Wednesday, November 25, 2015

NaBloPoMo Day 24: Driving Anxiety

Well, I'm sitting down to try and pump out a few entries and I really wish I had some wine and cookies or something I now have wine and Lindor chocolates. Yes, I wrote that sentence and then decided that I'm a grown woman and I need wine and chocolate, so I went out and got them.

Today the topic is about my driving anxiety. I'm actually a little uncomfortable writing about it as it's something I only recently acknowledged about myself. It's going to be a bit of a longer entry as I've half-assed some entries this month which I'm not happy about.

I mentioned it briefly yesterday, but I used to have nightmares about driving and getting into accidents. Either the brakes wouldn't work or I'd realize I was sitting in the backseat and no one was steering the car (okay there, brain). By the time I was 16, I wasn't interested in learning to drive. Considering my mom is a driving instructor, she wasn't too pleased with me. I was very involved in community theatre at the time and was always needing rides downtown and whatnot. I didn't really think about whether or not I would eventually learn to drive, I just sort of waited to see how I felt.

When I started dating my now-ex, he put the pressure on me to get my license. Right around my 18th birthday, I wrote the test to get a beginner's license. I still remember that I got only one question wrong; the hand signal for a right turn. My mom ripped into me over it and nagged me for ages, despite the fact it was the only question I got wrong and it's hardly relevant to everyday driving.

I did my driving lessons through the school my mom works for, although not with her. No way in hell. Driving around town during non-lessons with my mom was bad enough since we would use the school's car with the passenger side brake pedal. I was a mouthy teenager as it was and so let's just say that my mom got called a few choice words when I was learning to drive and she'd grab the wheel or slam on the brakes for no reason whatsoever. Teenagers and driving instructors do not belong in the same family!

I really enjoyed my driving lessons and I did well. For the G1 exit test (to drive on your own but with restrictions), I had to drive in heavy snowfall. For the G2 exit test (to get your full license), I had to drive in heavy rain. Both times the weather played into me getting one or two errors, but I still passed both with scores in the 90s. Fortunately my mom had lightened up by this time, and was actually mad on my behalf that they held me to such high standards despite the poor road conditions. Even my driving instructor was mad at the road test centre for giving me any errors because I was such a great driver. /humblebrag

Shortly after I got my full license, the anxiety set in. I had to drive to London for a show I was involved in, and all we had in those days were shitty Mapquest printouts. I hated driving in new places and when I inevitably got lost, I was bawling my eyes out, trying to find a road that was actually on the printout. I have since gotten a GPS which made a huge difference as far as my fear of being lost.

I moved to London later that year and don't recall having any problems, except that I hated driving in that city. I would borrow J's car on my days off to go shopping. It always ended up with me swearing a blue streak at other drivers (through closed windows). I still hate driving in London to this day.

My anxiety went away when I drove up north because let's be honest, 40kmh/25mph is driving fast up there. Also, driving from Apex to Federal Road (ie one end of town to the other) takes maybe 6 or 7 minutes.

When I moved back to Ontario, that's when I really started to have a problem. My anxiety doesn't bother me so much before I drive or while I'm driving; I never dread driving anywhere. It's after the fact. I know that my big weakness in life is ruminating intensely for days over non-incidents. Shortly after I moved back, I was in a parking lot and darted across a section of the lot, nowhere near an approaching driver. As I parked my car, some lady I must have startled slowed down and angrily mouth "FUCK YOU" at me from her car. Nothing like that ever happened to me up north, and it bothered me for weeks.

Any kind incident in my car wrecks me mentally for at least a day, if not weeks. I lie in bed at night and obsess over the fact I accidentally cut someone off, or came close to side swiping somebody. In the spring I was nearly in an accident that would have been mostly my fault, but not 100%. But for probably a month, I was so scared I was going to cause an accident. I go through these phases a few times a year where I am absolutely convinced I'm going to cause an accident.

Any time I make a dumb mistake while driving, I feel so intensely guilty that I can't shake it. It replays in my mind over and over and I have to swear to myself 7000 times it'll never happen again. I don't know if other people are like this, but to me it feels unhealthy. Logically I know that everybody makes mistakes sometimes and that it won't be the end of the world if I do cause an accident. Nobody is perfect and if I caused an accident, it doesn't necessarily make me a bad person. I don't drive drunk and I have tried to retain all my good habits from driving school. I am doing the best I can.

However, no logic could help when it came to the accident that Anthony and I witnessed in 2013. I don't think I've talked about it too much, but we were driving to Kincardine for a weekend. It was getting dark and out of nowhere, we saw a truck fly across the road ahead of us and end up in a yard. Long story short, we stopped to help, called 911 and discovered there were actually two vehicles. Both drivers were unconscious and neither survived. That was a first for me and I hope it's the last. I still don't like driving on rural roads at night, and I am brought to tears just by seeing smashed up cars as I drive by accidents now. It was a very sobering reminder about how dangerous driving can be.

Obviously, witnessing that accident didn't help my anxiety and if anything, it has become worse. Sometimes I lie in bed at night after a day of driving with no incidents, and I obsess over whether I was actually paying enough attention while driving. Nothing went wrong, but I could swear I could have done better.

A big part of why I hate driving is, of course, other drivers. I expect other drivers to use their turn signal, not hog the left lane, not roll through stops or turn into the wrong lane, but I've learned my expectations are way too high. People just plain suck at driving. Canadians best be glad I'm not the Prime Minister because holy moly would I ever change things when it comes to having a driver's license. Okay, driver licensing is actually managed by each province/territory but it is way too lax in my opinion. How I would change things could fill a whole other blog entry so we'll just leave it at the fact that some day I might just cut up my license with a pair of scissors and vow to take the bus everywhere.

I have no real conclusion for this post, because there is no denouement to my anxiety. I don't have a nice little bow to wrap it up in and present it to you like I'm somehow getting better, because I'm not.

I would be interested to hear if other people have issues with driving similar to mine, and how you manage it.


  1. Wow, I had no idea you have this anxiety over driving. I would never have guessed this about you. I still love you anyway!! Good thing I do most of the driving on our quilting shop hops!
    So, as a passenger, how do you feel? Do you get similar anxiety issues when someone else is driving? Just curious.

    1. Not at all! It's not even so much anxiety as it is an unhealthy fear of causing a car accident, which then makes me obsess about my driving after the fact. Other people driving relieves me of any possibility of causing an accident so when it comes to our shop hops, it's preferable because otherwise I'd be scared I'd look away from the road and kill everybody.



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