2017 November 18
From a Facebook post by Anxiety & I:
"The thing about an anxiety disorder is that you know it is stupid.You know with all your heart that it wasn’t a big deal and that it should roll of of you. But that is where the disorder kicks in; Suddenly the small thing is very big and it keeps growing in your head, flooding your chest, and trying to escape from under your skin. You know with all of your heart that you’re being ridiculous and you hate every minute of it. The fact that many people don’t recognize or have patience for your illness only makes everything worse."
This is so true.
My experience with anxiety/panic has become intensified since our involvement in a seven car collision in late October 2016. I cannot say that I never experienced anxiety related to driving prior to that incident. I can say that the anxiousness was never debilitating before. I could always mollify any anxiety by preparation. If I blocked out a course to follow, I was usually OK. If possible, when time was not a factor, I often would travel secondary roads. The advent of Google Maps and street view, which allowed me to familiarize myself with roads and landmarks along my route, was a definite boon. Yet now, today, well over a year past the accident, I find myself becoming a total basket case when required to drive on certain 4, or 6, or more lane highways, particularly in high traffic situations.
I know that what I am freaking out about is performing a common action (driving a car, in traffic, on a multi-lane highway). I know this is something I have done without incident in the past, and hope to do without incident in the future. BUT, in the here and now, I am flooded with anxiety that expands and grows until the panic is all I am aware of,... well, that, and the tunnel vision, the inability to breath normally, the sometimes crushing chest pain, facial tics - and the fear - and the anger!
I get angry!
I get angry with myself for feeling this way.
Angry at other drivers who don't seem to have any fear of anything!
I get angry with passengers who don't "get it", with family who seem completely unable to understand why their wife, sister, friend, is hyperventilating behind the wheel.
Angry - mostly at myself for allowing(?) this disorder to consume me and become such a huge part of my life!
I am angry now, just thinking about my inability to simply drive on a multi-lane highway to go visit my pseudo grand kids, my friends, even my nearby family. If I can't get there on a "back road" - a 2 lane road, with top speeds of 45mph, I can't go! Oh, there are a couple of local 4 lane roads I drive on, but never with complete ease or with anything resembling relaxation.
This is NOT how I planned to spend my retirement! I hoped with free time, would come visits to friends and family; jaunts to the Great Lakes, searching for beach glass. Instead, my panic keeps me prisoner. I want to be able to get in my little Subaru and drive to have lunch with my friend in Ohio; to visit N and G, outside Montreal; to travel to the UP again; to vacation with my brothers and sister anywhere; to finally meet up with people who have become good friends via the Internet. Those things are not going to happen as long as anxiety wells up, leads to panic, and as in the latest attack, cause me to think I am having a stroke, because of the tics I can feel happening in my face. Those came along with the shallow breathing, the crushing pain in my chest, and tunnel vision. Add to the mix the fact that my brain seems to lose the ability to think rationally, to view the problem and find any solution. Even if the person next to me becomes aware that I am in dire straights, unless they know to give me specific, detailed instruction on how I should proceed, what they say will not penetrate my brain in any useful way. It truly is a nightmare, and when I am in the middle of it, it feels as if there is NO ESCAPE!
When I try to ignore it, to press on, as I did on the way home from the family vacation my brother invited me to share, I ruin the experience for everyone because of my crippling panic. Where the post says, "You know with all your heart you are being ridiculous and you hate every minute of it," that is absolutely the truth! I knew I was NOT having a stroke, as I drove along I-64, outside of Norfolk. I knew I was being "ridiculous" and I DID hate every minute of it! But, I was powerless to stop it!