I grew up out in the country so driving to get anywhere was a way of life. I enjoyed it and was very comfortable doing it. In 2009 I bought a motorcycle – and I’ve done one motorcycle trip to British Columbia in 2011, and another to Alaska in 2013 (by way of British Columbia). Aside from getting cold and wet, I thoroughly enjoyed the trips, camping by myself or with a friend, and just soaking in the scenery, wildlife, and smells. I’ve done 900km days back-to-back on the bike and just loved rolling down the highway and watching the world around me as the scenery changed.
I started having trouble driving in late 2013 or early 2014. I would shoulder check to change lanes, see that it was clear, and then not believe myself so I’d shoulder check again. I didn’t know at the time I had OCD, and it was quite frustrating. I never got into an accident, but I did have to start planning my lane changes much farther ahead of time so I could find a large enough gap that I could obviously fit into.
Fast forward to April 2016. J and I were going to the clinic so I could talk to my GP at the time about what was going on and to hopefully get my medication adjusted. J works near the clinic so we decided to take both vehicles, drop mine off in the parking lot where she works, and then both take her car to the clinic. At that time, I really wasn’t feeling well. My anxiety, depression, panic, and OCD were running rampant and the medication I’d already been given wasn’t helping. J got into her car, I got into the truck, and I followed her towards her workplace.
About five minutes into the drive, a MASSIVE panic attack hit me. I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t think, the only thing that was going through my head was “YOU’RE GOING TO KILL SOMEONE”. I don’t know how I did it but I managed to stay behind J in the pre-dawn rain and met her at the parking lot. I was trying all of the grounding techniques I knew but they weren’t helping. Deep breathing, pretending I was somewhere else… nothing worked.
About a month after that visit I was admitted to the psych ward. Three months later, I was out, but terrified of the idea of driving. I just couldn’t do it. Once again it was J to the rescue when she shuffled around her hours so she could drive me to my appointments (best wife in the world!) and anywhere else I needed to go.
I worked on the problem with both Dr C and Dr W, and my father had some good ideas too. I went out to the truck and just walked around it, patting the hood and just feeling it. I did that for a couple of days and then went out, popped the hood, and looked at the engine and all the fluids. That took about a week before I could do it comfortably, at which point I started opening the door and just sitting in the truck. Sometimes I’d turn on the radio, but for the most part I was quiet and listening to my thoughts. That took another week or so. Then, I would start the truck and just sit there idling. Shut it off, start it back up, and sit there idling some more.
Finally I was comfortable enough to try and move the vehicle. I released the emergency brake, put the truck in reverse, and… nothing happened. I put it back in park, gave it a couple of light revs, then put it in reverse again. Still, nothing. Feeling sick to my stomach and on the verge of panic, I tapped the gas pedal lightly. There was a loud BANG as some dirty or rusty part let go (I’m guessing the emergency brake) and I started rolling. I must’ve been quite the sight as I would go out to the truck every morning and drive it up and down the driveway, but I was taking things slowly.
Eventually I was comfortable enough with that to try driving around the block. That took me quite a while to get used to, but since then I’ve been expanding the distance from home that I’m comfortable driving. Lighter traffic is much easier for me to handle, but I’m slowly making it a little farther from home each week. I’m now able to drive myself to my appointments with Dr C, which both makes me a little proud of myself and makes me happy that J doesn’t have to switch around as much of her work time. I have two goals right now: be able to drive myself to my Dr W appointments (which is a much larger commitment), and go for a ride on my motorcycle (which has been sitting for a year and a half doing nothing).
When I got home from the hospital, I never thought I’d be able to drive again. Baby steps are the trick, and I thank Dr C, Dr W, and my dad for the helpful ideas that got me rolling again. I also want to thank J again for all of her patience and support while I’ve been sick and recovering.