Head On Collision {Part 8}

This is part 8 in a series on my struggle with fear, worry, and anxiety – you can read part 1 here.

While fear continued to rage in my heart, I was also distracted by this blonde, tractor-trailer driving man who just walked into my life.

Head On Collision Part 8 by @MandyJHoffmanThree weeks after our first “hello” we went on our first date which was followed by the close of his junior year of college at the beginning of May.  This meant he went back home to his small town in Pennsylvania to work for the summer, leaving us 3 hours apart.  At the same time, my counseling came to a close because I seemed to be doing better.  In reality, my “twitterpation” had only paused my free fall into fear making it appear as if I were doing better.  However, while fear still controlled my every choice, God used love – though still infatuation at this point – to keep me from getting worse for the time being.  Justin’s job had him working over 60 hours every week which included Saturdays and so if I wanted to see him, I needed to drive.  Even at that time I was fully aware of the ironic situation.  God finally brought a guy into my life, and now I was scared to drive!  Nonetheless, the promise of seeing this amazing man dangled in my mind like a carrot in front of a donkey, and I would fasten my seat belt and white-knuckle my way through the agonizing 3 hour drive.

The battle of fear was so real that it also distracted me from the ongoing physical pain.

Mandy's Burned FaceDuring this entire time my physical pain never went away, though it was easy to brush aside due to the battle with fear. The burns on my face had healed rather quickly along with all the outward scrapes and bruises.  However, inside my body, the pain persisted despite the many chiropractic adjustments and hour-long massages.  The entire Spring and Summer consisted of frustrating doctor appointments, physical therapy, and tests which were also cushioned by the distraction of young love.  After several painfully unpleasant tests, the conclusion was reached that I had permanent muscle and nerve damage in my right arm.  My insurance was another messy story and they stopped covering the medical massage and chiropractic treatment which were the only means of temporary relief for my pain.  All of this affected my ability to do my job which involved the full use of my right arm for 8 hours a day and I went from being full-time, to part-time, and then to changing jobs completely.  While this was aggravating and disappointing to my now 20-year-old mind, the companionship of both fear and Justin made it seem like white noise in the background.

Looking back, I realize just how compassionate Justin was to me.

Our relationship was quickly deepening despite the fact that I was a mess!  He endured car rides with me that consisted of panic attacks, my tightly grabbing of his arm when I felt he wasn’t slowing down fast enough, surprised gasps if I felt like a car was too close to crossing the line, and continual request to slow down or give more space between us and the car ahead.  You need to understand that Justin was an excellent driver and that the problem was not him, but rather my skewed perception.   A car too close to the line would be a driver moving over slightly for people walking along the road.  Driving too fast would mean going the exact speed limit.  And needing more space between us and the car in front was me wanting an impossible quarter-mile separating us!  Justin also tenderly loved me through the bouts of pain when I just had to lay down because I could not hold my neck up any longer.  He did all he could to keep me warm, even if it meant he was uncomfortably hot, because when I got too cold my muscles would tense, causing pain in my neck and arm.  (And he continues to do this over 13 years later!)

On August 31st I said “yes” to the question I had been longing to hear and Justin and I were engaged.  Yes, your math is right, that was only 5 months and 1 day after meeting each other.  We did have the blessing of both sets of parents!  Now I was distracted by wedding plans and the fear just sunk deeper into my being.  I became an expert in planning so that I would not have to be alone or drive as much as was possible.  My counselor had given me parting instructions to drive as often as I had the opportunity – something my parents where committed to seeing done – but I used Justin’s gentleman ways to escape driving anytime we went someplace together.  Eleven months went by where I quietly tried my best to manipulate as many situations as possible so I didn’t have to face my fear.  For those watching me, my life may not have seemed different than that of any other 20-year-old, bride-to-be.  But I knew the truth.

My life was not “normal”.  Every decision was based on what would make me less afraid.  My life was paralyzed by my fear.

 To be continued…

{If you’ve missed a post, you can find them all here.}

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