March 14, 2021

How Severe Trauma can Trigger Derealization.

As that song kept playing, “Bring Me a Higher Love,” I literally thought it was the end for me.

I thought this is where it ended before it even began. Ten seconds or so—those were the moments I will never forget.

Today I write for healing, I write out of fear, trauma, and shock. I am still unable to assimilate what went down and what happened.

A reckless driver who was on his phone took my lane from the opposite side of the road. Without him looking and without hearing me honking, I took my extreme right to escape him, but my car lost control.

I started going left and right, up until I hit a wall then the car went loco and flipped upside down. I can’t even describe what I felt because things went down too fast. I remember praying and screaming, “Oh my God!” thinking how was this happening. I was only coming home from the supermarket—how could this happen?

The glass broke and was shattered. Nothing remained in its place, and time stood still as I thought about the injuries I could have had and whether I would survive this or not. I thought about my parents, my loved ones, my goals, my plans, my dreams. Seconds went by while that same freaking song was playing in the background. I couldn’t move; I felt I couldn’t breathe; I couldn’t think; I couldn’t get myself out—the car became so tiny and locked me up.

My world literally turned upside down in a matter of seconds. All I was able to think about was how the heck did this happen so fast. I was so fixated on the idea that I was heading back home from the supermarket on my long-awaited day off. I was unable to understand what happened, and I froze—I literally froze.

Seconds later, I hear someone knocking on my window. I was blinded, unaware of my surroundings, in another dimension maybe, until that knock knocked me out of my short-term hibernation, my depersonalization, and my derealization. It was a way to escape an intense situation, look at it from the outside, as if it was not happening to me at that moment.

Depersonalization/derealization is a well-known psychiatric phenomenon that is commonly triggered by a highly stressful situation where one feels like they are observing themselves from the outside as if they are not living what they are in that moment. It is basically an escape from the monstrosity and the difficulty of whatever is happening.

I think it is a beautiful way that the mind creates to lessen the burden of the traumatizing event, a coping mechanism, a way around what we feel we cannot control as if we are watching some series to escape reality (which I also frequently do when I binge-watch something to forget my reality for a while only).

Back to the continuous knocking, the repetitive rhythmic way (which annoyed the hell out of me) slapped me back to reality. Oh my God, I’ve been in a terrible accident, and I am still aware and awake, and so far, alive…

I look around and a man knocking on my window told me to unlock the car (I always lock even in bright daytime as it is scary and unsafe in Lebanon in this horrible economic crisis).

I manage to find the door handle and unlock the car. He partially opens the door, looks me in the face, and screams, “Jennifer, is that you?” I looked at his face again and he was my childhood friend; a schoolmate. We grew apart, but we were good friends back in the day. What are the odds? He helped me out of the car, but it wasn’t easy—it was so tight, upside down, I couldn’t move, I couldn’t manage, but I got out.

I started crying hysterically and had a legit panic attack. I couldn’t stand, at first, so they brought me water, took my insurance info, and started calling for help.

As I was on the ground, I started self-examining for injuries—major ones—but I didn’t find any…I was okay. I don’t know how, but I was okay…I tried to stand up, but I was shaking all over the place. I peaked in the car to find my phone and hysterically called my parents and told them where I was.

I am still in shock, I am still traumatized, I am still unable to assimilate what happened, but I am okay.

Call it a near-death experience (this will crack up “Friends” lovers with Ross’s near-death experience; dark humor, I know), call it a deep found realization, I am still alive and relatively well.

I am going to take my time to heal on so many levels, but I am okay and well. It could have gone in a horrible, different direction, but I am here and now, and I will do whatever it takes to appreciate every moment in my life, every gesture, every smile, every reaching hand, and I will work on being more thankful for the simplest things in life. This is the lesson I got out of it so far since I am still at the beginning of the healing process.

A kind word, a small action, a helping hand, a warm embrace, the soothing sound of “everything is going to be okay” has helped me feel as okay as I can be after such an experience and feel real in it. And this is definitely how I will pay the universe back.



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