OK, so its been a very long time between drinks. Life has very much got in the way of my blog.Below is a short feature article I did for one of my Uni writing units. I got a half-decent score which is the only reason its seeing the light of day. Enjoy.
You’re not alone:
4pm on a sunny autumn afternoon. I’m approaching Captain Cook Bridge, southern Sydney. With my son by my side, we are heading to a doctor’s appointment. In my head I’ve been over this journey for months now, planning what I think is the least traumatic route from inner west Sydney. I’m reasonably relaxed (I think). I managed to negotiate the 80km dual carriageway sections without too much anxiety but here comes the bloody bridge and I just know this is going to be a problem. The traffic is heavy as I enter the long curve which will propel me onto the bridge. Then it hits me. My heart rate accelerates to a critical level, my breath is short and my lungs struggle to function. I think I’m going to pass out as I choke for air and fight the dizziness. My son is merrily chatting away, oblivious to my anxiety and the danger I am putting him in. I will myself over the dreaded span and in what seems a lifetime, but is probably only 30 seconds, we are over and I attempt to pull myself back from automotive oblivion.
That, my friends, is what it feels like when you suffer from a driving phobia and it really does suck. There is no fancy Latin name for this condition, which is disappointing, but it is a lot more common than you may think. According to Anxiety Australia, in a 2014 survey conducted by the Allianz insurance, 79% of 1000 drivers surveyed had some personal worries about driving. 17% of those drivers confirmed that they avoided making certain journeys in order to prevent moments of anxiety.
So even if this is news to you and you can’t fathom for one minute what could cause you anxiety behind the wheel, I can guarantee someone you know does. They are probably like me. Very embarrassed, feeling pretty pathetic and hiding their phobia away. It’s no longer a secret among my immediate family and close friends. I was fed up of making excuses. My wife is begrudgingly understanding and my mates, while they give me a good ribbing, don’t press the point too much. In my case the anxiety is about driving on Motorways (anything above 80kmh gives me the dreads), over bridges and through tunnels. I will do anything to avoid these situations: get my wife to drive, get a friend to drive, take public transport or just cancel. It’s debilitating, frustrating and never far from my mind.
Kate, another sufferer from the UK, describes her experience, ‘I was suddenly gripped with a pervading terror. My heart began to pound and my breath exhaled in strange involuntary gasps’. She further adds ‘I was convinced that someone was about to crash into me, or that one of my tyres would burst…I felt trapped and petrified’. Joanne Mallon, author of ‘How to Overcome Fear of Driving’ and a recovered phobic herself confirms ‘It (driving phobia) is absolutely everywhere, but it’s a hidden thing’. She continues that when she is discussing the book she is amazed by how many people say ‘I thought it was just me’. Well, you’re not alone.
Even the thought of making these journeys can bring on attacks. Another sufferer, Rachel states ‘I felt queasy just seeing the (motorway) sign’, ‘A trip had to be planned months in advance…I would see myself in the fast lane and a hot flush would creep up my neck’. Just like me, she continues to say that it is not just a case of mind over matter – ‘It’s far more serious than that’. The Automobile Association of the UK estimates that over an annual period, 5 million route planners have been downloaded from their website which specifically avoid motorways. That’s huge.
So the question is; how can you cure this widespread but hidden phobia? There are many methods to aid sufferers but the ones which seem to be most successful are either via Psychologists who look to address the underlying cause of the anxiety and follow the method of desensitisation (facing your fears basically but in a controlled manner), Hypnotherapy and advanced driver courses run by specialist instructors. None of which I’ve tried. I’ve had this phobia for a good 15 years now but I have managed to scam, plead and lie my way around it. I suspect though that I am running out of excuses and most definitely trying the patients of my wife. Sometime very soon, I will have to extract my head from the glove-box, put on my driving hat and go and get some help.