Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Current Anxiety Triggers and How I Intend to Tackle Them

I have spoken in previous posts about some of the anxieties I have started to make progress to overcome. I thought it was time to talk about some of the areas that I still struggle with and explain the approach I am taking to overcome them.

The Best Version of Kelly

Let’s start with driving.

Yesterday I had to drive from Leicester to Nottingham and it was that experience that motivated me to write this post. The drive is 24 miles and takes about 35 minutes. I have a lot of anxiety around driving. 

I passed my driving test aged 31. For the first year, I barely drove at all and it was about nine months before I drove without my husband next to me. The first time I drove without him I got in the car outside our house and simply drove around the block, the first time I had been in a car alone. It felt weird but also felt a huge achievement. After that I slowly started to get braver. We only had one car which didn’t help but one day a week my husband would walk to work and I would drive 3 miles to a toddler class with my daughter. It might not sound much but to me it was huge!

Then just over 5 years ago, we moved five miles out of the city and got a second car. This meant I inherited my husband’s car which I still drive. I’m 38 and have never bought my own car, one day I will and it will be quite a milestone!

The Best Version of Kelly

Anyway, I then had to drive the five miles to work each day. At first I was going to get the bus but then I realised I couldn’t let my anxiety stop me from driving so I applied for a parking permit at work and that was it. The first few times I was petrified but as with most things I found by repeating it often it slowly began to get easier. That journey was one I could then handle. Any new journey and I would be a bag of nerves again. Yet I stuck with it and I slowly added more journeys to my comfortable list.

There is an out of town shopping complex six miles from us that I wanted to be able to drive myself to. The quickest route is to go one junction down the M1 motorway. I knew I wouldn’t be able to do that the first time on my own. By this time though I was no longer comfortable with passengers in the car (except my kids). I knew my husband would make me feel more nervous so I asked my dad to come with me. I was petrified but it was a quiet time and I only had to go one junction. I did it. I got back too! I was so pleased. That has since become another journey on my comfort list. (I don't have an actual written list by the way!)

Many of my original driving anxieties were linked to my fear of judgement. I would constantly assume the person behind me was annoyed by me. Or assume that I was doing something wrong. This is also the reason I started to hate taking a passenger anywhere. Thankfully my therapy (CBT) helped me a lot with that and on the whole I am now better and not worrying about what others are thinking.

Being watched whilst parking was one of the things that caused me to panic the most. One car park incident that I most hated was when I was reversing out of a space with cars either side and a fence very close behind. Three men were stood close by, my biggest driving nightmare right there. In my panic, I hit the fence but one of the men with his back to me thought I had hit his car and started shouting at me through the window. I literally hid my head in my hands and cried. A typical reaction I imagine to that type of stress, regressing to a childhood mechanism of hiding, literally.
Currently I am most likely to suffer anxiety if I must drive an unfamiliar route, a long route or on a motorway.


In June 2015, I managed to drive from Leicester to Sheffield, 62 miles and 12 junctions up the M1. At first I felt ok but it was a very windy day and at one point early on I felt the wind move the car slightly and that was it I was petrified. Imagine the adrenalin rush you get at the peak of fear, that fight or flight moment. I was at that point for an hour and half. I was so tense, I was gripping the steering wheel so tight, breathing so fast, sweating and generally feeling awful. I looked so many times at the journey time on the sat nav and prayed it away. How I got there I will never know. I was shaking and achy and exhausted when I arrived. Of course, later that evening I had to drive back. To this day, I don’t know how I made it. The drive home was just as horrific for me as the drive there had been. I just went slowly and kept thinking of my CBT techniques. I would check the signs to see how far the next service station was and tell myself I only had to get that far and I could stop. I didn’t dare stop as I’d have never started again but it was a slight comfort knowing at least that I could have stopped.

The physical pressure I put myself under that day was immense. 3 hours on high alert. Imagine how much of the stress hormone my body must have produced? It was only weeks after this that I first had to take time off work for my CFS. I hadn’t been diagnosed at that point and whilst I had some symptoms it was mild. I often wonder if the effects of the drive that day contributed to pushing me into full blown CFS.

The Best Version of Kelly

So, yesterday’s drive to Nottingham is one I have now done a few times but I still get anxious and panic at points. I will keep on though as I know eventually it will be on my comfortable journey list.

I do not want to let this beat me so the plan is to very occasionally try a new journey, starting with short ones, and repeat that journey until it feels comfortable. Then add slightly longer journeys.

I know this method will work as it has done with previous journeys, I just must be careful not to put myself under that level of pressure for too long hence why I will add to journeys slowly and gradually.

The Sheffield trip was too much too soon.

I hope this helps anyone with similar a anxiety. I really think facing those situations that cause you the biggest problem is the best way to deal with them.

I'm now uploading a weekly diary and I will add any anxiety successes in there. See week one here.

Thank you for reading. 


Kelly x

                                          Tackling My Anxiety and Fear of Judgement 
                                          Fashion Fears
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3 comments

  1. I have the exact same thing. I have a few 'safe' journeys I can do but would never be able to face the motorway or even an A road. I can totally relate to the exhaustion of being anxious for an entire journey..I got stuck on the m25 for am hour convinced I was going to pass out or lose control and drive into another car. So happy you are getting over this. It gives me hope!

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  2. Thank you so much for sharing this post. I really struggle with this and I find it very hard to explain to others. Wishing you all the very best x

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  3. I made a huge step with one of my major anxieties today so I found this really motivating, I think with my anxieties I've figured out that what I'm actually afraid of the most is fear. I'm afraid of feeling scared and worried and fearful more than I am worried about the actual anxiety-provoking things.

    Julia // The Sunday Mode

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