I was cycling round a large roundabout here in Glasgow sometime in July of last year (2020), perhaps around quarter past three in the afternoon, when suddenly an SUV came straight off the adjoining motorway and ploughed into me with considerable force.
It all happened in a flash. One minute I was going round a big circle and then the next, I was circling through the air. Suffice to say, I hit the ground hard. I’ve no idea whether my head hit the ground first but, either way, it hit the ground really hard.
Once my body came to a full stop, I soon realised that I was unable to move. Well, I could move my right arm a little, perhaps by a few centimetres or so, but no further. And no other limb was working. My motor skills had gone offline, as it were.
Quickly, a woman appeared in front of me, kneeling immediately above to prevent me from even attempting to move. She spoke kind words of reassurance before completing our emotional and physical connection by placing her right hand gently upon mine. As out-of-sorts as I was, I recognised her brave generosity: I mean, for all she knew I could have had Covid-19. But still, she crossed the social distance divide without hesitation and administered perhaps the most natural first aid response of all, in response to my obvious distress: a truly unconditional caring touch.
For up to a minute, I simply lay there with no notion nor any real ability to move. Until suddenly, I heard a voice inside my head telling me and with non-negotiable authority to get up.
Before I knew it, I was wrestling myself free from the kind woman’s sincere entreaties to remain put. I managed to get to my feet and then, once I’d found my bearings, I hobbled over to the raised kerb in the middle of the roundabout where I sat down in a battered heap. Ambulance and police units were already on their way.
I looked over towards my bike for the first time. It was partially trapped beneath the front of the SUV and, frankly, the back wheel was now nothing more than a squiggle.
As bizarre as it might seem, I actually wanted to apologise to the driver for distressing him: he seemed to be in a greater state of shock than me!
I didn’t fully realise it at the time, but I really was in a state of shock in response to the trauma of the impact. My brain had released a number of chemicals – and commands – to ensure that I got myself to the relative safety of the raised kerb. And here’s the bizarre thing: although my head took one helluva an impact and my body ached in places where it had never ached before, I was actually, somehow okay. I eventually lost a toenail, but that’s pretty much it. Aches, scrapes, cuts and bruises, and losing a toenail. Simply incredible considering the force of the impact. In saying that, I reckon if I hadn’t have been wearing a helmet then the two of us, me and the driver, would have been in serious trouble although for entirely different reasons!
To get things moving, I’ll just add that the police and ambulance services attended the scene very quickly. The police provided me with the driver’s insurance details and, after a lot of persuasion on my part, the ambulance crew dropped me off at my place of work just around the corner.
Even though I could tell my body was essentially okay, albeit, it was obviously surging with the cortisol and adrenalin that had been released in order to get me through the immediate aftermath of the crash, my mental and emotional state of being was on a rapid descent. As soon as a colleague of mine dropped me off at home I instantly knew that I was in no condition whatsoever to be left alone. I instantly recognised that I’d been traumatised and, worse still, the traumatic event was now playing horribly on repeat in my mind. Over and over it played like a broken record.
As I live alone, I’d already sent a text to my best friend, to let him know that I’d been involved in a crash and it just so happens he phoned me a few minutes after I got home – just moments before I inevitably fell into the fetal position and crashed all over again for the rest of the night. But thankfully, he said the very words I needed to hear: “Come over, Derek, just come straight over…”
I grabbed the lifeline with both hands and then before I knew it, I was there. Now I felt safe. I was being hugged – very gently – and I was being fed and taken care of as if I was the most important person in my friend and his family’s lives. While my body continued to ache for a good week or so, thankfully, my mind had integrated the experience and come to terms with the trauma. Slowly, very slowly, but slowly and surely all the same; thanks to them. Even the ever-yappy dog helped to soothe and repair my broken mind that evening.
This wasn’t the first time I’d been knocked off my bike – trust me, it’s not my first rodeo! But my goodness, it was the biggest hit by a country mile. So much so, in fact, that I now know what people mean when they say they‘re not feeling themselves because, for a week or so after the crash, I definitely wasn’t myself: a lot of the time I was literally a pale, numbed-out shadow of the guy I used to be before the crash. Indeed, for most of that week or so, I was no longer Derek – I was ‘almost Derek’.
This is how I experienced trauma in 2020. Trauma, it seems, can occur at any time, in any number of ways and from any direction, apparently, and when you least expect it. Trauma is what happens in the body.
But recovery from trauma can occur at any time and in any number of ways too – especially so if you can connect with caring people, such as the kind woman who simply saw me as a human being in need of urgent care, or my friend and his family, who saw – and see – me as their loved kin.
As for almost Derek, well, he’s long gone, and ‘normal’ Derek is firmly back in the saddle and going round in circles the way he used to before the collision. I know my experience of trauma here is pretty mild compared to the more intense and enduring developmental trauma experienced by most of our other bloggers but, unless I get hit by a bus or something like that… well, that’ll hurt just the once and somebody else can tell the story.
Stay safe out there, my friends. But, most of all, stay connected 🙂
Epione would like to thank the helmet for protecting Derek in his moment of need as well as his parents for making him so robust and yet, surprisingly bouncy when it comes to bonnets and tarmac! And thank you, Derek, too for all that you do behind the scenes at Epione to keep the ship sailing. Suffice to say, expect to see some bubble wrap – by which we mean a lot of bubble wrap – as part of your Christmas !!!
If you would like to collaborate with us and share how you have overcome trauma and how you have been recovering, please get in touch with us at email@example.com – We look forward to hearing from and seeing you in 2021!