It has been five years since my crash and in that time I’ve met a host of new friends and acquaintances. Initially, people associated me with the newspaper articles written about the crash when they could see my relatively fresh injuries. More importantly, I think during the first three years, before I went to trauma therapy, I wore my PTSD on my sleeve where everyone could see it.
For example, in 2016 when Michelle Walters, a triathlete, was killed during the bike leg of Boulder Ironman, I spent a solid three days crying. At track practice the Wednesday of that week, I pulled off into the turf during my first 400 of the workout and fell to my knees convulsing as the tears flowed. I made other people deal with my trauma more back then.
For a sense of how it’s changed, yesterday a woman was pinned under an SUV in Boulder after being hit by a driver while riding her bike. While it has been on my mind since last night, I was still able to show up at run group and complete the 20-minute tempo effort with everyone else. I no longer feel personally wounded when someone else is hurt on the road. I understand that it can be hard to relate to that type of trauma unless you’ve been through it or near it, but for years I didn’t just relate, I lived it through other victims.
I’m really struggling with new friends I’ve met since I’ve gotten my PTSD under control. One Saturday morning Kennett and I were cut off on our way to swim practice by the driver of a giant SUV. As the woman sped past, I saw it was a fellow swimmer who I really get along well with. She explained in the pool how her kids had made her late to leave the house that morning. I spent two days yelling at her in my head. It is SWIM PRACTICE and it is OKAY TO BE LATE. You and your giant SUV are DANGEROUS to others on the road. Especially if you decide you are too good for the speed limit!
People will tell me their traffic woes and I cringe. I’ll be in a group and someone will say, “So-and-so just said they ran into traffic and will be three minutes late.” What? That means they had their phone in their hand while driving, most likely texting.
Many people who saw me during my recovery remind me that they put their phones away in the car because of my crash. They drive extra carefully when I’m in the car because they know I’m sensitive to traffic—particularly in instances when drivers pull out from side streets on the right, since that’s how I was hit. However, now there is a growing contingent of people who don’t even know why I have scars.
I don’t want to burden others with trauma that is mine. I don’t need the world to support me on the days when I want to cry over my disfigured lip. I don’t need to share my every opinion about crashes that happen locally. I DO need people to drive with an added caution and regard for others on the road. I am finding myself isolated from new friends, not because they don’t understand my emotional response to unsafe driving, but because the way they drive could cause a crash like mine.
While writing this I found out about two other serious collisions involving two pedestrians that were hit walking to school, and a cyclist who was hit by a driver all within 24 hours. The city needs to take real action and stop pandering to drivers—a topic for another blog post. Drivers themselves need to take responsibility for the way they drive, and start operating their vehicles like the deadly, destructive machines that they are.