Driving anxiety. Literally.

A little while ago I wrote a blog post about intrusive thoughts and how they are the absolute worst. I suffered really badly with intrusive thoughts when Rex was really little, and while they haven’t completely disappeared, I’m happy to say they’ve become a lot less frequent as the months have gone on and I’ve become slightly more confident in my abilities as a mum,  But like the sneaky bastard anxiety is, it’s reared its ugly head once again. Only this time, it’s found it’s way into the driving seat again. Literally.

This weekend I organised a few days away with my mum and sister, but, when doing so, I made sure I wouldn’t have to drive on the motorway. First hurdle, right there, anxiety winning. Before I had Rex, motorways were never an issue. Now, they are the most terrifying place in the world. The speed, not being able to turn off when you want to and the hard shoulder as the only viable option as a place to stop if something happens is just not my bag now. At. All.

This anxiety stems, I know, from what it always has since Rex arrived – the overwhelming responsibility I feel to keep him safe. When I think about it logically, I could feel like this any time I have him on my own, but I don’t, it’s like my brain has decided that driving is the biggest danger when it comes to caring for him.

Anyway, being that there was no motorway on the route to our destination, my logical brain had decided it would be ok. Until the morning we were due to leave and I started to feel sick. I knew I wasn’t ill, I knew it was anxiety getting the better of me…

What if you fall asleep at the wheel? What if you have a panic attack and pass out? What if you drive into oncoming traffic?

The list of these thoughts goes on. And they get worse and more vivid.

As soon as I get in the car with Rex and I am going on roads that are not familiar, or ones I feel like aren’t safe or I can’t get off of, anxiety starts to get the better of me. And it’s crippling. I know that sounds dramatic, and, in all honesty, trying to explain this anxiety using words just doesn’t quite cut it. It’s a feeling like no other, like your mind isn’t your own, like something awful – and I do mean awful – is going to unfold infront of your eyes and there is nothing you can do to stop it from happening.

To that effect, after I arrived for our mini holiday, I then spent a lot of the time worrying about the fact that I had to do the return journey home. Thinking about whether I should ring Eamo and get him to get the train down so he could drive us back, or whether I could go a longer, different route with better roads. I didn’t do either, deciding that I am absolutely not going to let my mind play tricks on me to the point where I don’t take my son away. But it was bloody hard.

My tactic to manage my anxiety today was to sing Old MacDonald to Rex for more than half the  104 minute journey home (yes, I counted it). With my mind distracted – to an extent – the intrusive thoughts came in but only for a second before I had to focus on whatever random animals would feature on the farm next.

Yep, I reckon I sang ‘ee-i-ee-i-ooooh’ about 300 times today. Even when Rex was asleep, I kept going.

But, as soon as we hit familiar roads, my whole mindset changed, I felt safe again and the thoughts disappeared. This is going to sound stupid but I was so proud of myself for making it all the way without having to pull over to manage my anxiety. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that there were parts of the journey that were highly unpleasant. The clarity and vivd images that the mind has the ability to conjour when it wants to is actually really quite frightening, and there was a moment earlier when I had to do everything in my power to stay in control of my thoughts.

Earlier this evening I told Eamo that I won’t be doing anymore long distance driving with Rex until this is sorted, So while I’m proud of myself for getting through it today, I also feel really sad that this as affected me so much I don’t feel like I want to take Rex more than half hour/hour away from home because I don’t know how I’ll react. An appt with the doctor is in order – again  – as I can’t live my life feeling restricted like that, and my experience with anxiety is that it tends to spread like wildflower once you let it in. And my goodness me, I don’t want that.

I’m going to finish this post by asking if anyone else has experienced similar feelings to this when it comes to the safety of their kids? I know not everyone will feel comfortable talking about this, but for those that do, I really appreciate knowing how you coped with it. Have to admit to feeling a little lost and lonely right now. Eamo was amazing, as ever, when I spoke to him about it earlier, but trying to explain anxiety to someone who has never suffered from it is like trying to explain the feeling of hunger to someone who has never felt hungry – fucking impossible.

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