My history with driving has been bumpier than a road filled with potholes. In my post about being a perpetual passenger, I mentioned that I didn’t really start driving until I was in my 20’s. This is mainly because, as a teenager, driving gave me crippling anxiety.
As someone who likes to have control over situations, namely situations where I have the potential to, you know, die, driving freaked me out. I had no control over how others were driving, and they were too unpredictable for me to know what they would do in every scenario. Not to mention the harm I could potentially cause to someone else if I made a mistake! It was way too much power for me.
I also felt like I didn’t have excellent control over my own vehicle. It made me anxious that I couldn’t keep the car on exactly the same track 100% of the time. I tried so hard to keep the car exactly straight that the driving instructor told me he was getting sick from me jerking the wheel back and forth constantly.
And don’t get me started on turning and parking. It has been literally 4 years since I’ve started driving, and I still can’t really modify my speed when turning or park straight in a crowded parking lot. I’ll park as far away from my destination as I need to in order to find a pull-through parking spot because it gives me the opportunity to straighten out my car fully when parking. Not to mention that I don’t have to back out of a space in parking lots that are way too small for someone to pull out while the person in the spot behind them is putting their groceries in the trunk. Get it together, Target!
Cars are just so…complicated. They really are advanced pieces of machinery that I don’t always feel like operating. I remember driving a jet ski in Grand Cayman in high school and thinking that it was so much easier than driving a car. Then again, I am a Pisces who belongs on the water. *smirks in water sign*
I even avoided driving games for a long time because I couldn’t even seem to manage a digital car. I always overcompensated when turning the wheel and often ended up driving backwards. Dan tried to get me to play Mario Kart for a long time before I eventually caved and played it. I like it much better now than I did as a kid, but now I mostly just curse at the TV as I throw stuff at other players.
Even getting my license was a traumatic experience. The first time I went to take my road test, I was rejected because the vehicle I had brought didn’t have the required type of hand-brake. Of course, this happened the day of junior prom, and I was so worked up from my nerves to take the test that I started sobbing. The second time I went to take the test, I failed it. The third, I finally passed, but that was only because the tester allowed me to retry parallel parking — a skill that I have not used since, mind you. I also went to three different test centers to take my road test because I was not about to see any of these people and embarrass myself a second time.
While I am much more comfortable driving overall, I’m still way more on-edge when driving than when I’m doing essentially anything else. Obviously you have to remain alert and vigilant, but I’m anxious to the point where the slightest driving mishap will leave me shaken for the rest of my trip. Then again, when I try to stop being anxious while driving, I develop a devil-may-care attitude, which is probably not ideal either…
The one bonus of driving myself is that I don’t get any motion sickness while I’m driving. Sure, I’d prefer to be a passenger in the car, but that’s mostly if I’m sleeping or jamming to the radio, not so much if I’m hanging my head out the window like a dog while trying not to vomit. Because motion sickness makes even the most mundane adventures all the more exciting!
On the bright side, I’ve been able to console a lot of my friends who are afraid of driving by telling them that it gets better. Eventually, you learn how to drive in ways that best accommodate you and your anxieties. Don’t get me wrong, your worries about driving never really go away, they just move to the back of your mind to free up space and allow you to harp on other awful things! Isn’t that uplifting? I should embroider that on a pillow!
Like anything else, driving gets more comfortable with repetition. If you’re nervous about driving, don’t worry, you’re not alone. Just get out there and take it slow. The best thing I did was bring a driving buddy that kept me company, helped me calm down, and made me laugh along the way.
Have you ever dealt with anxiety while driving? What helps to keep you calm?
Photography by my talented fiancé. You can find him on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/hope_grows_here/