As I mentioned in my last post I attended an outdoor concert this past weekend. There were two routes to choose from. The first was one that I was familiar with and knew that taking it would result in heavy tourist traffic. The second was one that our GPS suggested. Not wanting to spend time or waste my energy sitting in traffic we opted for the latter route. Never again will I take an unknown route before viewing the entire route before hand. There were three things that made this route worse than Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride.
The first being that it took us through the middle of nowhere!! Seriously, there were housing developments here and there, but that was it. There were no gas stations or convenience stores. My husband and I share an old SUV. While my husband does his best to keep it running like new, there are always surprise break downs and repairs to be made. As we drove on for miles with no help in sight if we had broke down, my anxiety began to flare. Secondly, there was a large stretch of winding roads and steep hills with large drop offs. By now my hands were sweating as I held on to the door and squeezed my seat. As my heart began to race faster I tried closing my eyes. Oops, that only made me feel like I was going to throw up and or pass out. Lastly, because this route is apparently only driven by those who live in that area, most were comfortable about taking the sharp turns at very high speeds. It was the ride from hell, and a route I will never, ever, take again.
I used to love driving and going for rides. That was until my 4th time of being rear ended. The 5th time didn’t help, but it was the 4th that forever changed how my body reacts to others on the road. I was driving on a freeway. It was a simple one without any hills or curves. Out of nowhere I could hear an engine revving and racing up behind me. I looked up at my rear view mirror and it was too late to react, he was already upon me. SLAM. He hit me and pushed my car ahead. Then he hit me two more times. Each time he came at me with more speed. By the third hit I knew I had to get out of his way. I wasn’t worried about myself. It was my two year old daughter that I feared for. Bless her little heart, she never fussed. Instead the only times she cried out was with each hit. Knowing he wouldn’t stop, I began to pray. I said “God, please help me. Keep my daughter safe and help me get away from this demon on wheels. Please keep my wheels on the ground.” The reason I asked God to keep my wheels on the ground is that I was a passenger in a roll over accident when I was 17 and I didn’t want to to relive that experience. With my prayer said I gently moved my steering wheel to the right. There wasn’t time to look to see if there was any traffic to the right of me. It was only by the grace of God that it was clear. I spun out of control and finally stopped spinning with my wheels on the ground on a rocky embankment facing the opposite direction of traffic. The other driver ended up going left and taking out several hundred feet of a heavy wire traffic divider. Thankfully one of the witnesses was a pediatric nurse who ran to my car and cared for my daughter until the ambulance arrived. The man who hit us got out of his car and was walking around asking what all the fuss was about. Turns out this young man thought that getting high off of his mother’s prescription pain pills and taking her sports car out for a ride on a Sunday morning was a fun idea. Thankfully my daughter walked away from the accident without any physical injury. However it took several years for her to stop requesting that I keep our car out of the rocks whenever I sat in the driver’s seat. I was lucky to only have suffered a few dislocated ribs and whiplash.
It took a week for me to get back into a car. I would have probably taken longer, but since my husband traveled for work, I needed to suck it up and get back on the road. I was lucky that I lived in an area that I could avoid traveling on freeways to get where I needed for several months. I was struck with my first driving related panic attack the first time back on the highway. All it took was a speeding vehicle racing up from behind to set me off. I could barely breath. It took all my focus and strength to make it to the next exit so I could try to calm myself. It has been almost 10yrs since that accident. So far I have been able to regain my composure fairly quickly when my anxiety is triggered on the road. That is until this past weekend. The sound of the cars speeding up on us, the sound of squealing tires on the turns, seeing the large drop offs and knowing that no one would survive if we went over was way more than I could handle. It took me an hour after we reached our destination to get my heart to calm down and to stop sweating and shaking.
The funny part is before we left I was transferring items from one purse to another when I found a bottle of my old anxiety medication. There were three pills left in the bottle. For those of you that are new to my blog, I ditched all prescription medications that were for anxiety and pain last December. So when I saw these pills, I thought, I don’t need these, and I left them at home. Once I had calmed down, I shared this with my husband. We both laughed because I really could have used one for that ride. But as horrible as it was, we were both thankful that I was able to get through this attack without them. The side effect of those pills made me suicidal and I never want to feel that way again. This weekend was also a lesson to us both that I do need something. That something was something I tried last year and had amazing results with. So after putting it off and hoping I could handle my pain and anxiety on my own, the time has come and in a few weeks I will have my medicinal marijuana card. I am looking forward to experiencing some of the relief I felt during my experiment last year. And my husband is looking forward to being able to drive without having to worry if I am going to pass out!
What triggers your anxiety attacks? This post is only about one of my many triggers. How do you treat your anxiety? Remember I will never judge anyone for how they treat their conditions. My choice to not go the prescriptive route is a personal decision based on how the various pills were causing other problems for me. I am not against anyone who chooses to that route. Our pain and our bodies are all so different. What works for one doesn’t always work for another. If only doctors would open their minds and think this way, we might make some headway in finding relief. Enough for now, that subject is worth several posts!!