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Stalled at the Corner of D&D

I remember when D&D stood for Dungeons & Dragons. My kids believe that it stands for “doom and destruction,” which is how we jokingly refer to the intersection where we had the accident. That was back in November, but I still hold my breath occasionally when I drive through there.

As my doctor checked me thoroughly for neck injuries, I described the accident to her: “It was raining. I heard an ambulance siren. I checked my rear-view mirror but saw no flashing lights. The driver behind me was being cautious—plenty of stopping distance. I tapped the brakes gently. Looking up, I saw the lights approaching, in my lane. I leaned on my brakes. Then I heard a loud ringing in my ears. When the car finally skidded to a stop across the four-lane intersection, I realized that it was the ‘door indicator.’  The sliding door on the passenger side was crushed open, accordion style. There was screaming and crying coming from the back seats of the van. All three children were with me, but my 14 year old is great in a crisis. She calmed her brother and sister down, while I called 911.” My doctor nodded and didn’t say a word.

“It wasn’t the driver behind me,” I continued. “He came right over to help. It was the driver behind him, who didn’t hear the siren, who was in an awful hurry, who didn’t realize why traffic had slowed to a near-stop, who slammed on his brakes when he scooted in between us.” “Oh, I see,” she said nodding again. “And have you driven through there since the accident?” she asked. I checked my watch.10:30 a.m. “Yes, of course. Four times today already,” I replied. “And how do feel about that?” she asked. “I’m still pretty anxious,” I admitted, “but I’ll have to get over it.” “It will take some time,” she cautioned.

It’s been months, and I still feel a bit jittery at that corner, especially when it rains.Is this PTSD? I’ve been in far more stressful situations, including 15 seconds of terror during a major earthquake. No one was seriously injured in the crash, and although my car was totaled, it was easily replaced. So why did I freeze to a stop last week when I heard an ambulance siren as I approached that intersection? Maybe the main difference between easily getting over previous shocks in my 20’s and feeling stalled at the Corner of D&D in my 40’s is that I now possess the cumulative experience of life’s stresses. And it is more difficult to unlearn a reinforced response. Still, I’m doing the best I can and using all my mental resources– especially my sense of humor–to assist in my recovery. As it turns out, dungeons and dragons are not so scary after all.

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