Wednesday, 25 March 2015
At my book group last week, I was amazed to find out that several of the group are extremely nervous drivers.
I had panic attacks for over 20 years while driving, caused by a horrific incident at work. My dear late husband tended to drive for me which actually made the problem worse, because I wasn't tackling it. So it wasn’t till he died, and I HAD to drive, that I started gaining confidence in my driving. (According to others, I am actually a good driver, so it was nothing to do with my abilities, though panic attacks rarely are.)
I was fine for years till suddenly, late last year I had a panic attack - out of nowhere - driving up to my mum’s. I only ever tend to experience them when I’m going at speed - i.e. along a dual carriageway (we don’t have motorways in Cornwall!) - and it’s very frightening, not least because I’m in charge of a powerful bit of machinery that is going fast.
Anyway, I told Mr B and we had lots of practises, and I drove up to my mum’s last time with only a few wobbly moments (well,quite a few, but I got better as I went along).
My friend Av and I have booked to meet at a pub near Chagford on Friday night, which we’re both looking forward to, particularly as I wasn’t feeling so wobbly about driving. Then last night I was coming back from a writers’ evening in Falmouth - i was tired, admittedly, so left early and was looking forward to lighting the fire and having a glass of wine - and suddenly, walking up the hill, past Mr B’s house, this old Fear crept up and tapped me on the shoulder.
It’s difficult to describe but it’s rather like a persistent hangover, that lurks like a dark cloud, dampening my spirits and prodding my mind with cold, wet fingers. I didn’t sleep much last night, replaying which way I’d drive to Dartmoor. The short way which is all dual carriageway (which I hate) or go the much longer way, a route I’m not sure of, over Dartmoor? Then I started thinking what if I break down? I’d be better off on a main route rather than stuck on Dartmoor.
Have I ever broken down? No. Have I got breakdown cover? Yes. Have I got a full charged mobile phone in case of emergencies? Yes (though there may not be a signal on Dartmoor.)
And of course I started worrying about other things then, as you do. So I’m a bit groggy this morning. My scar hurts, and - well, you know what it’s like after a bad night. But it’s lovely and sunny so Moll and I walked by the sea, and I checked the tyre pressures on the way back (they’re fine, when I was convinced that the driver’s side needed pumping up).
Talking to my other friends last week made me realise just what a common problem this is. And how it inhibits our lives - needlessly. I hate to be beholden to some stupid, illogical fear that prevents me doing what I want to do. My other friends have either had help or are getting help to overcome their problems, so I refuse to be beaten by it.
I will set off on Friday morning and practise my deep breathing, and sing - whichever way I go to Dartmoor. Because it is a proven fact that you cannot have a panic attack if a) you sing and b) you laugh. I think c) is have hiccups, but I wouldn’t want to try that.
Anyone else had similar problems? It’s worthy of a piece, methinks…..