Sometimes life throws us a curve ball and we never see it coming.
I was driving down the street trying to find a new clients house except the house number I was given did not exist. I turned around and came to a stop sign looked both ways and proceeded into the intersection and was T-boned by another vehicle doing 45 miles per hour. I never saw it coming.
It has been three months since that accident, the physical injuries are still healing but thankfully a friend had finally gotten through to me about wearing my seat belt every time I get into a car. This would be a completely different story if the other driver and I had not been wearing our seat belts. We were both injured and taken to the hospital but we walked into the emergency room on our own.
I am not one to take the best care of myself so I went back to work a week later. Back to the same house with the correct address this time. I was shaky and nauseous by the time I arrived to the appointment. “that was weird” I thought “I am going to need to get over that real quick” I told myself. By the time I got home that night I was in so much pain I had to be taken back to the ER. I was prescribed another week of rest and pain killers. A week later back on the road to meet with clients. More sweating and nauseousness occurred, it was getting worse everyday. I was getting more and more anxious any time I had to go someplace I didn’t know. Finally my sister recommended that I go see my counselor. I did and she helped me find a calming technique that helped when I started to get anxiety in the car. She helped me learn to visualize the flow of painting and how calming it was for me.
Several weeks later I was driving to a new clients house in Center City Philadelphia, I was driving on the 309 expressway and somehow maneuvered around what would have been a nasty four car pile up. About a quarter of a mile down the road was my exit for the turnpike and started shaking and crying, I had to pull off the road and find a gas station. I ended up calling my boys father hysterical and he told me to call my client and cancel our appointment, he offered to come get me but somehow I drove myself back home.
From that day on the anxiety became progressively worse, I couldn’t work, I would get phone calls from clients and coworkers and be gripped when I saw their numbers come up. I would look at emails from work and be so sick to my stomach and I would cry. I kept trying to see clients but I was making mistakes, it was embarrassing. It was a daily struggle to be a mother to my children, to be a friend. I kept spiraling out of control until one day I woke up terrified before I even got out of bed. I started crying and could not stop. Somehow I made the decision to call my doctor and get some help. He diagnosed me with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and prescribed an anti anxiety medication that is not a tranquilizer and intensive counseling and I’ve begun to get better.
It has been three months since the accident and I am not fully healed from the mental trauma it caused and I am learning to live a new norm with PTSD but I am getting better. The things that kept me tethered to the ground were painting and photography. Doing these things kept me from completely disintegrating. The day the second accident almost happened I came home took my shoes off and painted in my backyard. When I was finished with the painting I took a picture of it and posted it on Facebook and gave it to the first person who commented on it. That painting is now hanging in a beautiful vacation home in Cape May NJ. During the slide into immobilizing anxiety I forced myself out of the house to photograph the things that bring me peace. It was hard and there were days I could only photograph the plants and flowers in my yard. Other days I would be able to get myself to Peace Valley Park and photograph the lake I love there. I even crawled into abandoned buildings and trains one day with a friend. It helped me feel normal and kept the anxiety monsters at bay once in awhile. I believe its the only reason I was able to leave the house at times.
The months since the accident have not been easy. Other things have come to the fore front because of it but I have gotten help medically and started finding peace mentally. I found a new job that keeps me off the road except to drive back and forth to the studio everyday. I started meditating and talking to God again after another friend reminded me that I am not in this by myself. There have been inquiries about selling my paintings and photographs. I have been hired to to do promo shots and album cover art for local bands and musicians. As much as I have struggled after the accident some really good things have come about as well.
I hope that when you are dealing with your own stresses and anxiety that you will also keep doing what helps you find inner peace and keeps you from being swallowed by your own monsters. Do whatever you can to keep them from taking over your life. Remember what it is that makes you happy and brings peace in your life. There is still beauty around us even when we are suffering and we need to go out and explore it… even if the first step is in your own back yard.