I got rear ended the other day. It was raining. I was on the worst stretch of highway in America, the Cross Bronx Expressway, and I got hit in my little Prius by an F350 Super duty towing a motor home.
From impact it was an exercise in control. Now, three weeks later worlds are still colliding…
At the onset I had to take a few seconds to not instinctively rip the old man from the drivers seat and throttle him on the highway.
Accidents happen, he just got a little too close.
I asked if everyone was ok in the other car. I took out my camera phone and started snapping pictures. Ugh. Bumper is pretty jacked. Did I mention I had only bought the car five days prior? Oh yeah, there was that that level of frustration… I had not been in an accident in years. This happens now?
Good old FM 7-8 or FM 3.21.8 or …
My mind started to race. Thinking back, the impact was not much harder than my Bradley crew and I knocking on someone’s door, but I was braced for that, this was more sudden, and as such made me more alert in a snap. The feelings reminded me of a contract drill after an IED. Dynamic opposites at play. High adrenaline from anger playing off a souring stomach while we waiting to hear if anyone was hurt.
The tension from the impact had me soaring. I pushed all my feelings and emotions into that little box and let my training take over.
The checklist runs without prompt…
Return fire… wait… scratch that…
Check to see if anyone is hurt.
Check to make sure everything is in a place that is safe.
Notify the appropriate personnel…
It was a battle drill I had done too many times.
Everyone was ok. A little shaken up and wet, but OK. His F350 laughed at my little Prius.
Dusting off the Stuck Points and probabilities…
The real fun has been the symptoms that have crept back into my life that I had though I had a good handle on. I continually brace for impact. I see cars coming close and I cannot help but think about getting hit. I drive slower and in the right lane (saves MPG in my hybrid right?)
I’m also back to running through the crippling “if” scenarios I worked hard to get past. A little jolt and I have to work extra hard to fight the swirling patterns and negative thoughts.
In Iraq, getting attacked was a when not if. We left the gate ready for the worst case scenario. Unfortunately, we found those scenarios on a few occasions. The level of hyper-vigilance that was woven into our daily routine is high and deep. It helped us survive.
I guess driving a car and accidents are the same way. It is just a matter of time. The difference is that driving on the Cross Bronx, while frustrating and somewhat dangerous, is nowhere near the level of patrolling the streets of Iraq. And, the frequency of any one individual having multiple accidents is a low probability, unless you drive like some people I know…
Now, my stuck points related to safety are back. My rumination habits of reviewing the scenario to attempt to improve a similar scenario, or respond to a worse scenario are back. I am trying to over control scenarios.
I am unwinding them, and much quicker than I did my time in Iraq, but it is still a setback in my mind. But, a positive is I can clearly see these issues. I have the skills and tools to tighten them up. So, with a little time I will step forward again, with a new experience to notch in my belt.
This month is PTSD awareness month. In keeping with the notion that we are not alone in this fight here are a few resources from the VA and others:
AboutFace: Testimonials of the afflicted
June 27th is National PTSD Awareness day