Several months ago, I went through one of the most difficult and frightening days of my life.
I was sitting at a stoplight. It was mid-day and I had just gotten my car inspected and the oil changed. Sitting at the light, I took a drink of my Dr. Pepper. I slightly turned to put the can in the cup holder. As I turned back, I glanced in my rear-view mirror. That's when I saw the jeep behind me start to jolt forward. A durango had come over the hill, and didn't slow down for the light. Before I knew what was happening, I saw the durango push the jeep out of the way and slam into me. I couldn't do anything. I was blocked in on all sides, there was no where for me to avoid being hit. As the durango slammed into my mini cooper, I spit my Dr. Pepper all over myself and the steering wheel. I sat for a few seconds in shock.
Skip forward 20 minutes and I'm sitting on the sidewalk trying not to move as a cop is asking me what happened. I'm calm. I can handle this. But I can't. Because I see it in my mind. I play it in my mind as I recall that accident. But every time I see the durango in my mind, I see it coming for me, and I feel that fear. The fear that says, "I won't walk away from this." I can't stop the tears. Everytime I try to recall what happened, I start to cry. The ambulance shows up. They put me on the backboard, and I'm calm. I have to be calm. And I am. Until they ask what happened. Then, I'm crying again. In the ambulance, I hear the radio, I hear the monitors, I hear the emts talking. I want to close my eyes, but I can't. Because everytime I do, I see it and start crying again.
I'm wheeled through the er. Nurses ask me questions. "What's your name? What year is it?" I'm calm. Until they ask me what happened. And I'm crying again. I'm scared. I shouldn't be going through this alone. "What's your social security number?" I know this. How many times have I had to know it from memory? But I can't remember it. The numbers get jumbled and I can't figure out the right combination.
I'm in the waiting room, watching for my sister to pick me up. There she is, and for a few minutes, I'm going to be ok. Seeing her there, I can be calm. I'm not seriously injured. I'm joking about being covered in Dr. Pepper. We get to the house, and she wants to come in.
My mother has just had surgery a few weeks before. She's laying on the couch in serious pain. Before I can even gather my head, she's laying face down on the bathroom floor. She's in and out of consciousness and barely breathing. I'm sitting in the hall terrified that I'm watching my mom die right in front of me and there's nothing I can do. The ambulance is on the way, but I'm so scared they won't make it in time.
My sister is better at dealing with emergencies than I am. Most people are. I never know what to do. "Get a cold rag." I would never think of that on my own. She's instructing me to do things. I know that if I were here in this situation alone, I would have no idea what to do. I would collapse in the hallway and watch my mother die. Not because I want to. I'm petrified in this situation. I freeze. I don't know how to be comforting. I don't know how to think. I shut down. My fear takes hold and I'm powerless against it.
Hours later, we are all surrounding my mom in her hospital room. She's awake and asleep. The machine beeps...beeps....beeps...Then, it sounds like an alarm is going off. I stop breathing. This machine "alarms" every few minutes. But I can't handle this alarm. Because everytime it goes off, I think my mom is dead. And I start crying again. I'm crying silently until my aunt notices. She hugs me, and I lose it. Nothing anyone could say would make me feel better. I need air.
Sitting outside of the hospital, it's a pretty day out. Not too hot, not too cold. The sun is shinning. The wind is blowing. It dries my eyes and gives me something to focus on. But sooner or later, I'll have to go back into that hospital room. Eventually, I do. More siblings have arrived. My sister is having contractions, but it's just dehydration.
The night ends with all of us heading home. My mom still in the hospital. She had internal bleeding, but it stopped. I breathe a sigh, knowing she's going to make it through the night.
Even now, everytime I think about that day, I cry. It's probably the most terrified I've ever been about something "real." This wasn't unnatural anxieties. This wasn't monsters under the bed. To this day, I'm still terrified.
Something that struck me that day is how alone I felt. In the ambulance, in the er, in the hallway, in the hospital, I felt as if I was standing against hell on my own. I don't manage trauma well. I internalize everything. I refuse to burden others with my emotions or fears. But at the same time, I'm unable to hold it together. I can't function and figure things out logically. I need time to process everything.
I will not cry in front of anyone if I can help it. I remember feeling weak because it seemed like all I COULD do that day was cry. I'll never forgive myself for losing it that day. I'll never forgive myself for failing to keep it together. I'll never be able to repay my sister for being strong and carrying the world for me that day.