My Struggle with Anxiety After My Car Crash
This first half of this post has been in my drafts folder for a long time now.
When I made the decision to be more open about my struggle with anxiety on the blog it was mainly because of what I experienced after my car crash last year. I never thought I would be coupling it with the global pandemic we’re facing right now but more on that later in this post.
I’ll link to the blog post here that shares more details about that in case you’re new to my blog or need a refresher.
I met with a licensed counselor several weeks after my car crash in mid-August. He diagnosed me with adjustment anxiety.
If you look up the definition of adjustment disorders, symptoms mainly include feeling nervousness, worry, difficulty concentrating or remembering things, and feeling overwhelmed. This was a perfect description of what I was feeling and going through at the time.
I mentioned this in my original blog post that I was terrified to drive again. Driving to work was difficult but the thoughts before I had to get in my car sometimes were worse. My mind immediately went into survival mode.
How can I make sure I make it from point A to point B in one piece? I became dependent on rituals. Taking the same exact route to/from work. Anything that felt slightly spontaneous was off limits for me. Joy rides were never an option. I only drove to the places I needed to be, which was work, the grocery store and doctor appointments.
I went to therapy once a week from mid-August through the end of December. I’m so grateful to the licensed counselor and the treatments they used to help me go from feeling hopeless about driving to feeling normal again while driving.
I want to talk about one treatment that worked well for me: EMDR.
EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. I first read about it in a magazine right before I saw the counselor. It’s essentially a treatment to help alleviate the distress associated with disturbing life experiences. For me, it was the car crash.
Driving was not enjoyable for me, obviously. I lived in fear that another driver would crash into me. I used to have nightmares of me being behind the wheel as well as being a passenger in circumstances that resulted in a collision. And I will never be able to count the number of times I would look in my rear view mirror every time I was stopped at a light or in traffic to make sure the person behind me would stop in time and not hit my car.
The best way I can describe EMDR is that I replayed the trauma in my head as my eyes followed my counselor’s fingers moving back and forth. I guess you could call it hypnosis but it really wasn’t since I can remember every single treatment. For me, it felt like EMDR was removing all the terrible thoughts I had associated with driving and that crash.
Even when it came to talking about the collision itself. Before I started therapy, I could barely tell the story of what happened without breaking down and sobbing. As time went on, I was able to tell the story without feeling so traumatized by it all.
After several treatments, I started to slowly but surely notice an improvement when it came to driving. That horrible feeling I had in the pit of my stomach when I knew I had to drive myself somewhere started to fade. I didn’t live in fear if I had to take a different route to avoid traffic. The anxiety and worry I had while driving didn’t feel as heavy as it did before. And for that I am so grateful. Therapy works and I can’t recommend it enough.
Anxiety & COVID-19
Flash forward several months later and here we are. After my car accident, the only goal I had for the remainder of 2019 was to simply survive the rest of the year, and I was able to do that. Now I’m thinking 2020 is going to be a repeat under the most uncertain circumstances.
My struggle with anxiety now is different than the anxiety I felt after my car accident. I know I’m not alone though. We’re all struggling right now.
My friend Abra of Cap Hill Style shared a meme that resonated with me: you’re not working from home, you’re at home, during a crisis, trying to work.
I’m grateful that the company I work full-time for took this pandemic seriously and took swift action. I’ve been working from home since March 13th. While I feel safe and secure at home, I know that’s not a privilege for everyone.
As I mentioned in a recent post, my husband works for a local DC news station. Now more than ever, his job is critical as we all try to stay informed about this virus. Since his job is also considered essential, he was still driving to work every day; however, just a few days ago he was finally able to set up shop at home so now I don’t have to spend every night alone.
Watching the news is difficult for me. I want to stay informed but that’s usually when I get the most emotional. I find joy through my usual hobbies and distractions – reading, watching TV, doing my makeup, and of course blogging, but when the entire world is in shambles, it’s difficult to stay focused.
Practicing meditation has helped me though. My friend recommended the Headspace app last year after my car crash and it was essential to my recovery. I’m thankful that Headspace continues to be another source of treatment while I cope with this pandemic.
In regards to COVID-19, I am the most worried that my mom or dad will contract the virus. My parents are divorced; my dad lives in Florida with his partner and my mom is local. Both are nearing 70 and have underlying health conditions and each of them have an auto-immune disease.
I also think about the 6 million people who are unemployed. I’ve been laid off twice in my career; once during a recession and most recently in 2018. I know the uncertainty, anxiety and depression that brings. It also has me paying attention to how companies are treating employees during this pandemic.
Everyone deals with stress differently. For me, there are some days where I feel super productive and other days when I don’t even have the motivation to get dressed.
Seeing other bloggers or people encouraging us to “get things done” or “while you have so much extra time” is slightly offensive to me. Why? Because no one has to be productive while staying home. Surviving is simply enough. What you choose to do on a day-to-day basis is up to you. Don’t feel bad for accomplishing nothing while you stay home.
The most important contribution you can make right is far more important than trivial checklists like cleaning your home or organizing your closet—you’re saving lives by staying at home. For me, that’s my priority.
On that note, I hope everyone is safe and healthy. Sending lots of love and light during this time.
Photography by Mofi Arowolo (these photos were taken before the COVID-19 pandemic)