I used to be a fearless driver. In high school, I was the friend who picked everyone up and drove us to wherever we wanted to go. I would frequently drive hours in different areas of the state or surrounding states to visit friends and just explore. I loved driving and it was where I felt the most calm.
Two summers ago, I was driving and out of nowhere, I was hit with a wave of anxiety. I felt incredibly light-headed and my hands began to sweat. I thought I was going to pass out behind the wheel and crash my car. I didn’t know what was happening at the time, but this was my first panic attack.
I’ve had bouts of anxiety before this moment: the racing heart, the clammy hands – but this was my first experience with such an overwhelming and uncontrollable fear that made me feel like I was dying. Over the next few weeks, I experienced this panic each time that I drove. No matter what I tried to do to calm myself, I still felt paralyzed with fear every time I sat behind the wheel.
It began to consume my life and I finally brought it up in therapy. She recommended I conquer my fear – by driving more often and to more places to normalize it. I did not take her advice. In fact, I gave up driving altogether for a semester.
The last few months, I have gradually been driving more and more. I have driven routes I usually avoid and made it beyond the short radius I’d usually box myself in if I did make it to my car. On one of my long drives into the city from visiting my parents, I decided on making a resolution for the new year to drive to work once in a while. Prior to this, I was taking the bus which was 50 minutes while the drive is about 20.
The first time I drove downtown to work, I was pretty nervous, but I was not paralyzed with fear at any point. For a few weeks, I drove two days a week – Mondays and Fridays. I began to feel comfortable enough to drive the majority of days, weather permitting. Now, I drive to work every day and have been for the last three weeks. It is a massive life change for me, as this time last year, I would bus or Uber to anywhere I was unfamiliar with, even if it was a mere five minutes away.
Conquering this fear took time, but most importantly, it took monitoring my mental health. I did not force myself into driving when I did not feel ready. I waited until I felt confident enough to take on the roads, and worked my way up from there. Conquering a fear takes continuous work as well, since it can definitely come back and it is important to remember that if it does, it can be conquered again.
Are there any fears you would like to conquer? Have you ever overcome a fear? Feel free to share in the comments below!