That Time I Almost Became A Semi-Sandwich

I have often alluded to one of my PTSD incidents, the one regarding driving in the rain at night, but I questioned whether I’d ever write about it publicly. Manee wrote a post that triggered my wretched anxiety about it, and with her encouragement, I’ve decided to post it.

In the spring of 2006, I drove from Indianapolis, Indiana to Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, to spend a weekend alone with The Mister.

I am confused now, because when I pull up driving directions on my laptop, they do not remind me of the path I traveled via my road atlas then.


I don’t think my route was as depicted. I didn’t have sat nav, and I didn’t post my locations to social media, so I really can’t say how exactly I went. The trip took 11 hours and I enjoyed every bit of it.
I particularly enjoyed my mid-day view from the welcome center in West Virginia. Purple mountain majesties indeed. I stood atop with millions of yellow daffodils spread out in the valley below. Breathtaking. It was one of those things I’ll never forget.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the region, lemme just tell you, I’ve heard it said that if you flattened-out West Virginia, it’d be the largest state, and I think there may be some truth to that.
Of course, I am a biased fan, a lover of Appalachia in general. It’s an extremely beautiful place, where valleys don’t seem long and wide, but rather the valleys always seem to be short peaks to other valleys. (I must stop myself, I could go on for days.)

We had a wonderful long weekend. I sometimes wonder why all my weekends do not consist of eating crab three times a day and sexing my husband…

But the drive home was not the same experience. Several hours in, the skies filled with storms, the sun set, and as I drove up and down the mountains through Pennsylvania, I was almost crushed in a semi-sandwich.

This was the first panic loop I developed as an adult. Neither fight nor flight is an option when you’re about to be a semi-sandwich.

no, YOU don't make sense!

no, YOU don’t make sense!

My car was precariously placed between two semis going down a ‘hill.’ Ahead of me, another semi. On a flat road, I could slow my speed and get some distance. In the incline, I could not get any distance. Behind me, another semi was approaching, all too fast, dangerously fast. The semi got close enough to me for me to see the driver so well, I could, to this day, pick him out of a line-up.

I don’t remember anymore where I was exactly. Reading the words ‘Pennsylvania Turnpike’ still gives me nausea, so I presume I was on or near that — or signage for it.
With great clarity, I remember those few seconds when I knew I was about to die, when I saw the things your brain shows you right before you meet your maker.

They say that before you die, your whole life flashes in front of you, but in my case, it did not. I saw specific images of my children.
Bubba, joyously opening a Christmas present, his eyes big, blue, happy, his smile, contagious. His shirt, so red.
Sissy, a mess of blonde curls and her glasses falling off her nose, as she leaned over the garden tub to clean her feet. She was looking at me for approval.
Sassy, all eyes and smiles of wonder from under a sheet on our bed.  Peek-a-boo.
That’s what I saw in the flash right before I almost died.
I often wonder why I didn’t see Moo, or The Mister, but I didn’t.

It is a miracle that semi stopped in time. It is a miracle. I don’t care if you believe in miracles or God’s grace, divine intervention, or Guardian Angels — It’s a GODDAMNED MIRACLE that semi didn’t crush me like a steamroller over a skateboard.

I was supposed to arrive home that night, but I could not drive anymore. As soon as I could, I exited and checked-in at the first hotel I saw. I don’t remember the town, the exit, the hotel, any of my surroundings. I remember shaking so much that the clerk walked me to my room.


I called my MIL, who had my babies, and let her know I had to stop. I tried to tell her what happened, but she was dismissive. She said I had had a very emotional weekend and to try to get some rest.

I slept the kind of sleep where you don’t know you’ve slept until you wake up.

I have yet to recover from this incident.
In therapy, we talked about how I have successfully driven through many dark and rainy nights, how this isn’t going to happen every time, how this trigger creates a panic loop. We talked about how that semi driver was likely equally terrified. We discussed how my MIL probably didn’t feel dismissive, how she was likely concerned and grateful, but showed it by minimizing the trauma and encouraging rest.

For years, driving was a trigger. I drove pretty much every damn day, so imagine that. It’s still not my favorite. Just last night we had this conversation:
“Gah, I don’t wanna go to the store tomorrow. Maybe my husband will come with me, keep me company, drive me.”
“Maybe if you make a nice enough list, your husband will let you sleep in and have all the shopping done and put away before you even get up.”

I used to love to drive. Right up to this semi-sandwich incident. Now, I’ve come a long way from vertigo and paying people to drive me places, but I’m not recovered.
To this day, I don’t like to drive alone. I make way more stops on long trips. Rain makes it worse, night makes it worse, and driving in the rain at night is me at my most brave. I want to cover my eyes and give up, but I don’t.

I almost died.
I was not highly emotional when it happened; I was highly emotional because I almost fucking died.

My heart is pounding in my ears.
I guess I’m done.
Please don’t try to minimize the traumas other people carry. Please don’t try to one-up them as if it’s a game of surviving horrible events. Please don’t cut them off and tell them you’ve heard it before. All around you, there are people in recovery. Maybe they don’t talk about it or write about it, but they’re there.

Do you understand?

About joey

Neurotic Bitch, Mother, Wife, Writer, Word Whore, Foodie and General Go-To-Girl
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36 Responses to That Time I Almost Became A Semi-Sandwich

  1. Josh Wrenn says:

    I also understand. One of my favorite things to tell people is that the severity of your problems or my problems does not diminish the seriousness of yours. Glad you didn’t become a sandwich.

    Liked by 2 people

    • joey says:

      So true. I like this about you.
      When my husband was deployed, girlfriends would complain to me about how they were missing their husbands off on business trips or whatever and then apologize to me. I never wanted them to apologize. I think one’s entitled to miss one’s husband, regardless of the situation.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. jan says:

    I totally freak out when stuck between two semis! I’ve been known to drive twice as far to get away from trucking routes!

    Liked by 2 people

    • joey says:

      Yeah, they’re scary when you’re boxed in like that. One of the few times I’ve heard my FIL swear is when he talks about semis, lol!


  3. I’m proud of you for sharing. I once almost drowned (I think I blogged about it) and when I was safe all I kept thinking was – I didn’t pray when I was about to dye, what’s wrong with me? I don’t think you should worry about not picturing everyone in that moment of panic. Yes, the truck driver was likely just as frightened, but who cares? Have you gotten to the part of my book where Ella thinks she is going to be run over?
    On a lighter note, isn’t West Virginia lovely when you are not the driver?

    Liked by 1 person

    • joey says:

      West Virginia is freakin stunning. I think it’s one of the most beautiful places in America. I’ve seen it in winter and spring, can’t even imagine autumn there.
      I must admit, I’ve not read your book. I really got it for my girls. Sassy thinks it’s too young for her, but Moo is liking it.
      I’m sorry you almost drowned :/ — I didn’t pray either. I do pray all the time when I drive now tho. Especially in the rain at night. Constant prayer!
      The point of her bringing up the semi driver was to remind me that I wasn’t alone. I felt alone and vulnerable, but he and I were in it together.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Carrie Rubin says:

    How terrifying that must have been. I don’t blame you for stopping for the night. Our bodies can get delayed reactions, and shaking for the next few hours while navigating in dark wetness would not have been good. For all you know you staved off an accident down the road.

    Liked by 1 person

    • joey says:

      Thank you, Carrie. I think so too. I don’t think it would have been safe for me to drive another 4 hours. Sunlight and clear skies were such a welcome the following day.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. meANXIETYme says:

    I love your continued bravery! Even if you don’t feel you’re being brave, I see it.

    I understand and admire you!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Glazed says:

    I agree with your advice on hearing other people’s traumas. True listening involves making a strong effort at doing nothing. Nothing but listening.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Benson says:

    Lots of folks can understand your fear. They just don’t know what to do. I definitely would have pulled over that night. A nameless motel and a bottle of hooch would have been my first thought. I am glad you survived that night. I must say though. At the risk of being insensitive,when I first read the title I couldn’t help but think of you and your Freak Flag.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Anxious Mom says:

    Holy fuck. That sounds absolutely awful. Thank you for sharing with us ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Jewels says:

    Omygosh Joey, how terrifying! Driving at night in the rain is THE worst, and I hate driving next to semis, I can’t even imagine what that must have been like to be surrounded by and almost sandwiched between them.
    I live with two people who are too afraid to drive and I’m often insensitive about their fears, so thanks for sharing this, it’s a good reminder to me to try to be more understanding…

    Liked by 1 person

  10. reocochran says:

    Rather than say too much, I will say Joey this was a traumatic experience and I would not have any right to minimize it or say something cheery.
    When I have friends who really need me to listen, despite my being a babbling idiot at times: I make a pot of coffee or offer one of 3-4 teas and we sit under a blanket on the sofa or if my kid, on my bed. ♡

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Dan Antion says:

    I have driven the roads through southwest Pennsylvania and West Virginia many, many times. I drove on them before they were highways and I’ve driven on what they call highways. It is beautiful country, but it can be a very scary place to drive. It’s scary because it’s dangerous. I feel bad when I hear of someone in a situation like this. I am glad you stopped driving and pulled into a hotel. Thank you for sharing this.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Thanks for sharing Joey! What a frightening experience. I don’t like driving at night, in the rain on a regular highway never mind on a windy road in the mountains. What the heck were semis doing on that road anyway? I’m sorry that happened to you but you did the right thing listening to yourself to pull over. You are absolutely right that none of us know what other people are carrying around. I have my own heavy baggage that no one sees. Keep being brave and talking about it…it helps others!!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. garym6059 says:

    I had a very similar incident on I-75 near the KY/TN border with a couple of semis and treacherous weather. I was in a little Ford Ranger then to this day I will not drive something that small ever again if I don’t have to!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Sammy D. says:

    I do understand, Joey – not just your original terror, but the recurring terror for years after. This is a good reminder to give others ‘space’ and support at any given time.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I understand and your feelings come through to the reader because of the words you chose to use in this post. Serious fear. I am directionally challenged or can get lost turning around and have been that way my whole life. I have a smart phone, an atlas and a GPS but every once in a while this feeling crawls over my body from head to toe wondering if I’m lost. I continue to experience it until I spot a familiar place or can see my destination. Take care, Joey, and keep pushing that fear back as you step into the car. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  16. I understand, and I hope writing about it helps.


    Liked by 1 person

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