Growing up, I thought that driving was something that absolutely everyone could do easily, as soon as they turned 17.
Obviously, at this point I had no idea of the actual cost of learning to drive, taking tests and then purchasing a car, mot, and insurance; how any teenager can afford all that is beyond me.
As much as currently learning to drive is not at all feasible for me, as saving up for a mortgage is a killer! I can’t actually learn to drive for a completely different reason.
I first jumped into a car when I was 19, I had a few lessons and I loved it because I thought I was pretty good at it. Then life got in the way and my instructor just went AWOL, considering I have serious social anxiety, I chose not to chase it up or find someone else.
Fast forward to 21 years of age, I decided to take my theory test, I crammed it all really hard and I managed to pass, well, just. Feeling high on my own ego, I booked some driving lessons which I got a pretty good deal with, I was certain I’d be on the road in months.
The first lesson was fine, the instructor came across understanding when I told him about my mental health.
Four lessons in and cracks went from showing to giant gaping holes, I would be panicking and he would be shouting and insulting me. Needless to say that I ditched him and took a month or so away from the road; until I could find someone else.
I found another instructor who was actually pretty friendly and understanding, he let me learn at my own pace and even though I knew I was slow, he didn’t try to force me.
He did allow me to learn in automatic because from our first lesson, as I had told him before booking, manual cars and I are a pair doomed to end up in an accident.
I felt more comfortable in an automatic but I would still get terrified of junctions, other cars and the car that I was driving in fact. I was so scared and on edge that I was just as dangerous as a reckless driver; I just couldn’t get into the zone.
You see, I don’t really want to drive, I hate the idea of being in a little tin car that has hundreds of chances to be compressed and leave me in a hospital every single journey.
As someone who is ‘hypervigilant’ and aware of lights and sounds more than most people, it is incredibly distracting and hard to take in everything all at once; it’s just too much for me and I find it so overwhelming.
My last lesson, I had a full-blown panic attack because I was driving badly and I knew it, but I couldn’t stop because my whole body was going into a meltdown.
I told myself I couldn’t give up, even when we had to pull over for both our safety. Yet when I went home, I realized that if I rushed, I’d be spending money to essentially have a panic attack.
I made the decision to put driving on pause, it’s not something I am eager to do, I’m happy to walk or jump on the bus.
My theory is that if I focus on my mental health and get better management of my anxiety first, then I can learn to drive with a clear head and the ability to focus even when I wobble.
The truth is that driving isn’t for everybody. It’s not something programmed into us or a skill that you just pick up, it is manmade and you need to learn.
There is so much pressure for everyone to have that ability to drive, like a sign of adulthood but does it really matter?
I can’t drive right now because of my anxiety, it is safer for me to be off the road and I am okay with that.
I know there are people who may scoff and say how easy it is to drive but in reality, we are all so unique and individual that we deserve to learn at our own pace and even more importantly, make our own life decisions.
So, if you’re way past 17 and still can’t drive, that’s okay.
You are still here and at the end of the day, you have a lifetime to learn, if you want; but mental health, that needs to be put before everything else.