Anxiety is something I want to center many of my blog posts around. The word “anxiety” gets thrown around a lot but no one ever talks about real anxiety, the anxiety that takes over your whole body and the more you try to fight it the worse it becomes. The anxiety that gives you panic attacks that make you feel like you’re dying of a heart attack. The anxiety that takes away the things you love and turns them into things you fear.
If you never had real anxiety it sounds like an exaggeration, it sounds like someone is overreacting and just needs to relax. If you really do have anxiety you know exactly how that feeling in your stomach never leaves and your brain never stops working. You overthink the smallest things and they come back to haunt you at the worst time. You question everything and everyone and feel like the world is out to get you. Sometimes “just breathing” doesn’t work.
I learned to drive when I was twelve. I got asked to move our car and I thought I knew how to drive. I ended up being about half an inch away from hitting the car I parked behind, and when my dad found out I drove with two feet he took me that second and taught me how to drive in the neighbor’s driveway. Ever since then I loved to drive and I grew a love for cars, especially American trucks and muscle cars. I started “real” driving when I was 14, even though it totally wasn’t legal because in Florida you have to be 15 to get your permit, but I convinced my dad otherwise. Driving relaxed me. I felt the power between me and the engine. I loved working on my car and drag racing at stop lights. The adrenaline rush and the surprised look on a guy’s face when he got beat by a girl in a 2002 Chevy Trailblazer got me every time. Driving made me happy. I felt free. Anxiety took that away.
I got into a car accident when I was 16, about four months after I got my driver’s license. It wasn’t anything major but the damage to the other vehicle made my parent’s insurance sky rocket. After that, driving scared me. For most people with driving anxiety, the thought of other people on the road scares them. My fear came from myself. The power of driving that used to give me a thrill now terrified me. I kept thinking about how easy it is to just make one wrong little turn into the other lane and I could cause a massive pile up. It scared me to think that if I just turned the wheel slightly to the right I could run into that building and kill dozens of people. It scared me to realize that I was in charge of this powerful machine.
I started getting anxiety attacks when I drove, usually they were triggered when a car would speed by me but sometimes they were completely random. I could no longer race my car or enjoy the road. I avoided driving as much as I could. I would ask for rides if I had to go somewhere outside of a five-mile radius and I avoided the interstate and busy roads at all costs. I’ve had to pull over on the freeway because I felt a panic attack coming on and I couldn’t handle it driving at 75 miles an hour. I was imprisoned and my mind was my warden.
I was relieved when I decided not to take a car to college my freshman year. I live six and a half hours away from home so I laughed at the idea of driving on I-75 for six and a half hours.There was no way I could do that. I didn’t even want the car to drive in the city. I was excited to have that anxiety out of my life.
I haven’t had my car for about three months now and I never imagined that I would miss it so much. I crave driving the way I used to when I was fifteen. I would love to just get in my car every day, roll the windows down, and play some country music. I want to hit the gas pedal so my RPMs shoot up and I can hear my car roar. I want to be over my anxiety. The saying “absence makes the heart grow fonder” is true. I just hope that when I start driving again the anxiety doesn’t come back. I realized that I let the anxiety control me and control the things I used to love. I’m ready to face my anxiety head on. When I feel an anxiety attack coming on when I drive I think to myself “you’ll survive the anxiety attack, just embrace it, bring it on.” I’m ready to enjoy myself again. I’m ready to just go for a drive.