#23 The moment I thought I was going to die.
Don’t wait for wake up calls
Dear Lovely You,
It had been an intensely hard day. I was in my mid-twenties, training to be a nurse and doing my community stint. I was still grieving for my aunty who had died from cancer a few months earlier while I cared for her two children. The Sister in charge and I had visited three or four terminally ill patients. Dealing with the patients was painful. Dealing with their relatives, already grieving, was unbearable. I was holding it all together. Just. Remaining professional. Keeping my mask intact.
Maybe the Sister I was working with should have checked I was okay when we ended our shift. Maybe I should have paused and checked in with myself but I didn’t have that awareness then. Maybe I shouldn't have got in the car.
It was the beginning of winter and dark already. Wind was howling and rain lashing the windscreen as the wipers tried their best to keep the screen clear. Coming up to a right hand bend a lorry came around the corner towards me and I was momentarily blinded. I swerved slightly left but too far. The wheel caught the verge and the car was thrown across the road behind the lorry up the verge and hedge the other side.
The car continued up and over as I screamed, 'Noooooo,' and every little muscle that I didn’t know I had, contracted around my ribs and belly to shout it loud enough.
No, I’m not ready to die.
No, I’m too young.
No, I have children to care for waiting for me at home.
No, not like this.
The car tipped backwards and came to a standstill on its roof. Time stood still but I knew I had to get out of the car before something came around the bend.
What first? Seat belt.
Where’s the buckle? Here it it.
Woof, I fell into the roof of the car.
Where's the door handle? Here it is.
I rolled out onto the road, just as another car came up the road towards me. The driver stopped and reversed into a driveway. A man got out and called to me to see if I was alright. I yelled, 'we've got to get my car moved before someone comes around that corner!’ He told me to sit in his car while he went up to the house to call for help.
I sat there sobbing and watching, then seeing headlights getting closer and closer to the bend. I screamed again, 'Nooo!' as I squeezed my eyes and the steering wheel, waiting for the crash and for my car to come spinning towards me. It didn't happen. Somehow the driver stopped in time.
The man came back and told me the emergency services were on their way and that I should go back to the house with him. The drive was steep. I didn't feel the wind or rain but it was dark.
In the woman's kitchen I sat sideways on a chair at her table cradling a cup of hot tea. Tea always makes things better doesn't it but I couldn’t stop shaking. The woman was kind and sympathetic, unlike the police officer who was brisk and efficient. Unfeeling. He took a statement after getting details of my mechanic so the car could be removed. Then he breathalised me. Maybe he'd seen too many near misses. Maybe he was hardened to it. I felt cold. A naughty girl. I hadn’t done anything wrong, just misjudged the corner. I felt anger rise up but quickly popped it away.
It seemed to take hours (was probably half an hour) but my brother Steve arrived and I fell into his arms sobbing again. He drove me home silent as I continued to weep beside him.
It was a massive wake up call.
When my aunty died, I had promised myself I would sort out my life. Now there was no question. I don't think there was time in that moment for my life to pass before my eyes, but I did think I was going to die and when you've had a near miss like that, life feels a lot shorter and a lot more precious.
I have had many wake-up calls over the years. In this one, I was already stressed beyond my limits and yet I kept functioning. Kept doing all the things that were expected of me until through all the stress I had an accident.
But was it an accident or an accident waiting to happen?
Did anyone except me expect me to do all those things?
Did anyone expect me to carry on working and studying as well as caring for my family while I was still grieving?
If I had been able to express how I felt would someone have suggested I stop or slow down?
If they did, would I have listened?
Could we have managed financially if I had stopped?
By not being completely honest with myself about how I was truly feeling did I miss the opportunity to be supported?
What drove me to keep going?
I was very driven back them. It’s still a part of my nature. One I have to humour and then tame otherwise my body just says, ‘no.’
But we shouldn’t wait until something serious happens to reflect on our life and what's working and what's not.
Easier said than done when you're lurching from one crisis to another trying to keep everything going.
Trying to make sure everyone else is okay, bills are paid, the house clean, the car serviced, the children bathed, fed, clothed.
Trying to make sure you get to work, get to work in time, look the part, do a good job, keep your job and keep getting paid.
Life can be hard.
ARE YOU MOVING AWAY FROM WHAT YOU DON’T WANT OR TOWARDS WHAT YOU DO?
Most of us are driven by fear.
Fear we’re not good enough.
Fear we don’t have enough.
Fear we won’t have enough if we don’t work hard enough.
Fear we haven’t achieved enough.
But what is ENOUGH!? Who says? Who decides? Enough for whom?
Fear we won’t be able to pay the bills, that we won’t have enough money.
Fear we won’t survive!
Or a fear that is more difficult to pin down. A feeling that we have to strive for more and better, without realising the consequences to our health, wellbeing or relationships. We ignore symptoms, pop a pill, and carry on. We tell ourselves we haven’t done enough. We just need to keep going. Do more.
It all comes down to a fear of not surviving though. If our ancestors didn’t fit in, they might have been forced out of the tribe and they needed the tribe to survive.
And although life has changed very much beyond that scenario, we live in a society that doesn’t support people adequately when they’re down.
SO, WHAT CAN WE DO ABOUT IT?
I don’t have the answers but I do know that many of us need to prioritise what’s more important to us.
Things or people?
More stuff or more time?
What someone else says or what we know in our hearts?
Health and wellbeing or being seen to do the ‘right’ thing?
Feeling vibrant, fully alive and expressed or looking like you’re doing what everyone else is doing?
Letting others down or letting ourselves down?
You see we have this internal Bully that we picked up from childhood in times we felt criticised or perceived we weren’t achieving as much as someone else. Times when innocent feedback meant, to us, we had failed.
The Bully is repeating the things we heard said to us or others. It tells us we’re too slow, lazy, haven’t done enough, haven’t got enough, haven’t done life properly. It wields a big stick and even when you find the thing that’s going to help it makes it into another thing to punish you with.
Ah… yoga. But you haven’t stretched enough. Practiced enough. You’re not supple enough, too stiff, too round shouldered.
Mindfulness. But you haven’t remembered to be mindful.
Positive thinking. But you still have a whole lot of unresolved anger and resentment in there eating you up.
Meditation. But you haven’t done enough time.
It’s mean. It’s hard. It’s cruel. It never shuts up. It hurts us even though it’s hurting itself at the same time.
But most of all it’s scared.
It’s shitting itself that we will rumble it.
It’s terrified of losing control.
It believes that it is the only thing that can keep us safe.
It’s a clever little critter. It will let you believe that you’re doing the right thing. That this thing will help. That if you keep going, do a bit more or… no do this instead or that… but it’s playing mind games.
It goes through the motions of exercise, healthy eating, being positive, practicing gratitude while on the inside you quietly die because you haven’t been able to do the healthy thing properly or EXPRESS how you’re REALLY feeling.
The BULLY (which some call the ego) is a frightened child that needs to be in control. It didn’t have any control except what it did for you when you were little. It got you through that then but doesn’t realise that what it did then doesn’t work any more.
You’ve survived. You’re an adult.
You can be kind to yourself now.
You can rest.
You can play without anyone telling you you can’t.
You can play this game of life without anyone telling you how.
You can express safely in many different ways.
You can feel, feel, feel and be buoyed up by those feelings.
You can trust yourself to do the ‘right’ thing for YOU!
All you have to do is listen, be HONEST, don’t make excuses, be real.
Oh I wish it was that easy.
Perhaps it is…
Be honest. Be honest.
At least with yourself BE HONEST.
From my True Self to Yours
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