August 21, 2006

Just When I Think I'm Invincible ...

The screen as gotten a pretty blurry today. I've reached some kind of threshold, I guess ... the tears just won't stop falling on this subject. I have a good job at a very people friendly company with good bosses practically being handed to me ... the catch? A commute of 2 hours, minimum ... each way. For the normal person, 30 minutes. So it is probably time to "confess" ...

As strong and accomplished as I may be ... as confident and capable as I have proven myself ... I am paralyzed in life. I have been for about a decade now. I try my best to keep it a secret from people for as long as I possibly can, but what was once fear has become a phobia.

I will not drive. I have never had a driver's license.

I have watched it take away my youthful adventures in high school, limit my college experiences, ruin relationships, hinder friendships, complicate family gatherings, destroy job opportunities, remove all hope of real independence, and leave me fairly isolated in the world.

But still, I will not drive.

People tell me that when it is inconvenient enough, the need to drive will supersede the fear causing me to avoid it. Or others say, when I am ready, it will happen. Talk like that just makes the pain worse. It is terribly inconvenient and how helpless am I to become before I am "ready" ??

But crying doesn't earn a license.

I have taken driving lessons, driven a neon, a jeep, a mini-van, a truck, and an SUV ... sometimes illegally without anyone else in the vehicle. I can physically perform the task - so long as the panic doesn't take hold.

And yet, I will not drive.

I can look myself in the mirror and know it is irrational. There is no cause, there is no reason ... My fears took hold long before I was in an accident or I lost my grandmother to the drunk driver. But even when I wasn't the driver and no one was seriously hurt, I was crying enough and my heart was racing so badly after the one accident that they had to put me on a monitor in the ambulance. I felt so stupid.

I end up feeling too crazy to drive.

When people find out I don't drive, I am embarrassed. When special arrangements have to be made on my behalf, I am humiliated. When people ask about it, I try to make the answer as brief as possible and change the subject; if I don't, I break down in tears.

I only avoid driving more.

It may not seem like it has the ability to control my life, but it does ... in every aspect, even the most basic ones. I cannot buy soda at the grocery store alone if I plan to buy much of anything else - I have to carry it home. I cannot go to multiple stores at a time because I do not have a vehicle to put my purchases in as I go along. I cannot buy ingredients my local store doesn't carry, unless someone else wants to take me. It limits where I can live, where I can work, places I can go, events I can attend, travel plans, etc.

I see the restrictions. I feel the pain. I wear the shame.

But how do you conquer a phobia that has gained such a firm grasp?

Posted by Princess Cat at August 21, 2006 03:30 PM @ 03:30 PM in Way Down Inside // Permalink | TrackBack

I have no advice to offer only hugs. You are not alone though. I know a couple other people who are in the exact situation. Fear is powerful. How you conquor that I'm not sure. You're in my thoughts and prayers. I just wish I could do more.

Posted by: Sticks at August 21, 2006 05:59 PM

Damn, Cat. I had no idea. Maybe you need to spend lots of time behind the wheel in a big, empty parking lot until you eventually reach the point where it becomes clear that you are controlling the car and not the other way around. Seems to me that this phobia is worth working on.

Stay well, kiddo.

Posted by: Jim - PRS at August 22, 2006 03:33 AM

Not sure how it will work for you, but here is how things work for me, and right after the accident, I couldn't drive for 5-6 months. Fact is, I'm a control freak so I let that psychosis do the work for me. Now, so long as I have a fear that impedes me, I remind myself that it is a power something or someone else has over me. It is a weakness another person can exploit.

I will not be exploited. I will not let someone else have that kind of control over me. (it's why I put myself up into high places along cliffs and such still.) And so by realizing that someone else could have power over me, I use that to keep me going when I feel any sort of panic or disorientation coming on.

Again, it works for me, might not work for you and I am in no way a trained counselor.

Posted by: RSM at August 22, 2006 05:37 AM

Wow. Indeed, that's something.

Well, if I'm ever around town, I'll give you a ride. :)

Posted by: Ogre at August 22, 2006 08:38 AM

Hey, RSM is on to something, there. For me, the only answer is to confront my fears. I refuse to let fear win. I am a control freak, too, though and like RSM, let that work for me.

Posted by: Kelly at August 22, 2006 09:11 AM

I do know that this is a serious issue, and we have talked about it, the only quick fix I can come up with...
a limo
a driver

Posted by: armywifetoddlermom at August 22, 2006 12:33 PM

Cat - while I cannot imagine dealing with the fear I can tell you that the 2 hour commute, if the job is GREAT is do-able. Oh, folks will think you're crazy, there will be days you hate it - but it's do able.
I have it because I just can't deal with living in the city again, if I don't have to. So I commute.

Not much help and I'm sorry. But know - where there's a will there's a way. Do NOT let the fear win....

Posted by: Tammi at August 22, 2006 02:27 PM

.... all fear can eventually be conquered... keep trying, Cat.... you can do it if you really want to...

Posted by: Eric at August 23, 2006 08:43 AM

My first response is, you're in DC, right? No wonder you don't want to drive. Craziest place I have ever driven in. But aside from the joking, I can sympathize. You are not the only one. You will just have to stick to the bigger cities that have good public transportation systems.

Posted by: Laurie at August 23, 2006 12:26 PM

Well Sweetie I can't help you there. In a way I feel your pain. I don't like to admit it but I am as scared of flying as you are of driving. I can't get anywhere near an airplane without getting very nervous and sickly feeling. There is no way I can get in one to go anywhere without medication. I've been that way all my life. I go to the doctor and get myself some Valium everytime I have to fly somewhere. Every time the plane leaves the ground I take 40 milligrams of Valium and ask the flight attendants to be sure and wake me when we are safely on the ground. If there are any other problems during the flight, I don't want to know about it. I'd rather be asleep than awake if the plane is going to hit something and come to a sudden stop at 600+ miles per hour. If God meant for man to fly we would have been born with wings on our ass.

Posted by: assrot at August 23, 2006 06:43 PM

Hey, Cat... it ain't the same thing, not by a long shot, but I smucked hard on the bike, once. I forced myself to ride over, and over, and over. I crashed on a curve, so I charged the curves as fast as I safely could... for days. It took me a good long while, but I finally got over it.

Like I said, I know it's not the same thing, but perhaps some of the same principles may be beneficial. Like Jimbo said, hit an empty parking lot and work on your greatest fears.

If you don't ever feel comfortable, no big deal. I've known a few peeps who wouldn't drive. Better that you feel safe.

Sorry to ramble...

Posted by: That 1 Guy at August 24, 2006 11:11 PM

Well, I never knew that. I mean, I suspected, but I didn't think it was because of your anxiety. I thought you were just one of those people that never bothered to get a license. There are lots of those people in NYC and also here in Seattle.

I have absolutely no advice on whether you should confront your fear. However, I can speak on the 2 hr commute angle.

I get up at 4:35am so that I can leave the house by 5:30am to drive to the train station (I could take a bus but it makes me nauseated) to catch the 5:57am train into Seattle. I ride the train for about 50 minutes. I get off the train and walk to the bus stop. I catch the bus and then I'm at my desk by roughly 7:15/7:20am. Oh, and that's if the train and/or bus wasn't running late.

Why do I get up at 4:35am? Because I absolutely love my job and the company I work for. The sacrifice makes it worth it.

And you know what? Commuting on public transport is WAYYYYYYY less stressful than driving. Not to mention it saves lots of money since my company pays for my train/bus pass.

You are forgeting about some other options that may be available to you with commuting. Being the internet savy chick that you are, I recommend you find a vanpool, rideshare, or carpool with people going to the same area. Either that, or do the public transport. Or move.

Sure, driving scares you. I prefer to look at the silver lining: no car payment, no car maintenance, no car insurance, no stressing about gas prices, and no having to wash or clean your car (and anyone who has seen your bedroom knows that you don't need another place to clean -stash stuff-).

Posted by: Dorothy at August 26, 2006 11:50 PM