Happy Saturday, everyone! As I type this, I’m tucked up in bed and kind of wishing I’d gone and made a cup of tea before I started this post but that requires movement and I’m just not ready for that, guys. Today, I wanted to share with you my thoughts, feelings and experiences of driving anxiety.
As some of you will likely already know, I passed my driving test just over a month ago, and have been driving my little red Mini One, Nelson, since the beginning of this month. Being able to drive brings this whole new sense of freedom – it should be exciting. Sometimes it is. But quite often throughout my driving experience so far, it’s more often this terrifying thing that triggers my anxiety.
The 1st Driving Lesson
Let’s take you back to very beginning – to about a year ago when I decided to take the leap and book my first driving lesson. I’d spent about a week researching, emailing and calling up independent instructors to find out they were all booked up. Cue giving up on “the little guy” and searching AA’s website for someone local. Bingo. We have a match!
Sam is originally from London. He lives around the corner from me, and was able to do 2 hour lessons around my working day. I booked in my first lesson for an evening. I forget what time, but it was probably 5pm-7pm. The build up was a mixture of nerves, excitement and a little bit of “I’m gonna be the best darn driver you ever did see” sass. But mostly the nerves bit, tbh.
The first lesson, I was bombarded with a lot of information. You have to be really, as there’s a lot of basics to learn before it’s your turn at the wheel. Being given a lot of information to remember can be a major trigger of anxiety for me, as my memory is absolutely hopeless and I panic about trying to retain it all.
I remember after that first lesson feeling completely overwhelmed, worried and dreading the next one. How was I going to retain all of this information?! My attempt at a solution to this was to make notes on revision cards and stick them to my wardrobe. The cockpit drill, step by step instructions on the core manoeuvres…it all went on lined cards in different colours.
In my own way, keeping these notes and reading them every day made me feel more in control. I wasn’t necessarily always remembering every little thing, but it eased just a little bit of the fear of driving, because I could at least remember those core principles (even if they completely went out the window when I was actually on the road! All knowledge and information just dissolves from my brain when I’m feeling under pressure).
Fear of driving and driving anxiety
My fear of driving stayed with me from the very first lesson, to the last. I was a nervous driver and only felt confident with reassurance. Needy, huh? But I needed that to spur me on. My anxiety waned a little if I was being told I was doing things right. It made me feel less overwhelmed about all the things I needed to remember because hey, I remembered that one thing in that moment that prevented me from panicking which could’ve stalled or crashed the car. Go me!
I almost never slept well before a driving lesson, and due to Sam’s calendar, I often had my lessons first thing in the morning (7am – 9am). For a long time, this caused my progress in driving to almost come to a complete halt. With the lack of sleep, and the increasing anxiousness around driving, I would end up in tears when I couldn’t do a three point turn, or if my driving wasn’t absolutely perfect. Every single week I would dread the lesson, and even started packing make up in my handbag in case I needed to cover up blotchy-cryface when I got to work.
I began to think I was never going to be ready for the test. I almost gave up completely on several occasions. At one point, I got signed off from work and from my lessons because the stress of driving had added on to other stresses and it all became too much. I was taking beta-blockers which made me so tired that I couldn’t face much more than my bed and Netflix.
But eventually I got better and one day, it clicked. I don’t remember when, or how, but I got my confidence back. Sure, I wasn’t driving around like I owned the road, but I was having better lessons, which meant I was also sleeping a bit better because I was less nervous about how the next lesson was going to go.
Overcoming fear of driving
I don’t think it’s fair for me to say that I’ve completely overcome my fear of driving. I do still get some butterflies before going out on the road, but at least now I know that I can do it. I passed my test first time (much to my disbelief), and am now able to go out driving on my own.
I’m taking it easy though. When I first started driving the car, my Mum would come with me whilst I got used to Nelson’s nuances. Nelson loves to go fast, and his clutch is very different to the Fiesta that I had my lessons in. Getting to grips with a different car was a significant hurdle to get over. I had those moments of doubt again – that I had taken several steps back because I felt like I didn’t know how to drive any more, but again, it clicked in time. I’ve been learning to go lighter on the accelerator, to ease off the clutch with more intricacy so he doesn’t kangaroo.
I’m still learning to be a calm driver. As I don’t particularly enjoy driving, I want to get the journey over as quickly as I can. This doesn’t mean I’m speeding (because lol I have telematics in my car to try bring my insurance down and breaking the speed limit will do the opposite), but it does mean that I rush gear changes, I brake a little later than perhaps I should. I overthink situations and avoid going the “difficult way” to get to work.
But I know it’ll come in time. I’ll relax more as I get used to the car, and to the journey’s I’ll be doing. As everyone around me told me from day one, driving will become second nature.
So whilst I’m not over the anxiety that comes with driving (and might never fully be, as an anxious person), I have come a long, long way since that very first lesson. I’m proud of myself, and happy that I can share this experience and tell anyone who suffers from anxiety, that it won’t stop you, it can’t stop you. It’ll be a bumpy road, but you totally can do it. That’s the cue for Eye of the Tiger to start playing in your head, FYI.
If you liked this post, you may also like On Overcoming Fears And Passing My Driving Test.