It has been two weeks since the car behind me got rear ended by another car whose driver didn’t see that the four cars in front of him were crawling along about five miles per hour, along with about a thousand other cars. Although the driver behind me saw the car speeding up from behind and braked to soften the blow for all of us, I had no idea what hit. My first thought was, “How cou
ld I be in a car accident? I was going five miles per hour, and for the last ten minutes.” Before that thought, I don’t know how long I sat there. I don’t remember opening my car door, although it was open. I remember seeing fluid coming out from under the car and my horn kept honking. Getting out seemed like the best course of action. I stood and leaned against the median, until I couldn’t stand anymore. I wondered why the other drivers weren’t getting out of their cars. There were two pick-up trucks in front of me, also part of the crash. For some reason, perhaps because I was the middle layer of the sandwich, my car sustained most of the damage, and was totalled. I noticed that my right wrist was hurting and the right side of my back was tightening up. But I turned down an offer from the paramedics to go to the hospital because 1), I wasn’t bleeding, 2) no bones were feeling broken, and 3)I didn’t feel like I had any internal injuries. Plus I was trying to get to a hearing in Riverside, and I wanted to get my car to the mechanic I knew. Too many things to worry about to go and possibly, spend hours in an emergency room. On the other hand, I remember that Liam Neeson’s wife felt fine one hour and tragically worsened the next.
As a massage therapist who was worked with many car crash victims, I know that often the pain and the symptoms don’t hit for weeks after the event. So I was carefully observing myself, to observe my body and to watch for signs of PTSD. It took ten days until my mental faculties were back to normal. The first few days after the accident I could not read words, I used the wrong words, I made wrong turns in neighborhoods I know well, and was overall feeling “not grounded.” Five days after accident another bodyworker worked on me, using some acupuncture and foot and lower leg points. When I stood up I felt like I had feet for the first time in five days. The next day, after I saw my chiropractor, I felt grounded, like my brain was connected to my body and my body was touching earth. I was still extremely fatigued and very easily could get an overuse reaction from over twenty minutes at the computer, or after making necklaces for my daughter and her friend. I tried to write at the computer and could not until around day eleven after the crash. I didn’t feel like I had the brain capacity. When I began to read, the only way I could read was lying down on my back.
My body went through the gamut. Neck and shoulder pain and stiffness, rhomboid pain and shoulder blade pain, TMJ and ear pain, upper outer arm and greater trochanter pain so that I couldn’t lie on my side, right rib cage pain, knees locking up, ankles feeling gimpy, calves going into rock hard spasm, and did I say both wrists and arms sore?
All this from a “non-injury collision”. I understand that car accidents are the number one cause of PTSD in America, and it made me wonder how many have gone through similar suffering and how many have been acknowledged. I also thought how difficult readjusting to non combat life is for veterans.
These are the things that have helped me:
Making figure eights with my hand in front of me and following with eyes. Doing this on both sides or using both hands together. Crossing the midline of the body to help right and left brain connection.
Making jewelry and mandalas, although the amount of time doing this was considerably limited due to arm and hand pain, and back fatigue.
Seeing my activator chiropractor
Twenty-thirty minute walks with my dog-though the first day after the accident I walked up a hill and the next day my calves went into spasm. I assumed that moderate exercise was okay, but even a little challenge can set off the reactors in the body.
Not resuming working out – yet
Stretching on floor on mat and lying on tennis balls on each side of spine and under hips, shoulder blades, wherever the weight of my body can handle the pressure to release the muscle spasms.
Hot baths in epsom salts, followed by ice at times, if it seems helpful.
Acknowledging that I was fatigued and being good to myself, and reminding myself that even though there are millions of car accidents every year, they are nonetheless, not normal. There is nothing normal about being shaken up, on whatever level you are feeling it. So appreciate what you are going through, and respect others who are going through similar situations.