I’m on my first solo road trip since my accident last October.
For months after the accident, I had a hard time even being a passenger in a vehicle. Crossing intersections made my entire back tense. My legs would cramp themselves between curling up into my body or pressing down on an imaginary brake. Seeing cars drive quickly past me made my heart skip a beat. Swift movements or swaying within the car would make me clutch at what I could find to steady myself. And every time my body did these things, my emotions would quickly overhaul into anger, fear, and irritation. I would often start crying, or panic, or both.
By the time I got another car and drove back up the U.S. with a driving partner, I was starting to relax as a passenger. But it was only January, and I hadn’t driven since October. So when it was my turn to drive, I took it slow while my heart damn near beat out of my chest. I kept seeing flashes of collisions when cars would pass me. I had to exhale EVERY time I went through an intersection, just to bear the anxiety of believing I would surely be blindsided again. Small movements in my peripheral vision would send my back into spasms, thinking that I was in danger.
This went on for months, but I needed to be able to drive. I had to find work, and I had to be able to get myself to work when I had it. I needed to feel that independence again, after being trapped within four walls that I didn’t own, (or feel I belonged in,) while recovering. I needed to reclaim my love for the road.
So I’ve been driving since January. And I’ve been slowly increasing my ability to cross intersections without fearing for my life. Increasing my confidence in merging lanes and making unforeseen turns in my routes. And slowly quieting the incessant anxiety about the fact that I am driving at all.
Within the last month, I’ve been able to feel my love for driving return again. And it feels GLORIOUS.
I finally enjoy driving through unknown areas; exploring and being open to changes in my route; feeling the sense of independence and adventure that had been tossed out of the shattered backseat window of my car….
So of course I took the next logical step, and drove 5 hours straight this week- twice.
And this coming weekend I will do it again.
Ever since the accident, driving has required more energy from me, and I have found myself with less stamina for it. Although my defenses are not on 1,000% as they once were, I still have 25% of fear pumping through my veins when I drive. I still have to resist the urge to flinch when cars cut in front of me quickly or merge too closely. I still have to tell myself I will be okay and that I AM OKAY when I go through tricky intersections.
The feelings during this trip have been an equal mixture of fatigue, anxiety, excitement, and enjoyment. And although it has been emotionally and physically exhausting me, I have been allowing myself to feel proud of the integrity in facing my fears.
The joy in driving is beginning to find me again, and I’m trying to stay open to it. I hope that it returns and decides to stay. I hope that fate doesn’t swipe it out from under me again, and that I one day have the passion and stamina for it like I used to…
But for now, I’ll just keep exhaling through the green lights.