At first, today seemed like a normal day or what has become normal for my days. And then before I knew it I was here, trembling, afraid, and wanting to write.
I haven’t told anyone other than my spouse really, because how could I hide that much of myself from the one I love and live with? But, here goes, I am going BIG today with no option to go home.
About 10 years ago I got into a car with my younger sister – didn’t think much of it, just did it and something happened. Engulfed in a cloud of her smoke, something happened. I had my first panic attack it would later be revealed. I felt as if I needed out of that car so badly that my skin tingled. My head felt light and my internal dialogue left me with the knowledge that if she didn’t pull the car over that I would have to open the door on the freeway and get out. She pulled off still unsure of what had occurred – the car stopped and I sprang from the passengers side onto my feet.
In a dark parking lot, or at least, it felt dark to me. I began to struggle. The hardest I have ever struggled. My cycle of thoughts wild like a storm I asked myself over and over again – what was wrong with me, where the fear came from, was I dying, going crazy? Worse even going to faint?! It was the first time ever in my life that I felt paralyzed by fear. I don’t recall truly having been afraid prior to that night.
Every time she tried to coax me back into the car – I’d get in and panic again. I could read the confusion and suspicion on her face. She even asked, why is it only when you sit in the car that you feel this? With one eyebrow slightly raised and her head tilted staring me down. Then, I must have started worrying about her suspicion because the height of it all got higher. I felt an overwhelming feeling of fatigue as if I was high. I could see faint although I had never fainted before. Finally, my sister saw that this wasn’t dissipating and that I wasn’t faking. She called our mother, it was 4 days before Christmas and needless to say she was livid. I think she had long suspected my sister had been not just smoking a little weed here and there but also sampling other drugs as well.
When the ambulance driver showed up he searched me up and down with his eyes trying to determine if I was having a psychotic break or high on something. I confessed I had been in the smoke pretty thick and that I could feel I wasn’t myself – in the back of my mind the entire time was the thought that this was it, the day, the night, the moment I would be diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia as my older brother had been 10 years prior. My heart was beating so rapidly that the ambulance driver didn’t feel it safe for us to drive 4 blocks to the emergency room so onto the stretcher I went and willingly too.
The ER nurse was warm in the eyes and I could tell instantly she knew her shit. She probed a bit and asked if I smoked weed. I explained to her about the smoke and confided I had smoked years before. She told me she knew exactly what to give me – about 4 spontaneous screams later and an anti-anxiety pill now working, the panic melted off of me like ice cream from a spoon. But, this was just the beginning.
In the last 10 years I have sparred with Anxiety and Panic pretty often. The panic usually the champion in the ring of my life. I have made some great strides and taken a few huge steps backward as well. I drove once or twice after that, going from the constant shuttle, designated driver, go to girl behind the wheel to null.
Today, I looked up overcoming driving phobia on line and it hit me like a sack of over-sized potatoes… I am stuck – knee deep in the mud of this fear and anxiety. It has altered my thinking, confidence, and way of life. I feel spared in some ways to not be living with the trials or diagnosis of schizophrenia but burdened by the gunk of fear. Today – as I read, I sobbed and I saw it, the whole truth of it. If I do not get help, find my way out of this maze, I will never drive again and the anxiety won’t stop there, it will claim even the peace I find at home.
Wildly searching the topic on google was the first step. Creating an account here and writing it down was the next. I must admit, I am afraid. But, I am here. I am awake. Right this instant.