There has been a lot of interest from various people via various channels about what has happened in the month since my boyfriend and I were targeted by an angry Mercedes driver. If you are reading this you have probably read that story already, but if you haven’t you can read it here.
First of all I want to say that I love cycling, riding my bike is the best part of my day. That’s why I started this blog, I wanted it to be a positive place for women to get information and be inspired to share my passion. It causes me heartfelt pain that my most popular post isn’t the one filled with pictures of happy people playing bike polo or silly thoughts about why I love bikes, it is the one about a single angry driver venting his rage on two unprotected cyclists. It is hardly the positive story I wanted to feature to encourage more women to ride. Then again, it isn’t exactly the kind of thing I wanted happening to me on the street just kilometres from my house.
The police have responded moderately well. I have heard from the constable dealing with the case twice. While he assures me he will contact me when he has any new information I have yet to receive a phone call that was unsolicited. Either me or my boyfriend have called him at least four times for each of the times he has called me. However, he does seem to be following up with the case and in the last phone call he assured me that the Mercedes driver was to be charged with “a number of offences and will definitely be going to court”. I still do not have information about whether the CCTV footage from that evening has been recovered from the council, about whether the driver has been interviewed, what he is to be charged with, and what the court system will require from me when the time comes for a trial.
Simply put, I am a bundle of nerves and getting on with my everyday business is much harder than it used to be.
My partner and I sought legal advice and were told that our best option at the moment is to continue working with the police, in hopes that they will keep pursuing criminal charges. We have obtained quotes for the repair of our bicycles, and the amount is such that we can’t afford to repair them until we eventually get reimbursed by the driver for the damage he caused.
I have been waiting till there was more information at hand from the police to write this post but while time drags on and that information still isn’t forthcoming another more serious issue has raised its ugly head. This issue is not easy for me to write about, I am hesitant to do so. It feels intensely personal but I know intellectually that it is not. I know that it is important to talk about my experience of this event so that others who have experienced something similar won’t feel like they are being irrational or alone.
My doctor tells me that I am suffering from post traumatic anxiety. I have been having some horrible dreams about meeting the driver of the Mercedes, the occasional panic attack and an almost constant feeling of anxiety. Either I can’t sleep or I sleep too much. Either I can’t eat or I eat too much. I can hardly concentrate on anything, I forget what I am doing midway though, or I switch to another task because I can’t work out which one is more important. I still ride my bike everywhere, but sometimes the noise of a car engine causes my heart to leap into my throat. If a driver passes to close I nearly jump out of my saddle. Simply put, I am a bundle of nerves and getting on with my everyday business is much harder than it used to be.
I can live without my red commuter for a while, I am lucky enough to have a sweet polo bike I can push about. But living without my mental fortitude is tough. I am tempted to forget about the whole business, never bother to call the police again, and just concentrate on making my life liveable. It seems like the path of least resistance, the way to get my day-to-day existence back in balance. But I think this desire is just unrealistic escapism. Until drivers like this mad Mercedes monster start to be punished for what they do then bikes and brains will continue to be scarred. There is work I must do to make sure this guy knows that what he did was not ok.
Like I said, I love riding my bike, I love it so much that anxiety isn’t going to stop me doing it. Now I take longer routes to avoid main roads, I take it easy and I stay far away from drivers. I have also started making an effort to smile and wave at drivers doing the right thing – my Mum always taught me that a little politeness can go a long way.
The Google god tells me that I will probably be feeling fine pretty soon, but who knows what my life and relationships might look like after a few months of me being continually spaced out? I am lucky to have a boyfriend and doctor I trusted enough to confide in when the bad dreams and negative emotions didn’t look like going away. I am lucky to have a loving family and awesome group of friends who can handle me being a space cadet and reassure me I will feel better soon. Having said that, this experience has been almost all bad and there is still a guy out there driving a Mercedes like it is a weapon.
I am not alone, other cyclists have experienced PTSD after a crash before. Your PTSD, My PTSD is one of those stories and while it treats the matter in a more lighthearted manner than this post it is worth a read. Ride safe.