20 Mar THE NIGHT I COULD HAVE DIED
*Today’s story was shared with us by a fellow blogger, Grace. This will be part one of two that she has allowed us to share with you from her blog, The Adventures Ahead.
It was pitch black out; the freeway was surprisingly empty. I was traveling home after a fun day visiting friends. A song came on the radio that I didn’t like, so I switched the channel. I liked the new song, so I turned it up and started singing along. I’d been traveling in the left lane for a while. So I checked my blind spot, switched on my blinker and moved over to the right lane just like I’ve done a million times before.
I was going 73 MPH.
I squinted, “Is something in the road?”
I jerked the steering wheel to the left, but not in time. A sound echoed in my ears, one that still haunts me to this day – Metal against metal, scraping, tires squealing on the blacktop.
My head was spinning… I was spinning.
One Mississippi; “What did I just hit?”
Two Mississippi; “You’re fine. Just steer out of it, like ice.”
Three Mississippi; “You’re not steering yourself out of this one, Grace.”
Four Mississippi; “I’m flying into Northbound traffic.”
Five Mississippi; “I’m going to die.”
Six Mississippi; “Please God. Please God. Please…”
I don’t even know what I was begging Him for.
As quickly as it all began, it was over.
My head was spinning. I didn’t lose consciousness, but I couldn’t figure out where I was or what was going on. I blinked fast through my groggy eyes. Darkness surrounded me.
“You’re alive,” I told myself.
I breathed: In, out. In, out.
Light slowly started coming back to me. Fast lights, zooming by in front of me. “Cars. I’m facing the freeway.”
In, out. In, out. More light.
In, out. In, out.
Someone tapped on my window. I opened my door a bit.
“Whoa! Are you okay? Are you hurt?”
I shook my head, trying to clear all my thoughts. “No, no. I don’t think so. I’m fine.”
“Are you sure? My girlfriend’s calling 911. Just hang tight.”
“Where am I?” I thought. I could have sworn I had flown across Northbound traffic.
“No no, I’m fine.” I insisted. I opened my door and climbed out. “I’m glad I wore Sorel’s, there’s a ton of snow out here.” I started shivering.
To my right, 5 or so cars were stopped on the side of the freeway, some men were out of their vehicles. It was chaos. Loud shouts filled my ears: “What did she hit?” “Is she okay?” “Was anyone hurt?” “Is someone calling 911?”
I turned to my left: more cars zooming passed me.
I hadn’t crossed Northbound traffic. I was in the median. My memory, already fuzzy, of the exact accident became more jumbled. It seems like I was spinning for hours – how had I not gone further than the median?
I walked to the front of my Jeep, the darkness surrounded me; I could feel it creeping into my very soul, taking hold of me. Fear of the unknown gripped me as I tried to make out the damage to my Jeep. As I walked to the front, I could see my entire front end entangled in the steel wire barrier. Steel wires that inevitably saved my life.
It was cold. I felt a shiver down to my core. My head began to spin again. My stomach was doing summersaults, my breathing fast and frantic. For a moment, I thought I may pass out.
Breath: In, out. In, out.
I got back in my Jeep and made some phone calls. I unlocked my phone, calling the first person that came to mind. My dad answered, but quickly handed the phone to my mom. Within minutes, I knew someone was on the way.
To the outside world, the chaos had ceased.
The night was silent again. Lights flashed before my eyes as people carried on with their lives. All the stopped vehicles had gone, and all that was left was a terrified young woman and a ‘99 Jeep XJ with it’s flashers on, trapped in a foot of snow, in the middle of a ditch dividing the highway.
A little while later, first responders showed up. A police report was made and a tow truck came to pull my precious Jeep out of the steel wires, hauling it away to the nearest body shop.
Inside of me, the chaos had only begun. I climbed into my mom’s minivan and unexpectedly drove into one of the hardest weeks of my life.
I never really understood depression or anxiety before. I knew the textbook answers, and I have a few friends on Facebook who always post “Mental health awareness” kinds of posts, but I never understood it first hand.
That is until the 2 weeks following my accident.
I’m an expert at avoiding feelings and at dealing with stuff by myself. Not saying it’s healthy, but it’s just how I deal with really sucky situations. The fact that I couldn’t just shake off the accident bothered me night and day.
The 2 or 3 days following, I couldn’t think of anything else. It was as if I was incapable of using my brain for anything but re-imagining that night over and over and over again. The sound of the crash. The feeling of thinking I was flying into Northbound traffic. I could die at any moment. I often felt paralyzed from the fear that gripped my soul. I calculated exactly 3 specific ways that night could have gone differently and I wouldn’t be here writing this post now.
I had several nightmares the following weeks, never recreating the accident, but always involving me losing control of my vehicle. I’d wake up in a panic, sweating and breathing heavily from the graphic images of my car spinning across the highway.
If the traumatic experience wasn’t enough, the stress of losing my freedom and having to make a lot of decisions caused the real stress and anxiety to sink in. To the world, and even my family, I was just getting through life. Normal every day. Get up, go to work, ect. On the inside, I was either going back to that night or over-thinking big decisions that were looming.
“Should I put money into fixing my Jeep?”
“What if I move soon and don’t take my Jeep? Then I put money into it and it just sits”
“What if I don’t fix it, but end up needing it?”
“What if I fix it, but it breaks down again?”
I made myself physically ill from all the stress.
I had no motivation. I can be lazy at times, but this was different. I literally could have just stayed in bed all day every day. I let my blog sit the few weeks following, I didn’t have the energy to put into anything.
I was exhausted all. the. time.
And there was nothing I could do about it.
I felt guilty for feeling so depressed. In all honesty, my accident was extremely minor. I’ve heard stories of people who have survived far worse. Who was I to feel so horrible after such a minor incident?
Looking back, I realize I had such an extreme reaction to a minor situation because I was already struggling mentally before the accident. After I stopped spinning, I thought “God gave me a second chance. I’m going to use it.” But as soon as I got home that night, that thought went out the window.
I didn’t care that God gave me a second chance. I didn’t care about anything.
My heart had completely frozen over. The freezing started back in July, with the sudden loss of one of my best friends, but the accident was the last straw, so to speak. I knew my heart was frozen, I just didn’t care.
But then, slowly, it started thawing.
I didn’t have a theatrical moment where I suddenly broke free from all the depression and anxiety. I didn’t fall on my knees and beg God to forgive me in a dramatic scene like movies often depict.
While things didn’t get better overnight, I was able to relax over the next few weeks. I made decisions regarding my Jeep. I was able to start enjoying life again without the exhaustion and fear that previously held me captive.
It’s like God answered a prayer I didn’t even know I was praying. A lot of inspiring books and movies will probably tell you that they first asked God for forgiveness, then life got better. But in my case, God made my life a bit better and that ultimately brought me back to Him.
I didn’t wake up one day and suddenly decide I wanted to start reading my Bible again, it was a slow process of surrender. Each day I would find a way to come back to God in a small way. Rather than dragging myself to my awful job, I tried to thank God that I was alive and had a job. Instead of sitting in my bed wishing I didn’t have to spend $1,000 on my Jeep, I made up my mind to trust God that He had a reason for my accident.
And you know what? He really did. Everyone has a story, whether it’s filled with traumatic car accidents or everyday life. Because of my accident, I feel I can connect with people a lot more now. I have more advice and help to give, I have more stories to share, and I am living proof that not only God exists, but He ultimately has a plan.
Those 3 small ways I calculated could have drastically changed the outcome of that night. Clearly, God had other plans.
I was in the shower when the idea for a blog series on dreaming entered my head. I knew I had finally rounded the corner. A few days later, “Let’s Dream” was born. A few months later, “Let’s Dream” has not only taken my blog off, but it’s turned into a live event, and an online workshop is in the making!
A bizarre accident gave me fear, mild depression, anxiety, and loneliness.
God gave me hope, a vision for the future, and comfort.
Oh, and by the way…that thing I hit in the middle of the freeway? It was a freakin’ dishwasher.
***Meet Grace! She is passionate about Jesus, Dreams, and Helping People. All three passions come together in her blog “The Adventures Ahead” (theadventuresahead.com) On the blog, you will find stories of her struggles, wins, and the occasional story of life as a camp counselor. Grace founded “Let’s Dream” and “Real Life Dreamers” Blog series that are centered around helping real people dream big, whether they are 16 or 65! When she’s not working or blogging, Grace enjoys anything outside, drinking coffee, reading books (usually Sherlock Holmes), and spontaneous adventures with friends.