Freeing Myself One Step At A Time
I’m terrified of driving on the freeway. So much so that I have refused to do it for most of my adult life. I never used to be. Where I grew up a freeway was two lanes…three tops but that was only when you got into the “big city”. When I was working in Augusta and living in Fairfield I drove the highway daily. Never had a care about it.
When I moved to Arizona I had a preconceived notion about the scary traffic out there and I was pretty much right. I refused to drive on the Arizona freeways. It took me twice as long but I took side streets everywhere. Being a passenger on a freeway didn’t bother me at that point though.
After a few years I started a new and very stressful job. It was during that time I was working long hours and getting little sleep under stressful conditions that I began to get serious anxiety.
I’m sure I’ve written about this before. How I couldn’t walk in wide open spaces without having a panic attack and feeling like I was going to fall over. A parking lot with no cars in it was my nemesis. I developed this weird hunched over, really fast walk if I was alone. If I was with my husband I would cling to his hand and arm like there was no tomorrow.
It was at that point that merely being a passenger on the freeway made me insane with panic. I would drive my husband CRAZY with distraction as I clung to the “Oh Shit” handle and stomped on the imaginary brake the entire trip. He didn’t understand what flip had switched in my brain to turn me into this freak of nature and neither did I.
I went to the doctor and she upped my anti depressant dosage to be used to anti anxiety as well but it didn’t really help. She also gave me Xanax which made me loopy for hours after I took it so I refused to use it.
Eventually we moved from Arizona to California to be nearer to Rob’s parents. We ditched the high stress jobs for much easier ones and my anxiety level dropped. Walking outside was no longer a problem and I felt FREE!
The freeway however, was still a long engrained issue in my brain. I’ve come a long way as far as being a passenger but for 13 years I have refused to go on a freeway other than the 68 that takes me to Salinas.
Gradually I have been expanding my horizons. I’ve taken the freeway to Seaside and home through Carmel with merging and everything.
But driving anywhere out of town and for any length of time, forget it!
The reason I’m telling you all of this is because when it came time to have my weekend away this past weekend, I specifically chose a location outside of my comfort zone to drive to. Price was also a factor, but I liked the idea of giving myself a push. Have something fun and exciting at the end of that scary drive to give me a reward for actually doing it.
I was anxious all day Friday about it. I must have mapped that thing fifty different times and so many of those times I tried to find a way around the highways. Finally I decided to just freaking do it and I did.
I had several *almost* panic attacks once I got out of my familiar area but I blasted the new P!nk CD on the stereo and sang really loud. I had one moment where I got lost but that was only because my map app directed me in the wrong direction. It was quickly fixed and I arrived in Gilroy with no problems. I had even sort of relaxed by the end of the drive. You can go here to hear about the actual weekend.
On Sunday I had planned to hang out until check out at noon just swimming and relaxing in general but after I woke up at nine I realized I was getting anxious again. The longer I pretended to lay around and watch TV the worse it was getting.
When I stopped for gas I realized that I wasn’t nervous about the drive, I had done that two days prior and it wasn’t that bad. What I began to comprehend was that I was actually getting nervous about the fact that I MIGHT get nervous on the drive. How ridiculous is that???
At that point I just had to laugh at myself and head out on the road.
My app sent me on a different route this time that ironically had MORE freeway on it and I was fine. I was still scared but I realized it was silly to be. Once again as long as I was singing I felt fine. If I stopped for some reason I would start to panic. That’s something I might need to work on, but the fact is that I did it!
I drove an hour out of my way on a freeway twice all by myself! That might sound like a stupid thing to be proud of for a lot of people but for me it is pure joy!
Leave a Reply
You must be logged in to post a comment.