I’ve been too anxious to drive by myself or with my husband for over a year now. But I recently discovered, thanks to Facebook’s On This Day feature, that I’ve been struggling with driving, on and off, for the past 7 years, at least.
I go through periods where I’m able to drive myself wherever I want or need to go. Then I go through even longer periods of being unable to drive myself anywhere. Like right now. My husband has to drive me everywhere. So I have to schedule my appointments around his work schedule, and I’m obviously hampered from being able to do simple things like buy cat food. Needless to say, this is driving me up. The. Wall. I can’t explain why or how these no-driving periods happen, but I know they’re rooted in anxiety. I can, however, explain why I haven’t driven in the past year.
It began when we bought a new car. Our trusty little compact 2-door hatchback finally died after 12 wonderful years. Because of the Chicago winters, I wanted to get something with 4-wheel drive, though not necessarily an SUV. We found the perfect car — a 4-door hatchback (we have a dog now, after all, who often rides in the back seat) that’s maybe a foot longer and maybe half a foot wider than our old car. It’s definitely bigger, but not by much. These aren’t exact dimensions, by the way.
The first time I drove it, I was alone. When I pulled into our assigned, narrow parking space behind our building, I incorrectly gauged the amount of space I needed to turn into the spot, and hit the neighbors’ car to the right. Thankfully, no one parks to the left of our space. The damage wasn’t bad, but I was a wreck, especially before we had a chance to speak to them. I was agitated, couldn’t relax, jumped at every noise because I thought it was the owners knocking on our door. When we finally spoke, they were kind and understanding, and we worked it out.
The next time I drove, I turned onto this narrow street that I’ve taken a zillion times. There was a large truck, like the type people use when they’re moving, going in the opposite direction. Instead of waiting for them to pass me, I kept driving because again, I incorrectly gauged the amount of space I had. I hit a parked car’s side mirror with my own. Thankfully, there was no damage except to our mirror. The front of our side mirrors has turn signal lights, which I find unnecessary, but there they are. I cracked the plastic cover of our turn signal. This happened less than a month from the time I hit the neighbors’ car, and we’d only had our new car for about a month!
After that, I was done. Done driving. I miss the size of our old car, but know that I need to get used to our new one. I don’t even want to think about parallel parking. Actually, I think I drove once — maybe twice — to my therapist’s office with my husband. While I was behind the wheel, nothing went wrong, and it was as though I had never stopped driving. I need to find the courage to try again.
The good news is that Chicago has an excellent public transportation system. I haven’t taken it regularly in almost 20 years, back when I didn’t have a car. Last year, I took it once alone.
The better news is that this past Thursday, I walked out the door of our home alone, despite the rapid heartbeat I felt, and beginning to hyperventilate. I took deep breaths, and walked to the train station (I almost turned around when I reached the end of our block). I rode the train to a shopping area, where I bought a pair of earrings. Because I’ve been having a tough time leaving the house by myself and interacting with strangers, this was a huge step for me. And I really like the earrings!
Photo via Visual Hunt
Photo 2 provided by author