“And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.”Matthew 21:22
In this post, I would like to discuss a kind of anxiety I experience and do not see talked about very often in the mental illness community:
Of course, there are a bunch of different kinds of anxiety: social anxiety, generalized anxiety, trauma-related anxiety, and many others.
For me, driving anxiety is related to my generalized anxiety disorder, which basically means that if I experience something, chances are I am or will be anxious about it at some point in my life. Fun, right?
Anyway, driving anxiety can be hard to explain to neurotypical people.
My friends and family get perplexed when I hesitate to go to parties, lunches out, or appointments downtown. I get apprehensive and tense because most of the time, the location of these events is a 30+ minute drive away (everything is in Houston, but that is beside the point). I have to drive on a freeway/highway or through unfamiliar territory with infamously bad drivers.
I also get skittish about driving in the dark or in the heavy rain.
You might think, “Oh, well everyone gets nervous when they drive, it is normal! You are operating a motor vehicle at a dangerous speed!”
And to a certain extent, this might be true.
But I do not think most people spend the whole day dreading and fretting about the fact that they will have to drive somewhere when they have an errand to run or a social event to attend. They also do not try every possible method not to be the one that has to drive.
Whenever I get into my car (which happens to be my family minivan that I like to fondly refer to as “The Homeschool Mobile”) and pull out my neighborhood onto the public roads, my brain starts going into overdrive.
Why is the car making that weird sound? Oh! That light is on, that isn’t very good. No no no don’t drive right behind me, man… AHHH that light was green a few seconds ago! I need to stop… DO NOT HONK AT ME I’M BEING SAFE. Noooo that noise is back! Is the car going to blow up? Hey, I love this song! No, Waze…. PLEASE do not take me onto the freeway, I’m begging you….Oh Lord in Heaven protect me….HEY WHEN DID YOU COME UP BEHIND ME?!
Okay, this might be a tad dramatic, but I am a creative person with ADHD and anxiety, so that is not exactly out of character for yours truly. Anyway, I think you get the gist. My brain turns into a scene from the Pixar Disney movie Inside Out: all emotions in my head are all running around, freaking out and breaking stuff.
Now that you know what the inside of my brain feels like when I am driving, it is time to play my favorite game:
Is it ANXIETY or ADHD?
And the answer is…..
Well, let me elaborate… Anxiety that feels a lot more valid because of my ADHD.
So…. kind of both?
Either way, the game is over… no prizes for you or me…
This game actually kind of stinks. I need to contact the network about this, maybe get some better sponsors in here so we can actually have some prizes instead of just… you know… sadness.
According to an article I read titled “Overcoming Driving Anxiety” on claritychi.com, driving anxiety is literally just anxiety you have about and while driving. If you had anxiety and also flew planes, you would probably have flying anxiety. My point is, anxiety follows you wherever you go, so naturally, it would pop up when doing something as serious as driving.
I think mine just feels strange because my ADHD plays such a huge factor in my mental state and attention span. For example, I feel more nervous about driving because I get overwhelmed and overstimulated more easily than neurotypical people. My brain feels like it is on hyperalert, always.
This weakness makes my anxiety flare up more and brings my imposter syndrome so much stronger. It tells me things like: “See? You are such a mess and easy drives are so hard for you! You cannot be trusted behind the wheel, you are a liability! You will kill someone!”. Of course, I try not to listen to these thoughts. But as I’m sure you know, if you have anxiety, these thoughts can creep up on you at any point.
I know what you are thinking.
“Belen! You have told us what driving anxiety IS and how it FEELS, but how am I supposed to DEAL with it?”
And my answer is… to drive more.
I know this sounds a bit too simple, but it helps. For example, I used to be much more anxious about driving myself to my college campus, which is only 10 minutes away, but now that I have been driving myself there every day for at least five semesters, it feels like second nature.
Of course, driving will always be an activity that requires one to be alert and attentive to the road, pedestrians, and other cars/drivers on the road. Still, it does not have to be nerve-wracking once you have become more experienced in different kinds of driving situations like different kinds of day and night and weather and distance changes.
If you are kind of skeptical, think of something you have been doing for a while now. For instance, you are working a particular job or taking courses at a university, something like that. Try to recall what your first day was like. You were a bundle of nerves, not knowing what to expect and thinking about all of the things you could do wrong that could impact the rest of your life (Okay, maybe that is just me, but you get the point).
Now, however, you have fallen into a routine. Most of the time, you know what is expected of you; you have made friends and accumulated a large base of resources and helpful tools that help you with your tasks/assignments. By the act of repetition – going to your job or university day after day, you have been able to grow confident in your abilities and schedule. Of course, there are sometimes unexpected events, but those are rare, and you can keep a level head most of the time.
This will happen when you condition yourself to drive more often.
When you need to get something and have access to a car, do not ask someone else to pick it up for you. Get it yourself when you have the time to spare. If you have an appointment or something, take yourself to it.
Most of the time, the amount of energy you spend trying to find your way out of doing something is more significant than the energy it takes to do the thing in the first place.
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Until next time!