A driving impression

19 Apr

At the height of my chronic illnesses, and for years after, I did not drive. One of the things I live with on a daily basis is vertigo and imbalance. For many years I had noticeable imbalance every single day, with the concerns of true vertigo in the back of my mind. So since I worked from home, I did not drive. If I went somewhere it was with someone else and that was completely fine with me.

Prior to that, I’d been driving since I was sixteen and was very independent. I loved driving, especially in my convertible Mustang with the top down in the lovely spring and fall seasons. But I gave up the Mustang at some point–it was in bad shape anyway–and we purchased our first SUV. I loved driving the SUV, though not as much as the Mustang. Then it ended with the onset of my imbalance and vertigo issues.

In the last 18 months, I’ve taken to driving here and there on an as-needed basis. Mostly I would follow the hub to or from a location when we had to leave a car somewhere. Last fall, I started driving myself to my therapy appointments, to prove to myself that I could do it. Even when I felt mildly crappy, I drove myself. Even when I felt anxious, I drove myself. Only when I started to go downhill physically and mentally (thank you very much, Prilosec!) did I fall back on having someone drive me to my appointments again.

In the last couple of weeks, I’ve begun driving to my therapy appointments again. One day it rained, snowed, was windy, and sleeted all on the same day and all during my drive to-and-from, and I still managed to drive myself. I’ve even stopped and gone shopping on my own, twice. These are big things for me…not so much because I couldn’t do it before, but because I didn’t. I’m feeling mostly confident that I won’t have a vertigo or imbalance episode while driving (which could have injured others as well as myself), so I’ve been getting out on my own. Last week I also had to drive to my PT appointments because my aunt was in the hospital and my regular chauffeur (my father) has been staying with her. I don’t love driving myself to PT because when I come out sometimes I’m really tired or my arm or shoulder hurt, and I worry that I might not be able to handle the car. But the drive is generally 15-20 minutes, and I can work it out so I’m on back streets almost the whole way, so I’ve sucked it up and done it.

I tried to explain to someone (I forget who) that I didn’t miss driving when I wasn’t driving. I missed the independence, and the feeling of independence, but I was okay with not driving. But when I am physically driving, I enjoy it. Of course, my drives are in the 15-20 minute range, and I have no traffic to deal with, so that does help!


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2 responses to “A driving impression

  1. joeyfullystated

    April 23, 2013 at 4:57 pm

    I relate to this post more than any other post I’ve ever read about anxiety symptoms! For a little over five years (YES! Five Years!) I experienced vertigo when driving. Most of my panic attacks have been in a vehicle. I don’t have that problem now. Don’t know why. WIsh I could tell you so you could do what I did and not feel like that anymore. Recently, I drove 850+ miles in two days, and I got spinny and shaky only once. Again, I wish I could tell you why or how. The vertigo was sometimes so frightening, I would pull over and try to gain my composure, talk to a friend, stop at a rest area and walk around. Going to my mother’s once (a 10-hour drive, it was) I split it into 2 days and spent so much time resting and walking, my mother thought I’d never get there. I would avoid driving long distances – I’d ask my husband, or a friend to drive me instead. If I had to drive, I would remark that I drove well, especially for a person who felt like she was dying, and couldn’t see properly. Someone on a forum told me to focus on signs to the side of the road, and it did help.
    My therapist told me that driving is stressful, regardless of anyone’s mental state, and that with my mental state, I had to expect it. So I expected it. I don’t know if that was the cure, but I did tell myself all the time, “This is stressful. I’m fine. This is normal, healthy stress. It’s just adrenaline. I’ll be alright.” I would sing and talk to my kids and time would pass.
    But trust you me, I TOTALLY understand you, and the fear of vertigo, and worse, the added anxiety that vertigo brings!
    Keep driving — it will pass. I’m so with you in spirit!

  2. meANXIETYme

    April 23, 2013 at 5:02 pm

    I have never had anyone understand the way you do, Joey. I do what you do, tell myself over and over again that I’m okay while I’m driving. I focus on the road I’m on and try not to let my mind go to that “what if” arena. I can’t imagine driving a 10 hour trip (or 850 miles!) ever! I’m so happy that you were able to do it and keep your head about you. Way to go!
    Thanks for your comment, it makes me feel like there are people out there who can relate to such an unusual thing. I wish us both the best driving experiences ever, every time we go out!


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