Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Do You Have Anxiety While Driving?

On Saturday I went on a road trip. I drove all by myself to Moab and back in one day. That's about 9 hours on different highways, freeways, state routes, whatever you call them. Big multiple lane roads moving at very fast speeds. For most people this is nothing special, but for someone who gets anxious and has fears associated with driving, its a huge accomplishment. One speeding ticket and one potential dead deer later, I rolled into my garage at 10:30 at night ready for bed.

I am generally okay when driving around in my comfort zone, but I do not like driving somewhere I have never been before. I especially don't like driving with other people in the car with me. I used to be really scared on the freeways but a daily 2 hour commute for a couple years has helped me to overcome it. That said, I am okay on freeways that I am familiar with. Once I start having to merge onto other unfamiliar freeways, things get tense for me.

The trip was to visit an old friend and take pictures of her newborn baby. I had a GPS telling me exactly where I needed to go so that took a lot of the fear of the unknown out of the equation. I was enjoying my tunes and making progress. I like to listen to music when I drive. It helps to calm my nerves. Then I got pulled over. Argh! I had been trying so hard not to speed the entire time. But the road slowed as I drove through a small town and I got careless. That put me in a bad mood. After that, the only music that was helping me was anything really mellow.

I made it to Moab and had a great photoshoot. It was so nice to visit with my friend and it made me glad that I didn't back out or cancel at the last minute.

On the trip back, I stayed in the slow lane and set my cruise control to the exact speed limit posted. I wasn't taking any chances. As dusk hit, I noticed several "Warning: Deer Crossing" signs. Sure enough, a deer jumped onto the road right in front of my car. I slammed on my brakes but still managed to take the deer out by his back legs with the driver side of the car. The deer was down for a minute or so, got up, stumbled, fell, and eventually jumped off the other side of the road. I had pulled over, and was shaking. I didn't know what to do at that point.

The sky got really dark and driving out in the desert, there was hardly any light anywhere. I was really jumpy. Anything that looked out of the ordinary I was sure was another deer. I was thinking what else could happen on this trip? Only to see a Warning: Falling Rocks sign.

I was done with driving. I just wanted to get get home. I wanted to get pulled over so I could ask the cop for an escort home. I was really scared that I was losing all control.

I eventually made it home all in one piece. In the future I don't think I will take on such big road trips all alone. Having a friend there to support me would have been really nice.

Have you had any scares while driving?



Elizabeth said...

Last summer/fall, I had intermittent inner ear problems and would get vertigo out of nowhere. The last time it happened I was going 70mph in the left lane of a freeway. I got so freaked out it triggered a full-blown panic attack. I had to pull over and call 911. I went to the hospital and was fine, but ever since then, even 8 months later, I get anxiety when I drive on the freeway.

Lucky for me, I have to drive that stretch of road on my way to school 4 times a week but it has still been *really* tough.

Ali said...

Yep, that's when my panic attacks started. I had been under enormous stress (first year teaching) and was driving on the highway when I started having heart palpitations. That freaked me out and a flood of anxiety washed over me. I pulled off the road. And even 5 years later and on medication I still don't drive on the highway. There was a time a couple years a go that I was more comfortable on it and I even took a 90 minute road trip. But since anxiety is chronic, right now I'm not comfortable on it. But that's okay, I leave plenty of time and I get around the city just fine. I recently read an interesting article that stated our brains haven't caught up with the realities of how fast a car goes. So I like to think of myself as just highly advanced. :) But no, driving is what depresses me most about the condition. I always find myself lacking that I can do most everything else but this simple thing that most people do on a regular basis. I don't even like to admit it to my friends that I don't drive on the highway. But kudos to you for attempting the road trip. I'm sorry about your mishaps.

The Blue Morpho said...

Not a fun drive at all. I'd have been pretty shaken up, too. I hate to get pulled over, and so I am very conscientious about my speed. Still, I got pulled over recently for forgetting to put my registration sticker on the car :) Sometimes you just can't win. Driving definitely causes extra stress and anxiety. But I'm worse when someone else is driving, actually. I think it is that loss of control thing.

Lena said...

Oh man! Have i! I absolutely cannot drive on the interstate. Okay, that's an overstatement. I can, but I am so jumpy. I am able to commute to and from work, but if there was a fly inside my car that could hear my talk to myself... "It's okay. Just keep your eyes on the road. Don't worry." LOL. I am also the worst passenger ever. My poor boyfriend. If we go downhill I randomly grab the Oh Shit Handles with an irrational fear that we are about to crash. I manage to keep a sense of humor about it all, but it's a real tension maker. Love to all with anxiety!

Chrissy said...

Scares while driving? Every single day. The worst, however, was when I hit a little girl on her bicycle. Sounds worse than it was -- she zoomed out between two parked cars when I was driving down a side street in Chicago. She was ok...not a scratch on her, thank goodness. I was fine on the outside, but anxiety-wise? A completely different story. Love your blog...thanks for sharing!

Annie said...

I drive as little as possible because invariably, no matter how much I talk to myself, I start to feel anxious. This has been going on for over 30 years, believe it or not, every since I had a "near miss" when a very young little girl ran across a busy intersection to catch up with her mother (who was so busy chatting with her friend that she didn't even notice that her little girl was trailing behind her). I was so shook up that I think it scarred me for life. Now, driving brings up performance anxiety issues as I always think someone is judging me and my driving skills. I usually never drive with a passenger in the car for this reason. Also, the first thing I think about when I receive an invitation to an event or if I have a chore to do is "how do I get there" since I really hesitate to drive anywhere. I work around this situation, though, and do what I must do to get by. But it is a source of great frustration and disappointment in myself.

snobby brit said...

I can fully sympathise - my sister is unable to drive outside of the town she lives in....on the other hand I do not have problems if I am driving as I am in control, I do have problems as a passenger as I am not. My therapist told me today that anxiety is not about a place or an activity but about the thoughts you associate with that task and thoughts can be changed, which I found encouraging and I now have to believe this to be true.

Cut yourself some slack and take baby steps

Love and light

Anonymous said...

I haven't driven in years...my oldest daughter just turn 16 and that worries me a bit.

I have two daughters that have anxiety. I pray that they don't end up like me it can feel weird being the only one that doesn't seem to like to drive?



Unknown said...

The worst anxiety attack I have ever had was while I was driving. I tend to crank the air conditioner up or stick my head out of the window if need be. I'm pretty sure I had just watched one of those murder mystery shows, though. They always tend to freak me out.


trinitydreams.com said...

I absolutely can't stand driving anymore. I get in the car and then if there's the least bit of traffic I start become ill. I suffer from anxiety and panic. I have been since 2002. I thought it was under control, but it seems to have resurfaced. I've been on celexa, xanax, welbutrin, klonopin, and who knows what else. I had to come off most of those due to side effects. They say no addictions to any of them, but I swear I felt like a drug adict coming off the last one that I took. I felt like I was in withdrawl, couldn't figure out what was wrong with me. I haven't been on meds for a while and have been debating going back to see a doctor and getting back on them because things are so bad right now for me.

Shar said...

Oh Aimee! I think you are so brave for driving that far. I hate driving for more than an hour or two. I'm glad you were safe!

Anonymous said...

Uho God, really driving is so tense me. u r so brave to do it fore more than 2 hours . and u passed through so difficult experience .And sure u r so lucky to have only one ticket .chapeau Aime:))

Anonymous said...

Oh yes! I haven't driven a car in 2 years; I sold my car before moving out of state under the premise of saving money, but really, I was happy to hand over the keys. I started experiencing anxiety while driving (among other anxiety issues) in my mid-20s, and almost 10 years later, it's only worsened. It began as the other commenter said--I started having heart palpitations while driving one day on a road trip, and after that, again and again, along with shortness of breath and the fear that I would pass out. For years I dealt with it by avoiding freeways, driving hours out of my way to avoid them (and bridges, and certain turns). You are so brave for making that road trip, you are amazing! That is a huge accomplishment--I know!

The Desk Of Susie said...

Ohhhh my, Im in that very situation this weekend. I travel with my husband ( he works for a prof. baseball team.) Home is West Coast, Im on EAst Coast. Its been a challenge for someone like me (or us?) I joined him this year and its been several anxiety provoking events in a row. I have to drive alone 6 hours by myself day after tomorrow and I always have to stop to use the restroom. I fear getting lost, being mugged, attacked during a pit stop, having a flat and no husband or anyone I know around to help, the list continues.
We need new back tires and I dont think he maintains the car like I would ( Im surly more preventative..). So add that to it. I actually do better with a car I cant count on.
I would have stayed behind but the people we rent from were having guests so I thought better to leave. Im happy that we go home soon. The drive back, as long as we can take our time, I will drive the whole way. I too cant have my husband drive. Im ok with being a passenger, but I just know when someone is a careless driver...texting while driving, having distractions..yup, thats my husband..so I get to drive alll the time. Better than having a panik attack. For some reason the EAst Coast put me to the test. Never had this bad of anxiety at home.

Unknown said...

I thought I was like the only person who is absolutely terrified of driving. It is a GREAT annoyance to my father and all my friends this I am stupid. I got a BEAUTIFUL car for my 21st but feel so ungrateful as I actually HATE driving. I have to drive 4 hours back down to london from my uni on saturday and I am so scared and anxious about it that all I want to do is cry!

Anonymous said...

I know this is an old post, but reading your post and the comments really helps
me feel better! In college I was the driver in a fatal accident, I was not at fault, but still it sucked. Anyways, I drove totally fine after that for years, but since having kids I can't get on the freeway. I have tried and feel like I am going to pass out or to blind or lose control. I HATE it, I hate that I am the weirdo that can't drive anywhere. Ughh! I am glad I am not alone. Thankfully I have a good husband who doesn't mind driving everywhere.

Driving Fear Program said...

Having driving anxiety was very terrible. I had it after my motorcycle accident

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