I don’t know what most will think about this post. I feel like while reading this, people may laugh and think this is absolutely absurd and ridiculous. None the less, this is something I am very ashamed of and absolutely down right embarrassed to admit. As most people now know, I have anxiety and I have learned to be open and honest about MOST of the things that trigger it BUT I still have not confessed the biggest trigger and the thing that makes me shut down and lose control. As I am writing this, I am honestly really not sure if I will post it but I guess if you are reading this I decided to go and put my dignity on a platter. The more I think about it, the more open to possible ridicule this makes me. Also, I doubt many would even understand or even sympathize. I am not looking for sympathy by posting this. I am perhaps looking for a comforting “me too” to know that maybe this type of anxiety, or more appropriately labeled PHOBIA, is not one that I am alone with. Okay so here it goes. I can barely bring myself to type it because it is honestly so stupid and something anyone can do, anyone except me it seems. Alright…so I suffer from Vehophobia, which is the fear of driving.
Okay so are you laughing? Do you think of me differently? I really don’t think I have been able to express to anyone how much this fear of driving hinders my life. The anxiety I feel in a situation where I am asked to drive is debilitating. I lock up and I get dizzy. I start to feel like I am a danger to those around me and that if I make a mistake, I could end someone’s life. I would not be able to live with myself if that ever happened. I have taken numerous amounts of lessons with some bad instructors (one who definitely sexually harassed me during every lesson at the age of 18) and some great instructors who told me I am amazing at driving. I have my full licence and know how to actually physically drive but it’s the psychological part that eats me alive. I feel like a joke. Some 16 year olds do it and they aren’t even afraid, in fact, they’re excited! What the hell is wrong with me? How do I even fix this irrational fear of driving? I am so ashamed of this fear and I really beat myself up for it. I have to rely on friends or family to pick me up and take me somewhere and if anyone knows me well they know that I have such an issue with anyone doing any favors for me. This has caused me to stay inside and miss out on a lot. I would rather not burden anyone with the chore of picking me up, so I end up staying home alone and it just becomes hurtful to miss out on life because of this.
I just don’t know what else to do at this point. I could talk about it until I am blue in the face but it won’t get me anywhere it seems. I have driven with so many instructors just fine but when it comes to driving alone or with friends or family, I simply do not have confidence. That maybe is the root of the issue right there. It’s not trusting myself or my driving abilities. I feel like I will get somewhere on the road and not know what to do or when it’s okay to move. Things play over in my head and they always end negatively. I have had some very aggressive people attempt to teach me how to drive and it actually solidified for me that I cannot do this. So many people lost their patience with me and then in turn made me feel 1000x worse about myself. Their negative comments have shattered my driving confidence in to so many pieces.
During the Christmas break we had a rental car that was small and the perfect car to practice in. I needed desperately to do some last minute shopping as it was Christmas Eve and I was waiting for my husband to take me to Wal Mart. I waited and I waited and when I saw that time was cutting close I asked if we could go. Of course frustrated with me over this ridiculous fear, he said to me just take the keys and go by yourself and drive. I was so embarrassed because he said this in front of someone else and I really felt like I can’t let this defeat me and I don’t want this other person to think less of me. So I took the keys and I left for the car. I got in the car and my heart began racing and I immediately started shaking uncontrollably. I wished so badly that he would come out and realize this is so hard for me but he didn’t. I adjusted my mirrors and my seat. I turned on the car and I backed out of the driveway. I started to drive and instantly felt like I didn’t have control over the car. I was so emotionally charged at the time and I couldn’t even think. I was getting further down the road and was about to make a right hand turn and then as I was going there was a car coming fast towards me. I panicked and then I stopped the car. I felt like I didn’t trust my judgement about when to go or not go. I started thinking to myself, this isn’t even safe. I could kill myself this way. I decided to just go straight and try to turn back around. I went down some streets to try to see if I could get the feel of the car and start feeling better. I actually started to really panic and feel so much worse. My thoughts were taking over and it started happening. I couldn’t catch my breathe and I went in to a full blown panic attack. I couldn’t see well and I felt so light headed. I some how managed to drive home, I parked the car and turned it off. I put my head in to my hands and I just broke down and cried. I was defeated. I let myself down, I let the people down who needed me to go to the store to buy things for Christmas dinner and I just cracked. I was so sick of myself. So sick of relying on my husband and so sick of being trapped.
I am very hard on myself when it comes to doing my part whether it was in school group projects, at work or at home. I obsess over balance and equality, so having to rely on other people all the time makes me sick. I feel worthless and defeated over this. I never get to visit my mom or dad and our relationships have suffered. I have two daughters who miss out on doing fun events because I cannot drive them or pick them up. My life isn’t just suffering, my kid’s lives are as well and that needs to change. Hindering my own life is one thing but when it affects my children, it just is unacceptable.
I know what you must be thinking….just do it. Just practice and you will be fine. No one understands, the fear becomes physical, I shut down. What goes on in my head and in my body horrifies me to my core. I spend a lot of my life helping others and giving them love and confidence but this is one issue I can’t seem to help myself with. So as hard as this is for me, I need to ask for help. How do I do this? What do you suggest I do to get over this and get driving with confidence? Some people have told me I am just not meant to drive but I can’t settle for that answer. I want to be able to go get groceries when I want, take my kids to a movie, go see my parents or my friends and so much more. I want to have control of my life and I feel like without being able to drive, I have to hand my ability to be independent to someone else and it’s embarrassing. This issue makes me feel like I am a burden of a wife, an awful friend, a horrible daughter, and the one that hurts me the most is a let down of a mother. This issue has hindered many aspects of my life and I feel like I am imprisoned in my home. I hear my friend’s say how horrible it is when their car is in the shop and they won’t be mobile for a few days and how it is killing them. That is my life everyday! That trapped feeling, I cannot get used to it. It messes with me heavily because when I do get out, I feel like I need so much time to adjust to being out in society and just when I get comfortable with it, I have to go home and spend a while before getting out again. I’m not sure if I am even properly portraying how much this affects me or if people have stopped reading this by now because it is ridiculous. Either way, this is helping me write out my feelings and things that I have kept hidden away and covered with excuses. So there it is. I’m not perfect. I am so far from it.
Need to take charge. Don’t worry about worst case scenario. If someone is usually expected to drive for you show your excitement in taking the wheel. Learning requires experience and every time you forfeit an opportunity to take charge you’re missing another chance to feel comfortable as a driver. Your training suffers because it gets pushed back further and further in the past. Reduce distractions and try heading out by yourself every once in a while. Definitely helps if your passengers are not freaking out privately and acting all nervous so don’t show them reason to act that way. Relax, steer, stay focused and pay attention. Everyone started where you are from so understand that and set some goals to get to where you want to be. I took Young Drivers and they taught something called defensive driving. It helps to plan your route and be patient on the road. Don’t drive if you don’t feel alert. Don’t drive angry. Relax. Rely on your skills.
I think that you first have to give yourself credit for being wise enough to realize that having a panic attack on the road isn’t a safe situation for you, or for the other drivers. I’m not a counselor, but as a former anxiety sufferer I can say that the general reason we are anxious is because we analyze all the possibilities and consider everyone involved (a good thing). This can lead to overanalyzing and trying to make sure everything is all right for everyone (a not so good thing). Driving is legitimately a big responsibility with a lot of legitimate risks. So, as an analyzer and as someone who is extra considerate of others, it makes sense that you fear driving. I know that for myself, seeing a counselor about my fears helped tremendously in finding balance between weighing risks and considering others on the one hand, and taking calculated risks and letting others be responsible for their own lives on the other hand.
Yes I find I am so caught up on the idea of making a mistake and possibly hurting someone or even worse killing someone. I just lack so much confidence when it comes to driving. Only as of recently I have been highly considering therapy for this. I accepted this phobia for so long but I don’t want to live like this anymore.
Never feel that you have to apologize for your fears/anxiety. I think it is rather brave of you to share your feelings openly about something that strikes a nerve with you. It took me several years before I got my license and it did impact my life greatly. However, I slowly got past it until I moved 1,000 from the only home I had ever known. Now I live in a much more populated area that I’m not familiar with whereas back home I knew every nook and cranny. It is daunting for me to drive here and it brings with it the anxiety I used to have about driving. I’ve found that setting smaller driving goals that I can conquer help me to build my self-esteem and confidence. I admire your courage to share and hope that you find ways to strike out on your own little by little until it starts to feel less overwhelming.
Thank you so much for your kind words and advice. I think I am ready to try to drive again, so tomorrow I will take baby steps and just drive around my street and see how that makes me feel.
I am so sorry that you have to live with this fear! I can’t imagine how much inconvenience and frustration it brings you. Two confessions: 1, I have a SEVERE phobia too, and while it’s not of something that impacts my life in such a big way, I have the same physical reaction that you do, so I understand exactly how debilitating and miserable it is. 2, I’ve lived with anxiety for my entire life; and when I went through a particularly difficult period, a fear of driving was one of the symptoms I experienced. I was so concerned that I could have struck a pedestrian without even knowing it. I was constantly looking in the rearview mirror to make sure I didn’t accidentally hit something or someone. It was bad. When I got back on an anti-anxiety medication that worked for me, it went away. So I can’t imagine not having a quick fix like that. I empathize with you immensely and hope that you find a solution that makes it bearable for you so that you can achieve everything that you want to. <3
I have never taken medication for my anxiety but I am considering speaking to my family doctor and seeing if this is something that she thinks I could benefit from. Driving is so horrifying to me but I see how many people drive with ease, so I know this is irrational. Perhaps tomorrow I will try again to just drive around my street and back home. Thank you for commenting❤
I think your so brave to share your fears! After getting into a car accident, I would panic every time I got into a car, whether I was driving or not. It took a long time and a lot of deep breathing to get past it. To this day, people loathe driving with me because I am slow and overly cautious. I wonder if you have ever tried hypnosis or acupuncture? I am thinking of trying both to help with my anxiety/insomnia.
It is funny that you are suggesting that because I was looking in to that after I wrote this poat yesterday! I am definitely going to give it a try. I think all of this fear is a lsck of confidence and a lack of trust with my decision making while driving. I am sure if I built up my confidence, this issue would lessen immensely. Thanks so much for commenting.
I’m not one to talk. I also have anxiety & don’t have my license. Never have. I’ve never had the opportunity to be alone in a vehicle to know how it’d go… but it is a stressor in going for my license shortly.
How would you feel about biking? Hear me out. If you had a bike you could do simple errands & pick up a back packs worth of groceries. Maybe your girls would want to bike with you? Regardless that way you’d have freedom. & if you had a hard day & didn’t want to drive, you could bike & still go. Even if you hated biking it wouldn’t take very long to get frustrated & maybe that’s a motivation to help ease your fears.
Do you have the option of defense driving classes? Like that show Canada’s worst driver – I would pay so much to take that course before writing my beginners. But if you built up confidence on exactly how you react in a dangerous situation you’d feel more qualified.
Also maybe just drive your husband around for a few months & give him a break. That way you’re more used to spending time driving without a panic attack. Then maybe try to practice drive with someone one day & alone the next.
I wish you nothing but positive, safe vibes, love. You absolutely are not alone!! ♡
*defensive driving course*
I couldn’t agree more with what you’ve written! Everything you described is exactly how I feel when driving. I started taking driving lessons at 17 because everyone else seemed to be learning how to drive at that age. By the time I actually got my license I had 4 different driving instructors over 2 years and took over 60 driving lessons. I passed my test on my 5th attempt because even though I knew how to drive, i would have a panic attack during the test and make all sorts of mistakes. Since having my license I only ever use it for ID purposes. I’ve driven less than 10 times over the past 5 years and even then I’ve had someone sitting with me in the passenger seat. I find it difficult explaining to others that I don’t have a car or I don’t drive because I have a fear of driving. Because of this I rely heavily on trains, taxis or family and friends, though I wish I didn’t have to. I’ve only recently come over my phobia of getting on the train alone and travelling so I’m hoping that with time I’ll get better at driving without wanting to pass out. If you manage to come up with a coping strategy do let me know, it might work for me too!
I receive counseling from anxiety center.com. They specialize in anxiety, panic, phobias, OCD, depression, etc. I highly recommend this approach to anxiety recovery, and I still have a lot to learn but I have made great strides in my anxiety recovery. I think you would find true comfort and help with your fear of driving by reaching out to one of their counselors.
Leigha: I think it is so very brave of you to share about this. I”m sure there are many people who will be helped by your being willing to put it out there. I’m sure you’ve done tons of research and wonder if “systematic desensitization”. I have this image in my head of you just walking to your car one day and breathing til you feel calm; then perhaps the next day sitting in the car for 1 minute or 5; then longer, etc. I’m fairly certain that “powering through” is not the answer. Sending you love and light on your healing journey!
I’m sorry, I’m very new to your blog. I came across this post and I’m so happy that I did. I’m not happy that you are suffering but because I take comfort in not being alone in this. I too have the exact same phobia. Reading this post I could actually cry because I know how all of what you expressed feels and people just do not understand that it’s not as easy as just getting in the car and driving. You get so nervous that you almost forget how to drive. I’d like to share my story with you. I know that this is a fairly old post but I’d like to know if you’ve made any progress regarding driving, no pressure, no judgement if you haven’t.
Hi Vanita! I am so happy to report that I now drive alone and even on the highway! I am no longer afraid of driving at all and in fact I even enjoy it! I have taught myself techniques to deal with my phobia and I even did hypnotherapy which helped a lot! I have finally conquered my fears and feel so proud of myself!!!!
Thank you so much for sharing!! I honestly thought I was the only one in the entire world that couldn’t drive due to anxiety and panic attacks! Now I know I’m not alone. Some many of your thoughts are the exact same as mine. I feel so weak and inadequate. I feel so ashamed and looked down on. People just don’t understand. Thank you for being so open and brave. That is not an easy thing to do!