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Car Anxiety

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

I knew from the beginning that there would be anxiety associated with driving.  The first time I experienced it was the week after the accident, and my daughter, Mia, who is 18, was leaving to go to dance class.  I was sitting at my kitchen table with close friends when she came in and said it was time for her to go to class.  We had house guests at the time and I asked if one of their daughters was going to ride along.  She said no.  I was suddenly gripped with fear.  I turned to my friend and told her I would feel much better if her daughter rode with Mia to class.  One of their girls was immediately downstairs and they left the house together.  It was at that moment that I realized that this was going to be a very large road block for me, but I also immediately recognized it as the spirit of fear and knew that I could not live in it.  I asked friends to pray about that specifically.  Slowly, I was able to allow her to drive alone but had her check in when she arrived at her destination and then call me or text when she was leaving to head home.  I was not needing to drive very often, and when I did, it was just little errands that did not put me on the interstate.... then I took my kids to the beach, by myself.

We were only going to drive as far as Mobile, then spend the night with some close friends of mine who live there. I underestimated the anxiety that could occur with driving long distance.  I have always loved to drive on road trips and Michael allowed me to just pick up and drive 6-8 hours with the kids by myself.  I was a real road warrior. This was something that Michael loved about me. He loved my independent, confident spirit.  When he would call me to check in with me while I was traveling, he would say, "So, how is my Wonder Woman?"  Then he would giggle and say, "You amaze me!"   By habit, I did not think to much about it when it came time to leave.  We ended up pulling out of the driveway a little later than I had planned, which put me driving the second half at dusk and into the dark.  Once we got onto interstate 98, I began to feel the fear trying hard to creep on me.  I had to try to  focus on other things, and yet, I felt like I could focus on nothing but driving below the speed the limit and trying to stay away from 18 wheelers.  Every time I saw an 18 wheeler, I would feel fear mixed with a little bit of anger.  My thoughts were, "Careless truck drivers!"  Then I would look at the type of truck, and if it was the kind with a long bed trailer on the back, the kind that carry logs or metal pipes, my mind would begin to race.  I could feel my hands clenching on the wheel and my shoulders tighten.  I had to keep praying away the thoughts and cast away the spirit of fear.  It was about an hour and a half of this.  I was so relieved when we pulled into the driveway of my friends.  My body felt like I had just taken a beating.  We were safe, and I had been a road warrior.... for real.

Driving the next morning was much better.  Still anxiety, but nothing like it had been the night before.  I split the trip up again on the way home and made sure that all of the driving was done in broad daylight. I felt like I had turned a corner by the time I pulled back into my driveway.

Last week, Mia had a similar experience.  I was sitting in my kitchen eating lunch with my sister when Mia arrived home from a class.  She walked in, I took one look at her, and I knew she had been crying.  Her nose was a little red and her eyes looked like they had been crying.  I stopped eating, looked at her and asked,"Are you okay?"  She said, "Yeah, I'm fine.  I just sneezed a couple of times in the car and it made my eyes water."  I said, "Okay.... you just look like you have been crying."  She just gave me a slight grin and said she was going upstairs then would come down and eat some lunch.  About two minutes later, I heard her voice, weakly calling for me from upstairs, "Mom, can you come up here?"  I kicked off my sandals in the next room and ran up the stairs.  When I got to her room, she was sitting on her bed crying hard.  She looked at me with a red face and tears all over and said, "I almost just got hit by a car!"  I ran to her and held her.  She cried and told me what had just happened.  It was an intersection near our home that we have always talked about the dangers there and have discussed how careful we need to be in that place.  She was in a left turn lane and as she began to turn, the car to her left, in the second turn lane, came over into her lane as they were turning and ran her over to the right a bit and missed hitting her by inches.  We cried together as I held her.  I understood.  I told her that this was going to be difficult and we were just going to have to use wisdom and keep overcoming the car anxiety. We cried and hugged until we could both take a deep breath and move on.

It is getting easier to drive, but I am extra cautious.  Whenever a car in front of us hits the brakes and I need to suddenly press the brakes, I feel like all of the kids tune into the moment and get quiet or look up to see what is happening.  I know I still have that road warrior deep down inside of me because it has always been who I am. ( I got it from my mom, only she was taking road trips alone with 5 children. My dad loved that about her too.) We, Mia and I,  have taken the initial baby steps and are doing much better than where we began, but driving, braking, and seeing 18 wheelers will never be quite the same.


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