Sunday, August 12, 2007

Overcoming my fear of driving


If nothing else, joining this clinical trial has helped me already in that I have been forced to confront my fear of driving. I don't mean I have a panic attack if I just get behind the wheel and go grocery shopping. I'm not that bad. But after living in a small town for 20+ years and seldom having to venture out of the county, driving on I-95 can be anxiety-provoking.

The Comprehensive MS Center in Jacksonville, FL just so happens to be located on the north side of town just past the intersection of several various highways and streets that overlap in what resembles a huge pile of spaghetti. I love spaghetti, but I prefer it on my plate and not under my wheels.

I have been enlisting the aid of several more daring, less phobic family members to act as chauffeurs so that I can avoid having to face this fear of fast cars all around me. So far it's been working well even though while riding with my 25 year old son I have had to shield my eyes and grab the "oh crap!" handle several times.

He's a lead foot and drives like it's a race that he's hell-bent on winning. When asked why he wasn't using the cruise control (hint hint) his reply was "I am. It's set for 80." He likes to face life head on and doesn't suffer the "what if" mentality that has paralyzed his mother for so long. When riding with him the trip takes 45 minutes going the no-nonsense direct route of I-95 straight there.

The other family member who drives me is my sister. She's like me only the milder version. She doesn't like traffic either but doesn't let the thought of it send her running for the Xanax. We take US 17 to the hospital on a more pleasant 1.5 hr. version of the trip. That route is not without it's panic-provoking moments, however, as there are several turns to make that move you in a sidewinder-like motion to get to the hospital. We've had to turn around in parking lots more than once to get headed in the direction in which we should have been going.

One time, riding with my sister, we were coming back from the hospital and missed a turn somewhere. The four lane road we were on became two lane, then nearly one lane and then looked for all the world to change into a one way hiking trail into the wild. Four eyes between us and still we missed that crucial turn. Back up, back up... we got back to civilization and (because we weren't men) stopped and asked for directions.

So, I am very comfortable going on all these trips that have each become a mini adventure all its own. Now comes the moment of truth. Just how comfortable am I? Tomorrow, in order to get to the MS center for my first half of the EDSS test and to be fitted with the Holter monitor, I will be driving myself.

I'm not taking the direct, 45 min. trip and going up I-95. I have enough gray hair, thank you. No, I'm going to attempt the death-defying feat of driving up US 17 totally unassisted and without a net. Cue drum roll please.

I really think it's going to be good for me. Repeated exposure to face your fears is how therapists help you overcome them, after all. I'm just hoping the Holter monitor can take the beating.

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