The Car Crash Metaphor

Pretend that you know that you’re going to get into a car crash sometime in the next 6 months. You’ve been in car crashes before, a bad one your Senior year of high school, and somehow you’ve been told that there’s another one coming. I don’t know how you know this, maybe you had a crazy dream or something, but somehow, you know. You can feel it in your bones— you know. You just do.

You quickly realize that it is impossible to avoid cars. You have to get inside one every day. You have to walk across the street in front of them. They’re everywhere you look all the time. So you start to become anxious. You stay awake at night thinking about it— cars and hospitals and car crashes and what your family will do when it happens again. You’re not sure your Mom can take it again— you know your father cannot. You live in a state of panic. 

Eventually, you start preparing yourself— what happens if it happens tomorrow? You tell your professors. Your friends. Some of them are concerned— other’s tell you not to worry— “you could never know what's going to happen.” But it still affects you. It’s the giant pink elephant in all of your rooms. Whenever you date someone new, you feel obligated to tell them what’s going on— “I can’t promise you anything,” you always say. “I’m going to get in a car crash. I’m going to almost die. I can’t stop that.” Almost always the other person laughs it off. Some of them leave— most of them leave. That hurts. Some of them tell you they can’t deal with it— “it’s too much.” You tell yourself this is fine— you’re fine with this— but it is not fine and you know it is not fine. You will never be fine with this, but you accept it as reality.

In order to make the situation better, you start to spend hours a week trying to prevent it from happening. You follow all of the laws whenever you get in the car. You always buckle your seat belt. You won’t even drive— let someone else do that— because you think somehow that lowers your chances. Finally, a couple of months into it, you start to feel like maybe you’re the crazy one. Nothing has happened. Maybe you’re actually out of the clear. Maybe, this whole time, you’ve been freaking out about nothing. You start to tell people that it was nothing. You still panic at night, of course, you do, but you also just let the panic seep. You try to ignore it. 

"I don't know anything. Maybe, they're all right."

Then, one day, in November to happens. You’re hit by a car. You’re standing on the sidewalk, waiting to cross the street, and some guy in a truck comes along and takes you out. Everyone is concerned. Your university can’t possibly believe that it happened again— “we didn’t know this was going to be an issue,” they say. Some of the people in your life leave— “I don’t know what to say to you anymore.” Others step up. Some of them try and fail. You decide that you can’t be friends anymore— that the reaction to the crash wasn’t appropriate. One of your best friends declares his love for you, all of a sudden, because everyone thinks you’re going to die. You do not die. This friendship becomes one of the ones that doesn’t make it.

You, on the other hand, are just glad it finally happened. You’re relieved, happy even, that it’s finally happened, and nobody can understand why. Now the waiting is over. You’re all set up. You’re not worried about it. I mean, you are. It sucked. You were hit by a car. But now, you can actually do something about it. You’re not waiting. It is what it is. You start worrying about what will happen next time— because, of course— you are destined to get into another one sometime in the next year or two. But at least now everyone believes in car crashes too. 

— What's it like to live with a chronic illness?