I’ve always been a very independent person. One of the things I have loved the most since I got my licence was driving. The idea of just being able to get in a car, throw in some gas and just go wherever you feel like going. I love the power of the road under me. I love the the scenery speeding by. Being able to blast my music and just drift wherever the road may take me. Then stopping and getting out and enjoying the view.
There was always something about having the freedom of a car. I always felt lucky that I have had a car since I was like 20. My own car, 100% owned by me (and the bank of course). Driven only by me. Something that could just give me the freedom to go wherever I felt like it whenever the mood struck me. Good or bad.
Somewhere along the way that changed. I have been nervous for a while now driving. It’s been happening for years. Part of me wishes I could pinpoint a specific thing that caused this anxiety. I can’t. I can pinpoint a number of things that have contributed to it. Inducing a couple of accidents. All of which have had lasting effects both mental and physical.
My first accident was 2009. I was driving home from the city on a windy road on a snowy day. Rounding a corner I lost control and the car went up and over a snowbank. On the other side? A steep bank, lined with trees. At the bottom of the bank, a small river controlled by a power mill above on the hill. I flipped and rolled down the bank into the river. I’d like to say I wasn’t hurt and that was my initial thought. But that is really where all of this started. Or so I think. I’m not even really sure. It’s a guess at this point.
I got out of the car, and after several failed attempts I made it to the top of the bank. I was soaking wet from wading through the river. I was freezing cold. It was -5°C (23°F) outside. I was tired from climbing up the bank and I was upset and scared. I flagged down a car (after 3 went by me…) and they called an ambulance after they saw my car. The woman was crying and shaking and saying it was a miracle I was alive. After looking back I agree. There was no signs I was really hurt. Just shaken up.
Since then I have suffered neck and back pain and headaches. Which for whatever reason I just never attributed to that as they started at least 6 months after. By then I had been in a second accident in which I was not driving but a passenger (in my own car) in the front passenger seat. We were struck from the front drivers side by a guy who was trying to turn in-front of us onto a side road from the main road. The speed limit was 80 and we were going about that. We narrowly missed a pole and stopped on the gavel on the side of the road missing the ditch. Car was not drivable but once again, we (my ex and I) both thought we were okay. Just sore. The neck and back pain and headaches started soon after that. Still I didn’t really get treatment other then to tell my doctor and be given muscle relaxers for a few weeks. It seemed to abate so again I thought I was okay.
By then I was getting a bit anxious in the car but I just chalked it up to the accidents and moved on. It likely is and was from that even though my general anxiety (actually Panic and Anxiety Disorder) started way before that. Never really affected driving though until then.
Since that second accident I have been in one more last June. I was a passenger in my Dad’s van and he hit a deer on highway 101. I again was sore but initially didn’t think I was hurt much. I did have some seat belt bruising this time which amazingly I did not have in the first accident despite flipping and rolling the car and hanging upside down. Not visible anyways.
Right after the first accident in May of 2009. I had another bad accident in Afghanistan which was not car related. A few weeks before I had been bitten by a poisonous spider (brown recluse) and got sick. Despite treatment I was not getting better a few weeks later. Being stubborn and being afraid of being sent home or having to give up and go home I was determined to work. I made it through the morning. At lunch time I was surprisingly hungry considering I had no appetite up to this point so I decided to walk from work to the boardwalk, get a chai latte and pizza hut pizza. I order and went over by the boardwalk rail to watch the people walking by and to watch the (mostly) guys play soccer and football in the middle of the boardwalk.
I was just standing there watching and next thing I know I was on the ground with a guy from the pizza hut trailer standing over me pooring a bottle of water over my head. Which I am sure is not a good idea in a place known for it’s heat and dehydration but anyways. I woke to intense pain in my lip and jaw. I sat up with some effort and help and started to feel faint again. Then I saw my shirt bright red with blood. That was it I went out again. I don’t faint at the site of blood typically. Even my own. But when you see a beige shirt that is completely red and know its coming from you. Well… that’s a whole other ball park. I woke again to a young British girl (military) talking to me and trying to rouse me gently. She was a medic. So was her two friends with her. They asked if they could check me out.
I managed grunt they took as yes. Which it was. My lip was stinging like a bitch, like I bit it off… (little did I know that was essentially what I did) my head ringing and my neck hurt. They checked my neck and back then felt me all over to make sure no bones elsewhere were broken. Then they gently lifted me between two of them while the third ran ahead to their vehicle to open the door. As they were half carrying me half dragging me to their truck. I started to glance in the window of another truck beside us. One girl (the first one I saw) gently said “No my love, you don’t want to do that just yet.” So I didn’t. It was all I could do to not pass back out at that point. In the truck one of them opened a first aid kit, grabbed gauze and told me to hold it to my lip and gently hold as much pressure to it as I could.
My arms were numb and week. I was going into shock at that point. And I was afraid. As afraid as I ever have been in my life. Even the siren and following whistle of an incoming rocket and then thud of it hitting close did not frighten me at that point. Thinking back even watching a rocket sail, who knows how many feet under our plane upon approach to KAF did not frighten me the way the numb cold feeling I was getting from loss of blood and shock scared me. Nor getting off the plane and being told to get under the wing of the plane for protection in a rocket attack as we were first unloading… are you kidding me? Jet fuel? Yeah, that’s safe. Nothing they said or did prepared me for that. But somehow I was still unwavering and determined.
At the hospital they did whatever they did to my jaw, it was nasty… sewed my lip up and sent me back to my tent to rest. I was in agony. I was still determined though. Despite the fact my jaw was stuck shut and I could barely talk I was determined to stay as long as I could. Eventually after 2 weeks I was just in so much pain I had to leave. They booked me a flight home. Followed up with the dentist and doctors here and after my jaw and lip healed I thought I was good.
I was getting headaches a lot and each accident after that just kept compounding things. First the fluttering sensation in my ears started. I can’t really pinpoint when. Most likely after the last car accident but I think I had it very occasionally before then. Then the nausea and throwing up started a few months ago. To be blunt the throwing up is so bad I just sit with my head over the toilet for anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour or more. Soon as I try to stand up I puke again. I start walking. I puke again. I sit down and I need to puke again. At first I thought I had a sinus infection and flu of some sort. My head hurt and there was a lot of pressure in my sinuses and ears both. Then the fluttering sensation intensified. I would tilt my head tugging on my ears thinking I had water in there from the shower.
Next the fluttering was either accompanied by or followed by a ringing noise in my ear. Which I know from other people who’ve had it as tinnitus. Kinda common but with everything else happening it was troublesome and annoying. When it happens I can’t hear out of that ear much and even the unaffected ear seams slightly affected because I couldn’t hear “over” the ringing. Over the last few months it’s getting worse and worse. Right now it happens multiple times a day. It affects my hearing for anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours at a time. My hearing test (at a time I was not having any ringing) came back fine but the audiologist warned me that is typical and should be repeated as hearing loss could happen at any time and could be slow or fast or not happen at all at this point. I thought that was kind premature… we don’t even know “what” it is. But I understand what she means.
With the ringing came the sensation of vertigo (or spinning), and dizziness. They aren’t the same thing. Dizziness is more lightheaded. The vertigo is a spinning and sometimes a falling sensation. This has and likely will again, caused me to stumble and fall. Which in turn makes things worse when I get hurt. Also there is a “fogginess”. With the fogginess, I feel sort of detached. Like I’m there but not really there. I was and am discouraged and frustrated and I would forget things I would not normally forget. The more I tried to think the harder it was to think till I would just sit there staring. I say all this in either the past or present tense but it is really both as it was and is still happening.
Somewhere in there, add in the pain in my ear, mostly the right side but even the left sometimes. All of this would happen independently at first then started happening all at once then would settle and start to go independent again till it went away. Sometimes lasting minutes at first then hours, then days. Then it would go away for a while and then come back. The pain is a sharp pain that also seems to affect my hearing. It has lasted no more then a few minutes at a time.
It’s been like this for months. I can’t find a pattern to it. I can’t find a rhythm or any triggers. Every-time is not the same. Some are worse then others, some last longer then others. Nothing makes sense. I’m confused. I’m frustrated.
I’ve even begun wondering this if since the original car accident and accident in Afghanistan if the symptoms started long before a few months ago and I was just not recognizing them or ignoring them or attributing them to other things and if the subsequent accidents just escalated the (and possible added a few more) symptoms.
Needless to say all of this has really brought back the anxiety and panic I used to feel. Especially with driving. Where “attacks” can happen so quick, with no apparent triggers and affecting me in such a varied way and varied severity, it really makes me anxious. I will got for a few days, then a week with little to no symptoms and I think, hmm… maybe it’s going away and then it’s back.
I’m having a hard time with anyone taking it seriously. Especially my anxiety over it. Not really my parents. They actually really understand for the most part. Cory’s great and has never once complained but he doesn’t even know the half of it. It’s not that I am trying to keep anything from him. It’s just hard to explain. Well I suppose I just did but writing words is easier then saying them to me. He’s not really a reader though. Not in the way I am. Not everyone is. He would understand if given the chance I think. I just am not much of a communicator verbally. Half of what I say never makes any sense to anyone but me (if it even makes sense to me…).
My doctor is trying but he’s stumped. Not really looking at the bigger picture. As most doctors are, he more concerned with the symptoms and how to treat them and putting a label on it, which I know is important. He’s good but what does it matter. He’s not the one to figure it all out. I’m not sure who is. I also know that even if I have a theory, as such, that it’s not necessarily correct. Or fully correct. Or does it even matter?
Ultimately I just feel frustrated and even though I have a good support group. I still feel alone. Overall a lot of things have an effect on it all. When I get tired (mentally or physically) it starts to happen. When I get a headache from something else like loud noises, it starts. Not to mention I am more sensitive to sounds because of (or is it a cause of?) all of this. It’s just a vicious circle that I seem to be suffering from 24/7 cause if it is not actually physically happening then I am dreading the moment it starts. Or part of it. I just don’d know where to begin. I just don’t know how it will end. I know there is worse things out there. I know people in (and out of) my life face much worse throughout life. Maybe even I will myself at some point. But right now, to me it is my own private hell. Over and over again.
I do have hope though. If I’ve learnt one thing in my life it’s that miracle can and do happen. Sometimes things just work themselves out and other times you figure things out, and other times someone else figures them out for you and points you where you need to go. That right now… is my everyday life, or something like it… I don’t know if I should add this or not… But. That first car accident? It was not really an accident at all.