I had a minor panic episode this morning while walking to a doctor’s appointment. I was crossing an intersection when a car drove by, the driver yelling something at me. I jumped in fear; my heart constricted and my lungs contracted as a wave of dizziness washed over me. My body froze as I stood on the sidewalk, trying to return to a state of equilibrium.
A crossing-guard noticed my reaction and asked if I was okay. Without much forethought or conscious effort, I found myself telling this concerned stranger all about my accident and my fear. Two years ago, I was hit by an elderly driver while walking across the street. I was on the crosswalk with two other pedestrians – the driver drove up onto the median and hit all of us. I was the first person to get hit – my head went through the windshield, leaving me with a mild traumatic brain injury and a laceration above my right eye that required 100+ stitches and missed slicing my eye by less than a millimeter. The crossing-guard was sympathetic – she listened to the babbling of a stranger with patience, her face a mirror of empathy.
I explained to the kind woman that my life at the moment is about balancing my fears – I panic at the sight of on-coming cars, which leaves me with the option of either panicking while driving or panicking while walking. A few months ago, when I was trying to drive again, I was almost hit by another driver. I came very close to blacking out from the incident, which has left me with a deep-seated fear of causing a car accident from my anxieties. At this point in time, I choose to face my fears while walking. At the very least, I can stand on the sidewalk until my fear subsides.
In return, the woman told me about her fear of driving – she was rear-ended last year. Now whenever she sees a car behind her, she is anxious that she will get hit from behind again. I told her I was sorry to hear about her accident and we commiserated about Houston traffic. She told me I was strong, which brought me to the point of tears – I do not feel like a strong woman. We talked for another ten minutes, about life and marriage and family, before I had to leave to make my doctor’s appointment. I thanked her and said good-bye.
I wish I had given her a hug. Or told her just how much her sympathy meant to me.