The crash that changed me – part one

Day six post-crash.  I’ve been wanting to blog about my recovery, but I haven’t had the energy to do so.  My main objective has been trying to get through each day, one moment at a time.  I can’t let myself succumb to the pain.  I WILL get by.

I feel like I will be forever changed by this experience.  There will be Amber, before the crash…and Amber, after the crash.

I can’t stop replaying it over and over in my head.  It happened so fast, yet so incredibly slowly.

I was on my way to a progress review meeting at Juliette’s therapy center.  Luckily, the boys were at home with Jacob.  I was by myself.  99% of the time when I am driving, I have AT LEAST one child with me, but this time, I was alone.  For that I will forever be grateful.

I had left early, since there is a lot of road construction on the way to her school.  Normally, I am ALWAYS late, but this time, I was actually on schedule.  Jacob has been urging me to take a different route to get to her school, but (and this is definitely part of ASD for me) if I am familiar with one route to get somewhere, I HAVE TO take that route, even if there is a faster or easier way.

So, I was driving down a busier street where there is a speed limit of 45 MPH, the way I always take, the way that feels familiar and “right” to me.  I was thinking about the meeting, mentally preparing myself for that social interaction, scripting out potential things to say.  Still, I wasn’t completely lost in my head.  I was paying attention to the road.  I wasn’t on my phone, looking in the mirror, or fiddling with the radio.  There were no children in the car distracting me, something that I will admit, happens often.  This is what I can’t wrap my head around.  I was just DRIVING, like normal.  I don’t understand how this happened.

As I was about to go through an intersection, I saw a big semi truck to my right.  He looked like he wasn’t going to stop, like he was going to go through the intersection right toward me.  I had a couple of thoughts in quick succession.  The first one was “WTF is he doing?!”  I simultaneously honked my horn and tried to slam on my breaks.  It was too late, and I knew it.  He was going to hit me.  At that moment, I looked up and saw a red light.  My next thought was literally, “Oh, shit.”

And then he hit me.

The moment before the impact had seemed to go by very slowly, but the actual crash happened so FAST and with so much FORCE.

I will never, EVER, as long as I live, forget what it felt like.  I wish I had blacked out so I would not have to remember it and relive it over and over.

The force threw my minivan all the way across the intersection and into the other side of the street.  I am very lucky not to have been hit by another vehicle going in the opposite direction.  The airbag deployed in my face.  The windshield shattered.  The front of my van crumpled up like an accordion.  Looking at photos of the van later, I saw that the engine was literally obliterated on one entire side.  Just GONE.

I could hear myself screaming.  I couldn’t breathe.  I was hurt, but I didn’t know how badly.  I became vaguely aware of smoke around me….and water?  Yes, water, raining down from the ceiling.  Turns out the “smoke” was from the airbag deploying, and the “rain” was from the two big jugs of water, leftover from our recent camping trip, that had exploded inside the van.  I looked at the shattered windshield.  One of Juliette’s hairbows, which had been in the back of the van, was against the windshield, caught in the spiderwebs of glass.

I saw that a few kind people had gotten out of their cars to help.  One man was directing traffic.  A woman was standing near my van, looking in at me.  I was still shrieking and hysterically crying.  I couldn’t breathe.  I was in pain.

I opened the door to let out the smoke.  The woman drew closer, and asked if I was ok.  I said yes, automatically.  That’s what you are supposed to say in response to that question, right?  But I wasn’t ok.  And I’m not sure I ever will be.

I looked across the road, and saw a man sitting on the grass, with two other people huddled around him.  He was holding his shoulder and looking dazed.  He was the semi driver, and he was hurt too.  I had done this to him.

I have made so many mistakes in my life.  Sometimes I feel like each day is a series of small failures.  I never seem to do anything “right,” even though I try so hard.  But this was big.  I’ve never failed this big before.  With one split second oversight, I had ruined everything.  My old familiar friends (or should I say enemies?), Guilt, Shame, and Self-hatred, came rushing in, crushing me worse than that semi had.

I closed my eyes.  I tried to breathe.  But I wasn’t sure I wanted to.

{Image is a photo of the crash scene, taken by a spectator. my totaled white van is visible in the background, with paramedics leaning in to talk to me}
{Image is a photo of the crash scene, taken by a spectator. my totaled white van is visible in the background, with paramedics leaning in to talk to me}

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