Rescue me

When I was 7, I was in a car accident with my Dad. We were driving along the motorway to my uncle’s place, to help him move house. It was in January, back when we still had seasons, and it was a freezing day.

All of a sudden, my Dad shouted “Oh god!”, and my first thought was that we’d left something at home. And then he started turning the steering wheel very quickly, but nothing happened. And then the car started to veer to the left, and the last thing I remember before we hit the lamppost that knocked me unconscious was seeing road and sky and trees spinning, and then a hedge racing towards the windscreen. And then nothing.

When I opened my eyes I was lying on a sofa. A man who lived across the road from the crash had seen it happen and had brought me and my Dad back to his house to wait for an ambulance. I had a nasty concussion and my Dad had broken several ribs.

A few weeks later, in an unfortunate coincidence, I was in another car crash. Less serious this time, but bad enough to cave the front of the car in and shatter the windscreen. I was with my sister this time. The car in front of us stopped without warning and we slammed straight into the back of it. I couldn’t open the passenger door to get out, and my sister unclipped my seatbelt and dragged me out through the driver’s door.

I became scared of cars. I remember being with my sisters and their boyfriends one day and we pulled up outside a shop and I got out of the car and started screaming - I just suddenly didn’t want to get back in. They took me home to my Mum’s house, and she ran me a bath and gave me some clean pyjamas and hugged me on the sofa.

I’ve been thinking of those times a lot lately. The fear, the feeling that something terrible was about to happen, and the shaky aftermath.

But what I remember most when I think about those times was the rescue: The stranger carrying me across the field to his house; The paramedics gently explaining that we needed to come to the hospital to get checked over; My Dad tucking me into bed when we got back home; My sister pulling me out of the car and hugging me tightly to her at the side of the road; My mum enveloping me when I walked through the door sobbing after what I now realise was probably a panic attack.

After the past 2 years, I can’t be the only one who’s craving a rescue: A moment where someone says “it’s OK, you’re safe now, it’s over”. A moment of noticing that the danger has passed.

That moment, I’m afraid, isn’t coming. When the crisis has persisted for so long, and has been internal and external, it doesn’t work like that.

But here’s what I hope:

Perhaps in the absence of the rescue moment, we can create something more lasting.

A rescue that’s slower, and more subtle, and comes from within as much from without. A rescue that's tougher because it needs to be, to strengthen us for the challenges that lie ahead.

Not a sigh of relief but a slow, cautious exhalation as we look back at what we’ve been through and learn, finding our feet, and starting to turn outwards again.