Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Some Personal Growth for a Change

As you may or may not know, I have a real phobia about letting people drive me anywhere. Especially in bad weather. Or, you know, at all. I am afraid to get in a car and let people drive me anywhere at all.

I'm really not sure anymore why this fear has taken so prominent a hold on my life. I think it's the result of a number of things happening at once. Too many bad trips with drivers who were just a shade too reckless, or in places I was too unfamiliar with to relax, and I just couldn't be a passenger anymore.

It didn't used to be this way. People used to drive me all the time. I remember when Becca used to drive us everywhere. But I realized it's been 15 years since I let anyone else get behind the wheel and take me anywhere.

It's an even bigger problem for me, because I also have fears associated with driving. I used to love to drive. Then I became more and more overcautious. I had a hard time in the dark, or in the rain. And if it's snowing? No way am I driving, especially since I got into a car accident coming home from work on a very snowy day.

As your mind-obliterating fears often do, these two came crashing into each other yesterday when it became imperative that Becca and I journey to the grocery store. Now, the roads were fairly decent, even though it had snowed all night before. There was a pretty dense fog. And the only car we have left is in desperate need of a visit to a mechanic--brakes are grinding, tires are failing, alignments are... misaligned. All of this was just a recipe for the anxiety I'm medicated because of.

See, my driving-related phobia is dangerous. It makes me too cautious, less willing to take chances. Which may sound good, but when I'm in a certain mental state I see things like driving any more than 5 miles under the speed limit as taking a chance. I've been worrying that trying too hard not to get into an accident is going to get me into an accident. A bad one.

So I had to swallow it all down yesterday and let Becca drive us to the store.

I know, for most people this is not a big deal. For me, it was an epic nightmare. I would have zero control over what was happening, and even thinking of it gave me this hot, prickly feeling in the back of my neck and a black hole in the pit of my stomach.

I got in the car and strapped myself in. Becca promised no sharp turns or sudden stops, if she could help it. As we pulled out of our parking lot, I started to breathe too fast. I had to do a lot of deep breathing to calm down. I purposely didn't look at the road. I looked at the ceiling, or closed my eyes. I could feel the car moving, but I tried to concentrate on conversation. Becca knows me very well; she told me to explain something to her that took a long time to explain. I chewed my gum (so I wouldn't grind my teeth or chew on my tongue, a bad habit I've been developing lately) and occasionally recited the Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear, which is surprisingly helpful.

And we made it. All of my nervous energy came out through laughter, and then I was just so, so tired from holding on for dear life and trying not to freak out.

But the point is, I didn't.

Yes, I'm a big baby, but despite one near-panic, I didn't throw a fit. And that's a pretty big personal victory.

I did even better on the ride home. This is another of my fears--like so many of them--which has become overwhelming until it just ran out of control. Now I think I may be able to let go of it.

I feel good about this. Becca, who sometimes feels she's just been enabling me for 15 years, feels good about it, too.

My Mom has tried to get me over this, too; in the summer, I was able to let her drive me around a bit, though not quite as far.

I'm building. I'm building up to being a person again.


On Smash said...

good for you !

Carl said...

I remember the last time I tried to drive us somewhere--back in '97-- and I know how anxious you were about it. I didn't think it had such a strong grip on you.

Good for you!

Wings said...

Smalls steps make a journey!

Kal said...

ah, the Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear...I know it well. I hate getting on those stupid fair rides but I always get on them to impress some girl and I hate riding them everytime. Repeating that 'fear in the mind killer' over and over DOES work.

Roger Owen Green said...

I can relate.

Drake said...

Try to use laughter more, it helps.
And keep up the good work.

Glenn Whidden said...

Good for you man. Out of control fear is the worst. It's crippled me from time to time. Good luck.

Jason said...

Congratulations, Frog, seriously. Keep getting better...

Anonymous said...

You need to get out of the house more, sir. EVERYTHING will start feeling like such a problem if you insulate yourself like this.