In January 2020, just before lock-down I was in South Africa visiting my mom. Mark and I were living in Kuwait at the time and I came home to take care of a couple of things including helping my mom through some physical struggles.
The one Saturday evening, I went to visit my cousin in Benoni, and the next morning when I drove home, I had a near life experience...
It was around 11:00 when it started raining on the R21. I was traveling in Alexis (my little Silver Polo hatchback), happily listening to 94.7 when a bright orange Sedan came racing by in the fast lane. I still thought to myself, that driving at that speed on this wet surface is not a great idea.
That's when it happened...
The orange vehicle aquaplaned and started to fishtail.
From that moment, everything stood still. The rain drops suspended in the air, the music stopped. All I could hear was my breathing and heartbeat. The whole scene started playing out like a slowed down film reel, in individual segments.
The right front part of the orange vehicle smashed into the right hand barrier.
The vehicle started spinning to the left, round and round.
It stopped dead in the middle of the highway.
It stopped dead in the middle of the highway, in front of me!
As all of this happened, I automatically started slowing down and came to a halt in front of the spinning vehicle.
The occupants of the vehicle and I sat there for a moment (that felt like a lifetime) staring bewildered at each other and that is when I saw the shock and fear as they jumped out of the vehicle and ran wildly through the traffic.
I looked in the rare-view mirror and realized why they looked so bewildered. I saw a truck speeding around the corner and I seriously did not know if I was going to see another sunrise. In this complete overwhelm I went into a freeze response and just shut down.
It is true what they say about your life flashing before your eyes in a second. I just kept looking at the truck and the truck changed lanes and went past me in swirls of raindrops, horn blaring.
When I finally managed to return to my body and convince my brain to function again, I drove home in the slow lane at 60 km/h.
When I arrived at my mom's place I was unable to get out of the vehicle, my legs were jelly and my arms were shaking and numb.
I never noticed what a huge impact this event had on my life, but as time goes by, you realize that you are little bit more hesitant to get onto the highway so you drive the back road, or the sounds of hooting vehicles make you jump.
When I had the opportunity to work with a fellow student in the Traumatic Incident Reduction course, she asked me what I would like to use as an item in a TIR session. An item is the incident that you would like to view in a session that has had a traumatic impact on your life, and I was surprised that this near car accident came up. The more I thought about working with this incident, the more hesitant I became, which is a good indication that it probably is the incident that you should be looking at. I reminded myself that things sometimes get a bit worse before they get better as they do when we become present with painful or traumatic experiences.
During our practical sessions, we had to record the sessions so that we could get feedback from our facilitator, but also so that we could see what it was that we could improve on.
It was interesting to notice how much shock was still present after all these years from this near accident. When I played back the video, my pale face with the blank expression, wide open thousand yard stare that is not uncommon for people suffering from PTSD was apparent.
My classmate walked me calmly through the Basic TIR technique and every time we viewed the incident the 'sting' was less. You could see my whole body softening, eyes relaxing until this incident no longer evoked a traumatic response. TIR turned a near death experience into a near life experience. Driving no longer sends me into fight and flight response. I feel like I have regained my freedom.
Traumatic Incident Reduction (TIR) is a simple but highly effective technique to reduce the impact of a traumatic experience and it is not only for car accidents. It can be used for grief, stress at work, divorces, home invasions, hijackings, assault, being shamed, bullying, the list is endless.
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