Driving with anxiety - mental health awareness
I honestly thought I would never learn to drive! The thought of learning to drive would send my anxiety into overdrive. Whilst all my friends at school were learning, I had convinced myself I would never start, and that was that. The thought of being out on the roads on my own and being in control of this big metal object made me SO nervous. My friends and family said that I should try but I kept coming up with excuses… I mean who doesn’t like a 30-minute walk to work in the rain?! I would always just tell people I couldn’t afford to start learning when in reality I think I was just hoping people would eventually stop asking. I think my driving anxiety mainly came from watching a video in school promoting safe driving and no texting behind the wheel. Don’t get me wrong – it did this well, but it also showed me how dangerous driving is! The video made me feel paralysed with fear – I did NOT want to learn to drive.
Taking the first step
I started dating my other half when I was 20. He encouraged me to learn and said that it would give me more freedom and drive (excuse the pun) to get out and do new things. With this new outlook on driving, I started to think of the job possibilities as I was pretty restricted with what I could apply for and the thought of not having to rely on lifts further out gave me the extra push I needed. My partner’s dad is a driving instructor (bonus!) which gave me the other push to actually start learning and get myself behind the wheel once and for all. It made it so easier to take up lessons and helped a great deal with my anxiety, as he would talk to me throughout which calmed me down and he would encourage me to keep giving it a go, plus it’s always nice to have a familiar face beside you in the car. It took me 2 years of learning to actually book my test, but during this time I managed to build up my confidence. Unfortunately, any mistake I made would feel like it was a MASSIVE deal! I would constantly put it down to incompetence and have the “I can’t drive” attitude, meaning I would avoid getting back in the car for as long I could, and would leave it a good few months without having a lesson! The worse part of learning to drive for me were the manoeuvres! I couldn’t reverse around corners, I was too short to see out the passenger’s windows to bay park, and I put off the parallel parking until about a month before my test!
The first hurdle – the theory test
I knew I was never any good with exams, so the theory test part of my driving journey was a nerve-racking one, and something I knew would take me more than one go, which it did – of course! Each time I tried and failed, I was so frustrated! I felt like I’d never be good enough to pass. Failing so many times really got to me, because I was never told what I was failing on so I had no idea where I could improve. I’d end up feeling constantly anxious and doubting everything that I had revised. I realised that a lot of theory tests online weren’t accurate and some of the books were a little outdated - so I installed an app on my tablet. I then did all my revision using this app and the best thing about it was, it was praising me for what I was getting right, but also told me where I was going wrong! I kept going, and on my third attempt, I passed! I knew from that moment, I had to pass my test ASAP (I definitely didn’t want to have to sit that theory again).
The second hurdle – the practical test
I booked my practical driving test for April 11th, 2017 without hesitation – I knew I had to do this. Unfortunately, a week before my test - it was cancelled! I was absolutely gutted and honestly felt as though it was a sign. Maybe I wasn’t good enough to drive, after all? I had built myself up so much that for it to then cancel only a week before actually made me feel extra nervous, and made my anxiety around the test much worse. My driving instructor got me to book the next available which was the 23rd May 2017, over a month after my original booking. Even though when my test was cancelled, I threw a teeny tiny tantrum and told myself I was never destined to drive, I did eventually see it as a positive - as I could then practise my parallel parking more which in the time between my bookings, I practiced over and over again until I could do it blindfolded! (well, not literally!). Those extra 12 or so lessons really helped me, in my driving skills and also in forgetting any final doubt I had.
Although my theory took me a good few turns I passed my test first time! Now I’m reversing into parking spaces like a pro and always the one offering to give lifts to friends and family. To be honest, my anxiety pretty much vanished on my first drive all on my own. I remember getting into my own car, putting my music on and straight away felt like I was in my element. My boyfriend did drive behind me on my first drive just in case I had any problems, but this really just gave me a chance to show off a little with all my mirror checks and early signalling! I just felt like a natural and knew I was never going to turn back! I was driving now and this is what all that hard work had built up to. Driving has really helped with my anxiety, and I now love having my own independence. The biggest stepping stone in this journey for me was realising that learning to drive is a choice, and I waited until I was ready to take the plunge. Nobody should feel pressured to start learning if they really don’t feel ready, but I’m glad I was able to push myself out of my comfort zone and start! To make it even better, I bought a smaller car so that I can actually see out of the windows to bay park – winner!