My friend Bridget and I were in my new mini-van. I had owned it for less than a year or two. The car was in perfect condition and yet one piece was broken and oddly enough it was the passenger side ceiling handle.
Knowing me all too well she said, “April, you might be the only person I have ever known to have the first thing in their car break be the Ohhhh sh*t handle.” See I quite literally had stripped the original screw off the handle and it just dangled from the ceiling.
I have an unexplained anxiety towards riding in cars. I refuse to be medicated for one specific anxiety…. that seems silly and again I hate medications anyways. I’ve tried to deep breathe my way down the road, Sometimes imagining myself somewhere completely different like in the bahamas, in a hammock and feeling the gentle shady breeze. I’ve tried herbal remedies to calm my nerves. I’ve even taken a shot of liquor before we leave the house (no, I’m not driving. yes, sometimes it works). I have prayed my way through large portions of car rides. There are a lot of things I haven’t tried, but now I am more willing to do.
My husband, John, picks on me and jokes about me behind my back like I have a serious backseat driver personality. He’s just venting and frustrated and I don’t blame him. I feel for my husband on this one and it has been a strain on us. He takes it personally when it’s not about him- it’s me. Yes, it does make me cry from time to time, because I don’t choose to feel this way…. it just is. I can drive and when I drive my mind is more in control and focused than when I am a passenger. I have become more aware of the things that set me off- last week I was wearing heels while driving and I had to stop and switch spots with John. That was good though- I knew what caused it.
It’s all in my head. My life in the passenger seat is hard. My mind races….I detest entrance ramps, roads near the edge of cliffs, narrow shoulders, and anything coming from the side particularly sets me off. Backing up- we could be moving at the slowest speed possible like parallell parking and I am wrapped up and just praying that it ends soon. What’s really going to happen during parallel parking???? Your mind is a powerful thing… This has been something worthy of my recognition and I am starting to identify what is absolutely silly to worry about and what could be a real potential hazard. For the most part though, my view of realistic and silly worries are hazy at best.
To give you an example of what causes a panic situation for me is when someone is changing lanes and there is an entrance and exit ramp right next to each other. I don’t have to be in the car that is exiting, but if I am it’s worse. My body responds with heavy breathing, palms sweating, even shaking hands and sometimes worse. In my mind- I’ve already played out multiple scenarios of how the car, I am in, will cross lanes- did the driver check the blind spot- is the signal on- how the timing of those merging onto the highway is going to change the rate of speed in which we are going to approach the exit ramp- all of the scenarios play out like accidents and incidents in my mind and never end well.
There isn’t a particular instance that would have caused this anxiety. Growing up I was fine. My parents were never in an accident while I was in the car. I didn’t start feeling this until late into high school and then the ball got rolling and increased over the years. I remember John bumping into a car on the way out of the high school parking lot. A lady hit John and I in a parking lot at a local mall when we were 17 or so… My friend in college was killed in a crash, but I wasn’t there and this started before that. I was in one accident where I scraped the side of another car, but I was about 27 when that happened. Nothing major- ever. I have no reason that I can give you for this anxiety and why it’s specifically in the car. I have no logical reason for this and yet it does effect my daily life and I know I am being irrational when it’s happening, but I have no control over my mind or the reactions physically to my body. I have several reasons to think that this is a hormonal issue- given the issues with fertility and even my hip problems during pregnancy all have to do with hormonal imbalances… I’m convinced it’s at the root of the issue. Sometimes I don’t even have a problem in the car and sometimes it is through the roof which could be explained with hormonal fluctuations. I would rather treat the source of the problems with the hormonal problems than to treat the symptoms and just keep covering it up, but I’m still in the process of finding the right doctors willing to listen.
I am pretty open about this problem. I’m willing to say to someone in a honest lie- I am a wee bit anxious in the car. Most of my friends drive with a little extra precaution, but none of them are crazy drivers anyways. They are all actually very responsible drivers. Most of them never see me ever go into a full on panic attack over it, but I’m also very good at covering it up to protect myself from utter embarrassment. So if you are thinking that you’ve had me in the car and you never noticed this- well congrats to you- I either was having a good day, you’re a fabulous driver, or I had you completely fooled- it was one of those for sure and probably the latter of the three.
Our pastor’s sermon yesterday was about patience. Now I have a lot of patience, but not when it comes to the car. He had us extend our hands and imagine we were holding something precious in our hands… something delicate. In your mind your hand is holding it as though you can feel the coolness in your hands. Then he instructed us to squeeze a little tighter as though we needed to hold it a little tighter in fear of dropping it. No longer could you feel the item you had imagined in your hands. It was tightness, anxiety, and frustration. This is much like me in the car… pent up tightness, squeezing and holding onto the ohhh sh*t handle for dear life.
That handle has been almost the only thing to fall apart in the entire van that we’ve owned for 7 years now. It is definitely the only thing that had to be repaired more than once… I struggle with this almost every day. It’s not something I can easily avoid. I lost focus during the sermon yesterday, because I began to think about the car riding tension and what was I squeezing the life out of in my anxiety. I was squeezing out conversations in the car, family time on road trips, and just enjoying time with my husband and friends. I am quite literally, in my mind, holding onto our lives in the family van and yet squeezing the peaceful time out of our moments together.