Nothing slaps you awake like a near-death experience.
My heart skipped a beat when I jam-braked and lost control of the steering wheel. The manual van I was driving swerved uncontrollably, going into the second lane then back to first. For that moment in time, I felt my spirit leaving my body only to be yanked back when I thought “GRAB THE STEERING WHEEL!”
Thank Allah the cars behind me were a distance away & I managed to control the steering wheel in time.
Then I became hyper-alert.
You see, the body normally goes through a few stages of reaction post-traumatic incident. Mine went from having an adrenaline high right after, to cruising auto-pilot, to total crash, to recalibration.
My adrenalin high took the form of being excessively happy and positive. Hey I had a right to be, I was alive. My body and mind refused to acknowledge the intensity of what just happened and went into what it’s programmed to be – positive.
Because this was what could have happened: I was driving at 80km/h (fast for a van of the size) and the jam-brake could have caused the van to flip. I could have swerved into the lane of a fast oncoming vehicle and crashed. There are many could-have-beens that are disastrous, but I was alive, alhamdulillah. I concentrated on driving properly, on getting back home in one piece.
When I finally arrived at my block, I couldn’t move. I was safe but my mind went into a state of paralysis. There was nothing else to distract me, no other road-users to think of, no speed to manage. I was finally able to think but I couldn’t.
I knew I needed to text someone, to give someone a call to inform of what happened, to share, to just unload the information, emotions and the sheer shock.
But in that critical moment, a realisation hit me like a ton of bricks.
I had no one to call.
You know how you always have one person to call, the person whose name comes off top on your head whenever something of such a large scale happens? It could be your parents, your significant other, your best friend… Anyone you trusted or felt a connection deep enough to just call in the moment.
I just stared at my phone.
Don’t get me wrong. I had some people I could call but I wasn’t willing to. My bestfriend just had her first day at work so I didn’t want to unload more burden on her. I knew another bestfriend was busy at work. It would have just been mean to text or call the guys I’ve been dating in that moment because it’ll give them hope for a future I cannot give nor promise – I didn’t want to use their kindness or attention for such a selfish reason. Plus I don’t feel any emotional connection to any of them so it just felt… wrong to engage them when I was so vulnerable. (I know I think too much.)
In that moment, I just felt so…. empty.
And my alone-ness couldn’t have been more stark.
I couldn’t handle it. I couldn’t process the fact that I had no one to call, so I went on auto-pilot. It became a necessity because I needed to function well. People would normally avoid triggers that could lead to post-traumatic stress – I was behind the wheel driving again 40 minutes after the incident. Work beckoned and I had to do what I had to do.
And I was driving again the next morning during peak hour.
To say that my senses went crazy and my mind was screaming “WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’RE DOING?!” is an understatement.
I had a total crash soon after, when all I did was lie in bed, cry and not want to do anything. I allowed myself the space to grieve, to be weak in the moment and to just be human.
It requires strength to keep your head up high in challenging situations. It requires even more strength and humility to allow yourself to be weak for a moment and to accept your limited capacity as a human. Only then will you be able to look beyond and realise that the strength you seek is from a Greater source, that you are being sharpened to a point.
I am still in the process of recalibrating. This incident, plus many other incidents that followed, have opened up many doors and thought processes. Inevitable, but still very challenging.
I’m doing my best to take things in stride and to be thankful for the timely reminder. A reminder for me to always live life to the fullest, to love unquestioningly, to always do what makes me happy – so happy that I smile widely, my eyes disappear & my aura vibrates with joy – and to not get caught up with the little things.
To the inconsiderate driver who’d cut into my lane abruptly without signalling, may Allah bless you with greater road civic awareness.
All will be well.