Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Coming Out

Godrevy, last October, because I feel like something Soothing.

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…..


Chris Stovell said...

Yup! I loathe driving and will only drive if I absolutely have to. I used to drive to work when I was based in an office but these days I'll avoid it at all costs. I get very cross with myself for being such a baby and wish I could overcome the fear for good. I'm glad I'm not alone though - well done to you for making yourself drive and opening this discussion. Cx

Flowerpot said...

Chris - it's very interesting I've had the same reaction from several other female friends. What is it with us and driving?! X

ADDY said...

I only learned to drive at the age of 44 and passed my test first time. I had been put off by learning at an earlier age by an accident Greg and I came upon in Germany when newly married. Rather than bore you with the story now, you can look it up here....

Because of that I avoid motorways altogether and hate driving in unfamiliar circumstances. I always thought I was alone in my fear, but from what you say, I'm not.

Flowerpot said...

Addy - I've had the most extraordinary response to this post. More and more women are coming forward saying the same thing.But no men...... this is worth a piece, surely...

lizzie said...

I start to get horrible panic attacks about twenty years ago (while driving)
I did nt want to get gun-shy so I got in the car and drove through the middle of the huge city near me.
My advice is:
Pick a lane and stay in it until the feeling passes.
Go at a reasonable speed; dont crawl.
Pay attention to what is in front of you and beside you not what is behind you too much.
Let knots of traffic pass you, dont try to keep up.
DO get out and drive on the motorway - you will be fine, dont let it beat you, just stay in your lane.
Take an advanced driving course just for the hell of it.
Make sure you drive on unfamilar roads as much as possible and try to do some city driving....
Think of your lane as having high walls that isolate you from the rest of the traffic.
You CAN beat this and be the best driver out there and it is SUCH a nice feeling.

Trubes said...

Hi FP, sorry to learn of your panic attacks. I suffered them for a while and then it was diagnosed as a lack oestrogen after a hysterectomy.
It was soon righted with some natural medicine from my GP...just a thought, may be worth chatting to your GP or go the 'natural route' via a decent health food specialist..
Best wishes,
Di xx

Flowerpot said...

Trubes - thanks for that - anything's worth trying! XX

Flowerpot said...

Thanks for that Lizzie and glad to hear you have beaten the driving wobbles. Yesterday I drove over Dartmoor in gales, driving rain and fog as well as the dual carriageways home so feel much better about it. Had to go to bed as soon as I got home but I did it!

lizzie said...

That is GREAT that you did that !
Drive at any and every opportunity if you can. It is only a phase and will pass if you stick at it.
Do consider the advanced driving course !

Flowerpot said...

Thanks Lizzie - I have to drive as the man is away at the moment 0- but advanced driving course is a good idea!