Happy 2014, Bike D.C.!
Second, you know how, if you're involved in a crash, you usually become more cautious of certain things that you're doing? For example--after I was doored, I was hyper-aware of riding far enough away from parked cars, and when I skidded out on some uneven asphalt/gravel and screwed up my hip, I rode slower through construction zones and was careful not to brake on uneven surfaces. When something happens to you that is 100% beyond your control, like getting rear-ended, it's jarring to think that there is nothing you could have done differently to avoid that accident. The only thing you might have done is not gone on the ride at all, but that translates to living in fear and not doing whatever you love, so that's not really an option--so I'm back on a rusty English three-speed that I bought off of my roommate for very cheap (still waiting for those insurance payments to come through!), and I'm biking around the city like usual.
Except--it's not quite the same. I have always been a worrywart, and it has gotten approximately 100 times worse in recent weeks. I can't hop on a bike without experiencing some degree of fear, particularly on busy roads. Whereas before, I was very adamant about giving myself enough space on the roadway, I find myself shying off to the rightmost side of the road, but because I don't want to ride in the dooring zone either, I just wait for every car to pass before I start to ride. The sound of cars passing stresses me out, even in bike lanes, and I have an irrational hatred for every car on the road--to me they all seem like evil death machines.
I project this fear onto other cyclists, too. If I see a cyclist in front of me get close to a car, I envision a terrible accident and reflexively shut my eyes, only to open them a second later and realize that everything is fine. This has also translated into a general concern about everyone's mortality, and I spend an inordinate amount of time worrying about people being involved in horrible incidents entirely of my own imagining. When I was at home driving my mom's car in the Phoenix suburbs over Christmas, other cars were whizzing by me as I barely kept at the 45 mph speed limit and crawled by pedestrians in parking lots. Highway driving was out of the question.
So...yeah. While, six weeks after the wreck, my body is fine (minus two wrenched shoulders that I'm seeing a physical therapist for), and I'm very fortunate for that, my brain doesn't like me very much. I'm not really sure what to do about it except to keep bicycling, eventually get a faster bike, and work my way back up to where/who I was before. Part of me feels like I should just woman up and get over it, but that's much easier said than done. Could you call this PTSD? I have no idea, but I'm guessing there's a lot of folks that have been through similar experiences after car/bike/skiing/hiking/whatever accidents, and that thought helps a little bit. I really don't want to make a big gigundous deal out of this, and I'm not looking for further sympathy, but talking/writing about it helps.
One last thing--it's always been my dream to bike across the country, and I was hoping to do that after I get my M.A. this coming December. But I was struck on a multi-lane suburban road, and unfortunately, there are a lot of those in America. So it's going to take some time. For now, I'd just like to get back to being comfortable on city streets, because if there's one thing that getting back on a bike has reminded me, it's that I love bicycling more than pretty much anything else I could be doing (even in the nasty, wet D.C. winter).