How do you explain something that you don’t even really understand in the first place? I guess the best answer is to not try to explain it at all. Yet every time this comes up, I always feel like I need to explain, even though I can’t.
Overnight we got a pretty big dump of snow here in White Rock. Even I’ll admit, waking up and seeing the rooftops and trees all dusted with white is a pretty magical sight. But that’s where it ends for me. Because when everyone else is looking outside oooh-ing and ahh-ing over this…
I can agree that it’s pretty but my mind always immediately jumps to this instead…
No matter how many years go by, I just can’t forget what I saw and experienced that day. Even after years of counselling for post-traumatic stress disorder, I know how to keep those memories hidden most of the time but they’re still in there and always come out to haunt me whenever it snows.
If I can stay inside and off of the snowy roads, I’m fine with it. But as soon as I think about having to be in a car on a snowy or icy road, it all comes out. It’s the reason my heart races even with a light frost on the road and why I’ve had to miss family Christmases at our cabin over the years – my fear is so great that I just can’t handle driving on snowy or icy roads.
I am fully aware that this fear is mostly irrational. Even though I’m afraid, the logical side of me knows that just because it happened once, doesn’t mean I’m going to be in a major car accident every time I drive on a snowy street. I am very well aware that lightning doesn’t strike twice (usually).
But the thing with going through something that big and suffering post-traumatic stress, is that much of it is a chemical reaction. Your body handles stress and trauma in funny ways and strong emotional reactions to living through scary things is common. But common or not, it’s horrible not being able to escape bad memories and it sucks to know you are being irrational when there’s really nothing you can do to control it. It makes no sense really.
It used to be a lot worse of course. Seeing ambulances, hearing sirens, loud bangs and even just laying on my back brought me right back to that day and those weeks in the hospital. It’s incredible how real flashbacks can feel even though you so know it’s not happening all over again. Even still, looking at the tiny scar on my left hand can bring back all kinds of thoughts and memories that I’d rather not think about. Your mind is powerful but works in such strange ways.
What I find the toughest to accept is that I’ve worked so hard over the last 8 years to overcome everything physical and yet it’s the mental and emotional side of things that brings me to a grinding halt. I am proud of not letting my injuries beat me yet I can’t seem to do the same when it comes to the emotional side. I feel so bad when my fears prevent me from doing something.
Tonight I was supposed to share my story with one of the clinics at the Running Room. It’s something I’ve done many times before and it means so much to me to be asked to speak to a group of people about what I’ve been through. Sharing my story has helped me immensely over the years and connecting with people because of it means a lot.
However, with all of this snow I’ve had to cancel and I feel horrible about that. I don’t like cancelling plans and I certainly don’t like letting people down. A few inches of snow shouldn’t get in the way but sadly, to me it may as well be a mountain because that’s how it feels. I don’t like knowing that I am so afraid of something
Anyhow, the funny thing about flashbacks and all of this is that it seems to be so situational. My bad memories tie very specifically to driving and hospitals. So while I just can’t bring myself to drive in the snow, I’m not afraid to simply be out in the snow on foot. Even though I have a million things to do these days, I decided to get outside for a bit while the boys were at preschool this morning (driven by my Dad, of course). A short and very slow 6km in the falling snow of all things was the perfect way to clear my mind.
I’m not proud that I’m this scared of the snow. I don’t like feeling like I can’t control how I feel about something. I choose to look at it as just one more thing I’m left with because of that accident, just like my scars, injuries and ongoing pain. I’ve worked hard to get through those and over time, hopefully I’ll get over this part of it too.
But if there’s one thing I’ve learned through all of this it’s that you can’t control what happens to you, only how you deal with it. And while I can’t say I’ve found a way to get over this driving-in-the-snow thing yet, I am trying.
One very small step in the snow at a time.