W wasn’t thrilled with the idea of my taking the wheel today for some reason. On our way out the door to our local the ski center I mentioned the possibility that I might drive, but he said no, he just felt like driving. I wondered if my anxiety makes him nervous. Or my driving. Or did he think I’d splash through a big mud puddle when he just had the truck washed? Perhaps he could hear in my tone that I didn’t really want to do it. Or he was thinking I drive too slowly and we were supposed to meet our friends in less than half an hour.
I didn’t press the subject. It wasn’t like I enjoy driving; I just thought I ought to do it. One of my friends had suggested we go skiing in Vermont next week so I could “practice driving.” That sounded ridiculous for an adult. Practicing driving was what I did when I was 16 years old with my dad in the passenger seat feigning calm. But it was true. I needed to get behind the wheel and practice not being freaked out. Or rather, practice being not-freaked out.
So after we cross country skied probably our last day of the season on the patchy snow, I said, “I’ll drive home,” in the most confident voice I could muster. I was looking at the winding road around the lake and remembering that I’d also have to drive over a dam that makes me nervous even as a passenger. Of course the dam is perfectly safe—I just have a habit of looking down the spillway and thinking that it’s a long way down to the river below.
The first few minutes, as usual, the weird feelings came—the wooziness, the sense that the drive ahead of me (normally 20 minutes) stretched interminably. I think W was feeling the same way in the passenger seat. He tilted the seat slightly back as I adjusted the mirrors. I couldn’t see his face and it occurred to me that he might have his eyes closed in fear. (Update: he was asleep.)
A few miles from home relief washed over my entire body. I’m driving and I feel okay. A psychiatrist once told me that if I only felt comfortable when I stopped, I’d never learn to drive without panic again because I’d be teaching myself repeatedly that I could only feel safe by not driving. So I figure as long as the good feeling hits before I get to the driveway, I’m going to be okay.