing anything ever will. Even though I was doing nothing wrong, for whatever reason I was meant to go through that accident. I just have to trust that in time, everything will make sense as God’s plan for me unfolds in time. Don’t worry, you don’t have to be a Christian to deal with your emotions.
When I first got into the ambulance after the accident, the medic was taking my vitals and said, “This is the first time anyone we’ve picked up has had a heart rate and blood pressure at almost completely normal levels. Can you explain to me how that is?” He looked down at me, pure confusion swept across his face.
“Well freaking out isn’t going to help the situation at all, now is it?” I replied.
“Well yes that’s true, but try explaining that to everyone else,” he laughed. “Wait, how old are you even?” He asked, the same stunned look still on his face.
They firmly believe the reason I had surprisingly minimal external damage after the accident was because I was able to react quickly and calmly when the time came. To be honest with you, I think the only time I lost my shit was when the woman in the trauma center cut off my favorite top and bra without asking. She actually thought she was going to save my life or something. Like um, excuse me, I’m CLEARLY alive. LET ME TAKE OFF MY OWN DAMN CLOTHES! My perfect nude, multi-way Victorias Secret bra, the one that made my breasts feel like they were floating on clouds, was completely murdered and thrown to the trash like the donuts left in Dunkin’ after closing.
Anyways, Growing up my dad always told me to only worry about the things I could control. From the moment I realized I no longer had control over a 3,500 pound vehicle, I knew the only thing I could control was the way I responded. I stayed very still while my car was flipping, because I knew if I tried flailing my arms or legs or cranked my head to the side or tensed up in any peculiar way that I would only put myself at a greater risk for further injury than the accident alone would cause. I also knew that I was unable to do anything further until the car stopped flipping. So I stayed calm, prayed for Jesus to take the wheel, and when it came to a stop, I took less than two seconds to take a deep breath and test my fingers, toes and legs for feeling and function. Once I knew I had that, my next objective was on getting the hell out of the vehicle before someone else hit me from the side.
How is that relevant to the topic at hand? The first and most important part of dealing with fear, anxiety or other ptsd-related emotions is coming to the realization that you had absolutely no control over the events that happened, and even if you did, you still did the best you could with the cards you were given at that point in time. It was and is out of your hands, and there is no changing it. The only thing to do is forgive yourself and the situation for any guilt you may be feeling.
In addition to fear and anxiety, there is a lot of pure rage that I have felt in waves when I think about what happened, and I wouldn’t doubt it’s the same for many as well. Going back to worrying only about the things I can control, I know that I can’t just tell myself to not be afraid, to not be upset, or to not let what happened affect me. That’s not possible, and I would be doing myself a huge disservice to pretend that I could. What I can control though, is how I respond when I am not in a good place mentally, and when those thoughts arise, I reach out to those closest to me for help.
I know that probably sounds traumatizing for a lot of people who are probably no where near as extroverted as I am, but I can promise you this: only good things will come out of it. Your friends and loved ones want to help you and they want to be there for you. Even if you tell them you just want them to listen, reach out and talk to them. Helping to talk through what you’re feeling, recognizing that you’re feeling those emotions and trying to work through them by speaking out loud will help your mind unleash some of that burden more than you realize. Whenever I feel anxious, start having those horrible visions or am extremely mad, I FaceTime or talk to my boyfriend and just let him know what’s going on. I’ll either talk through what I’m feeling or let him talk to me to take my mind off of the situation completely. Regardless of the method I use, I have found that talking to those I love has been extremely helpful and I cannot stress to you enough just how important that is. Not once has he been judgmental or made me feel worse. There are times when I am so upset but I don’t feel like talking, so he’ll just hold me and remind me that I am alive and that everything will be okay and that these feelings will get better with time.
It is also important to remember that you are by no means the first person to experience these feelings and emotions. Like I said in the beginning of the post, I promise you that every person you encounter has dealt or is currently dealing with some form of fear. They do not have to go through what you did to know that fear, anxiety or any other ptsd-related feeling absolutely freaking sucks and that’s just the sad reality of the situation. However, recognizing you are not in control of those moments when your mind is trying to heal and reaching out to others for support is critical.
In addition to this, I cannot stress the importance of breathing and drinking water; two of the most critical components of self-care. Not to mention, they are free. If you are not in a place where you feel comfortable reaching out to others for help just yet, you can start by taking a minute to close your eyes and focus on breathing deeply. You can even place your hands on your stomach and just focus on the physical feeling of your stomach expanding and contracting with every breath. Once your breathing has slowed, get a drink of water. Your brain and body need water to survive, and making sure you are fueling your body with just the basic essentials it needs, I promise you will feel better. While you are drinking, you can even visualize the water flushing out those thoughts from your mind and washing them away as you swallow.
My heart goes out to everyone dealing with these feelings, they are the worst and I do not wish them on anyone. However, I know this is a sad reality for most, and it is my biggest hope that reading what I do to cope with my fear will help you with yours. You can make the mental decision to decide that you are going to face what happened head on and not let your fears keep you from living your life. You are here for a reason, it is up to you to go out and make the change in the world that you’re meant to.
I hope everyone is having a blessed week, I’ll talk to you soon!
Best in health,