THE BLOG
06/26/2014 08:22 am ET Updated Aug 26, 2014

Woken Up From Sleep Deprivation

Many of us would like to imagine ourselves totally invincible and immune to the common life stressors that plague most of society. However, what happens when those stressors are not so "common"? I am one of those prone to falling into the category of the "Wannabe Super Human, Wonder Woman." Well, at least, I used to fall into that category.

On Jan. 26, 2006, after 10 years of excessive exposure to not-so-common stressors (and to what I perceived as failed attempts at being "successful" in parenthood, marriage, and career) a whole week of losing sleep in order to "do all, be all, and please all" culminated in a near-fatal crash at the border of Mexico.

After driving hypnotically for two hours "under the influence" of sleep deprivation, feeling like I was in another dimension of time and space, I found myself heading towards the border of Mexico imagining I was a stunt driver in an action movie. Racing at nearly 100 mph, I was woken up from this "interactive reverie" when I hit a water barrier and flipped the car I was driving into three pieces on the Tijuana side.

With the haunting sounds of metal crashing and the explosion of the air bag still ringing in my ears, I found myself hanging upside down staring at my reflection in the dashboard. My first reaction was to check to see if my front teeth were still intact (vanity is not driven by logic). Upon hearing Spanish-speaking male voices, my second reaction was the irrational thought, "Shhh---t... I'm in Mexico!" I was more concerned about being a woman alone in Mexico than I was about the preceding events that had landed me there, literally.

I was uncommonly calm as I waited for the rescue team to arrive. However, despite the fact that help was on its way, the "action film" kept rolling footage in my head, as I envisioned a number of undesirable scenarios flashing by. Having been influenced by Sandra Bullock's character in the movie The Net, I was devising a way to not have to interact with anyone once they'd finally pry me out. In the event that I'd have to plan my escape from there, I decided that I would first feign unconsciousness, so they would not guess that I understood Spanish. I felt myself being lifted out of the car on a gurney, as I remained convincingly unconscious to the team of medics. Staying "in character" was easy, given the fact that I had no pain other than a minor burn on my chin from the air bag.

From that point on the plot thickened. I was taken to Tijuana's General Hospital (and later to the embassy) waiting for family to be contacted. When I finally decided to "come to" (after the poking and prodding) the script started to turn comical. I thought I'd startle the pokers and prodders, so I suddenly sat up and said, "All right, that's enough!"

Opening my eyes to examine my surroundings, I felt like I had been teleported through a time machine to the early '50s. The hospital was so retro and dilapidated. I gave them a hard time about taking any X-rays. They finally stopped pushing the issue, and I passed the time by interacting with the attendants and guards, apparently amusing them all. That was only my part of the whole "adventure." The other part was my kids' and my ex-husband's experience in tracking me down and negotiating with the authorities in their attempt to get me out of Mexico without having to sign over lives and limbs.

Although it was classified as a "psychotic break," there were many more underlying physiological symptoms going on as contributing factors. For the next two months, I literally had to fight my way against Western medical diagnosis and treatment into recovering my own way -- holistically. This was truly my wake-up call from striving to live other people's expectations for my life. Finally realizing that I shouldn't be alive to tell this story, I began telling it with more passion and purpose for the lessons learned and the messages I could pass on to others.

After this transformative event, I began reflecting on the objectives I had embraced up to that point, which were not necessarily my own. What was initiated as a career path to becoming a full-time, contracted special ed teacher (with health benefits and a nice retirement package to boot) turned into "downshifting" my career gears. Severe budget cuts in education forced those who had too much education and not enough experience to the top of the non-reelect list. I had worked hard to earn my credential and degrees. Now they had seemingly lost their value in this crazy economy.

While having my credential and master's in special ed has helped to make me more "marketable" as a long-term sub, it has taken me the past seven years to fully realize that my definition of a "successful career" is in embracing the term "career sub" (aka professional classroom manager) as one that is a perfect fit for me and my holistic needs. While providing a rewarding public service, substitute teaching has also offered me a level of freedom from binding contracts and the often corporate-like expectations of conventional business.

I haven't redefined but have returned to my ideals of "success" by realizing that I have always been successful at creating a life of happiness and balance. I have always been creatively resourceful with whatever I've had at hand. Yet, as a former "perfectionist," I am learning to stay in the moment, enjoying even the imperfections of any given situation and becoming appreciative of the lessons it has to offer.

Regardless of how it may appear to others, I am learning to manifest positive outcomes for a future reality that I can envision for myself. If character is in fact my destiny, then to me, success is in manifesting fully who I am while in physical form and modeling what health and well-being looks like on every level. As a singer-songwriter, I enjoy posting songs that have been part of my own therapeutic return to wellness. An example of one such song that is in the process of being professionally recorded is "Cursed With a Conscience."

Bliss and Blessings,

Joanne of Frank (blogger pen name)