When Sara Evans was 8 years old, she was hit by a car while crossing the highway bordering her family's farm, an experience she opened up about for the first time in her upcoming book, Born to Fly. In an excerpt shared by PEOPLE, Evans wrote that she crossed the highway, something she was not allowed to do, to get the mail, and the last thing she remembered was "a flash of blue."
"My mom told me that when the car struck me, I landed 80 feet off the road," Evans wrote. "When they found me, I was curled up in a ball with my left leg mangled and twisted and almost severed in two. They all thought I was dead." She woke up in a hospital with a severe concussion and both of her legs in casts after being unconscious for two days. A doctor told her mom that she needed pins put in her leg immediately, but that they were afraid to put Evans under anesthesia due to the severity of her concussion.
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Hospital staff decided to numb her leg and use a hand drill to get the pin in her knee. "I remember the nurses holding me down. Every time Dr. Breedlove brought the drill close, I cried out, 'Wait!' Imagine someone drilling into your leg while you're wide awake. Dr. Breedlove finally just told the nurses to hold me down so he could get it over with," Evans wrote, adding that she passed out as soon as the drill hit her leg.
"For six agonizing weeks, I remained in that hospital bed," she wrote. "I'd have a sudden, overwhelming feeling of pain and panic consuming me. 'I want out of this!' I’d scream, thrashing around till someone held me down and calmed me. I felt like I was being buried alive."
The 49-year-old shared that the experience left her with PTSD, anxiety and claustrophobia, but because mental health awareness wasn't what it is today, she "didn't have a name" for what she was experiencing and thought that she "could handle it because I'm tough." Four years later, her parents divorced, which only added to her trauma. In 2005, Evans "succumbed to extreme anxiety" amid martial problems with ex-husband Craig Schelske.
"I couldn't get a grasp on who I was," she explained. "It's a feeling I've struggled with my whole life anytime I am stressed. I think it's PTSD from my car accident. I have this feeling of 'Who am I?' It tends to creep up on me after I've had to do a lot of interviews and be on and play the part of 'Sara Evans.' I don't even like writing about it because I am so afraid of having this feeling."0comments
During a break from touring, Evans saw a doctor and began taking anti-anxiety medication. In 2012, she was involved in a near-crash aboard a private plane, which triggered her PTSD "and a kind of depression" that lasted for weeks. Today, the singer is better able to guess at what might cause a spiral and credits husband Jay Barker for his support.
"I still struggle," she said. "But I'm so grateful for every second of this life."