Friday, October 23, 2009

Post Traumatic Stress?

The mind is a funny thing.

I was driving again mere hours after my accident and have been driving to work, etc. every day since without feeling much more than a need to be extra cautious. Well, naturally in the back of my mind I'm nervous, but that nervousness never manifested physically before. But suddenly today--four days after the accident--I could feel myself getting anxious as I was driving to the office. Guess it was the post traumatic stress belatedly kicking in.

Since I'd been totally fine driving up to then, the anxiety took me completely by surprise. It wasn't a panic attack or anything major like that, but I could feel a tightness in my chest and I was a little nauseated. When I reached the office I actually had to just sit and take deep breaths for a while before I left the car.

Maybe it only hit me today because today I started getting more details about what's going on insurance-wise. Even though I knew about the split liability thing in Japan, I never really thought through the implications too carefully. Split liability (in my case, it seems like it's going to be 80%-20%) means not only am I responsible for a portion of the damage to my car, but I'm also responsible for a portion of the damage to the obaachan's car! (Well, turns out she's not actually all that old--around 58, maybe? But she really looked older. Guess the farming life is very hard on a person... But yeah, I'm going to keep referring to her as "the obaachan" because it's easier.)

And since this is my second accident within the same year, if I get the insurance company to pay for the damages, my monthly premiums will jump up to something like 60,000 yen (over $600!) per month!!

I'm trying to stay positive about everything, but really, I can't help but feel that it really sucks that I'm going to end up paying so much--either out of pocket for repair costs or over the long term in insurance costs--because I had the misfortune of getting hit by someone else. But since I can't change the past, there's no point in bemoaning my "luck"--all I can do is try to stay positive as I deal with the consequences as they arise.

On the brighter side, the obaachan's insurance will cover all of my health/medical costs--even compensation for fuel costs for going to the hospital!--so that's one less thing for me to worry about. Even though I was able to walk away from the accident without showing any signs of obvious injury, I have been noticing extra stiffness/pain in my neck and shoulders, and I've been having low grade headaches of some duration/frequency for the past few days. So yeah, I decided to play it safe and went to a clinic today.

Which reminds me of another thing I'm really thankful for: an awesome supervisor and office!! Particularly since the accident occurred outside of working hours, it would totally be within my office's rights to expect me to use my paid holiday days (nenkyu) to go to the doctor. And my supervisor didn't have to make the time to come to the clinic with me this morning, either, but she did. I know she's also spent a ridiculous amount of time on the phone with the insurance companies, and running around various places to file paperwork....

Plus on Tuesday (the day after the accident) I finished my school visit after lunch, so normally I'm supposed to go to the office for the rest of the afternoon, but since I wasn't feeling so great--mostly I felt mentally fatigued--they let me go home after school instead. So yeah, my supervisor/office have really done a lot to make this a lot less of an ordeal than it could be.

But back to the health/"post traumatic stress" stuff...

Since I went to the doctor today I had to submit papers from the insurance company (?) dealing with the medical stuff to the police. Well, actually Mukainakano-sensei took them in this evening and I got a call from her around 6:15pm because it turned out I needed to give a statement in order for the police to be able to accept the form.

The statement covered the basic details of what happened--time, my speed, where I was coming from and going at the time--as well as things I thought I could've done to prevent the accident (slowed down more before entering the intersection). It also clarified when I started feeling pain (the morning after the accident) and why I waited so long before going to the doctor (I was busy at school and didn't want to take time off to go!).

The interesting part was that they also asked me if I wanted the obaachan to have a heavy penalty/fine since the accident was "upgraded" from a mere vehicular accident to a vehicular accident with injuries. I wasn't really seriously injured, so of course I said there was no need for a heavy fine, but I'd like to think that I wouldn't be out to "punish" the obaachan even if I'd been injured worse. I mean, it wasn't like she was drag racing or driving under the influence or anything--it was just an accident. Maybe it could've been avoided if she'd entered the intersection more cautiously, but the same could be said for me--although I believe the onus for extra caution was on her since she was facing a stop sign. And it's not like having her pay a big fine would do anything to help my situation at all.

But yeah, I really hope everything--car repair stuff, insurance, health stuff--gets settled soon.

I've even suffered a loss of appetite since the accident. I eat because I know I should, but I don't really feel like I'm actually hungry anymore. Or, if I do feel hungry, once I start eating I feel full very quickly. As I result, I've been eating even less than usual for dinners--maybe just an apple and/or some yogurt. (Well, last night I had the bread from school lunch that I couldn't eat at the time, but that was because it was there rather than out of hunger.) But I'm pretty sure it's just a "post traumatic stress" thing and not a physical problem. Hopefully once everything is settled I'll also be able to settle down more mentally/emotionally and get back to normal.

*sigh* I really hope that I'm OK driving through Oirase Gorge to Lake Towada on Sunday. But I'm down to my last 9 months in Japan, so I'm not going to let even something like a car accident stop me from seeing the famed autumn foliage! I'm going to sleep early Saturday night and get up early to avoid the crowds, so I think it should be OK... Maybe I should have asked someone to come with me, but I'll do my best to get over my driving jitters on my own.