Back in January 2014, I was driving along the main road from our home to go to an early meeting in the city. Something that I do daily. There was some traffic around and it was starting to rain so I put on my headlights, nothing extraordinary or unusual about any of this apart from what happened next.
As I came to a four-way junction where I had right of way, I was aware of various vehicles; some ahead of me, some behind, others waiting to turn off, onto or across the junction and then, without warning, a car pulled out directly in front of me, across my path and we collided.
I had been accelerating from a 60km zone into the 80km zone just before the junction when this happened so the impact was significant. The steering had been damaged and as the air bags released, I could no longer see where I was heading. I remembered that there was a boggy area to the left which I wanted to avoid and a raised traffic island on the right that would stop my car and did what I could do steer toward that.
Fortunately, someone called the police and ambulance and the lovely driver in front who had seen what happened came to check on me and gave me shelter in his vehicle while I waited. Much to my surprise (and relief) the only injuries were a fracture in one of the small bones in my foot, a fracture in one of my fingers, along with whiplash, bruising and shock. My car was a write-off but I wasn’t!
Why am I sharing this?
As you can imagine, it took me a little while to drive through that junction again. At that time, with no vehicle and Nick away, I couldn’t drive, but I also didn’t want to. The thought of it and the physical sensation and emotional discomfort was enough to delay me. However, I couldn’t avoid it for long because, we have to drive that road and through the junction to get to Mackay.
The first few times were difficult. I was hyper-aware, extremely cautious and somewhat anxious because part of me expected it to happen again; from being a possibility that I had never considered it now felt like a probability.
Over time it became a little easier; it’s not that I forgot what happened but I eventually adjusted my reaction to what had happened redirecting it to a response instead. What does that mean exactly? I learned to re-set my belief and release my emotional reaction; the belief I’d formed that it was going to happen again at the same junction, the fear of it being a worse outcome and projecting my anxious thoughts out to what felt like a certain future point.
Instead I recognised that being that way wasn’t helping me, I chose to not let it dictate what I did or didn’t do in future and instead started to observe and adapt my behaviour. This approach allowed my natural caution to remain which was important; I was still vigilant but the fear disappeared.
Five years on, there continue to be many accidents, bumps and near misses at the same junction (not me I’m relieved to say!) because people aren’t paying enough attention or are taking unnecessary risks. I occasionally feel a faint jarring sensation in my body, like an echo of the event, but I no longer have any emotional connection to the event. For me, learning to let go of the emotional residue and instead apply the lessons of the event certainly helped.