Learning to drive with anxiety

Learning to drive with anxiety

I haven’t always suffered from anxiety. It wasn’t until my last year at University where things took a turn and the doctors diagnosed me. Before this, I really had no idea what it even really meant. You see people expressing that they have the illness, but unless you experience it yourself – it’s hard to get a grasp on. And trust me, it’s not something anyone wants to go through. You don’t see it on the outside, and unless you’re told, there’s a chance you don’t know someone is suffering. But like any illness, we all try our best to crack on and I wouldn’t let this stop me from learning to drive.

When I graduated, I knew I had to work towards passing my driving test. I was growing up, and could no longer rely on my parents to ship me from A to B. I had a job, and I knew I had to make my own way there eventually. Now I know what you’re thinking… why didn’t I rely on public transport? Well, let’s just say, busses throw a whole other curve ball into my anxiety and can often lead me to have a panic attack. To save myself from this nightmare every day, twice a day, I figured it was safer to get myself behind the wheel.

Finding the right driving instructor helped

I was recommended a driving instructor and reached out. I sent him a message because I knew I could take as long as I needed to get the wording right, and didn’t have to worry about stumbling over my words in a blind panic on the phone. Before I knew it, I’d booked in my first hour’s lesson with him. Enter panic mode. I over-analysed every possible outcome of this driving lessons for the 2 weeks leading up to it. What if it all went wrong? What if I broke the car? What if I’m not clever enough to pick this up and he says he can’t help me? All that and so much more raced through my head every single day until the day came for my first lesson. Needless to say, I was pretty tired that day as the dread had kept me up all the night before. Even things as simple as, ‘do I go over to the car or does he come to my door’ – sent my mind into overdrive. You feel silly for worrying so much over such minor details, but the fear and doubt completely take over! Of course, the lesson went fine (as I knew in the back of my mind it would) and I quickly booked another.

I wish I could say at this point that my anxiety no longer controlled my learning to drive journey, but it did. I felt the same sick, worrying feeling every time before I had a lesson – so the worry never really stopped, but it did get better. Once I had become comfortable behind the wheel and with my instructor, panic mode went from a whole week before, to only a couple of days before. Unfortunately, it didn’t stop me rescheduling a lesson from time to time. I knew if my anxiety was worse than usual on a day of a lesson – I would cancel. Of course, letting down my instructor was also something I would over think too, but I knew it would be a lot worse if I let myself get behind the wheel, without being in a good state of mind.

The driving tests took their toll

It’s a shame that you can’t just take your driving lessons and one day your instructor says you’re good enough to hit the roads on your own. Nope, we’re faced with not one – but two tests. Great! There’s a chance it took me longer to pass my test than it should have because I spent a long time putting off booking in my theory test. A million questions ran through my mind that stopped me from booking it in, for longer than I care to admit. Every detail down to ‘how do I get into the building’ filled me once again with the sickly feeling I was so familiar with, but never quite get used to. It wasn’t like I didn’t know the answers, because I spent a long time practising everything I needed to nail the theory test. My biggest challenge was getting through the door. I scoped out the building beforehand, arrived extremely early and watched other people who looked like they could be there for the same reason to see where they entered the building. I plucked up the courage, went in and of course – it wasn’t as bad as I thought, again. It never really is I suppose, but anxiety has a cruel way of making you imagine the worst possible outcome of every situation.

I did it!

It took me around 7 months in total to get my passed certificate. Lots of people do it quicker than me, but taking my time and making sure I was ok with myself was the most important thing. I took it at my own pace and passed for the first time! Confidence is high, and whilst my anxiety is still with me on a daily basis, this new sense of freedom has given me something to hold on to. At least I don’t have to worry about busses anymore, ay!

30/08/2018

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