Monday, July 15, 2013

Anxiety and a plea to all drivers

Anxiety has been an issue my entire life, it wasn’t until just over 10 years ago when we learned about fragile x that I understood really what my anxiety was and why it was part of my life.
I thought understanding it meant controlling it.  I had an answer. I wasn’t a freak or all that different – I was anxious and now that I knew it I could control it.  That was my plan. (I like plans)
What I didn’t plan was for my anxiety to get worse with time.  The older I get, the more anxious I get.  While I’ve always thought everything through in at least 24.1 million different ways, my nonstop mind has proven that with increased anxiety - I can find at least 84.98 million reasons now.  To make life even more enjoyable my dear friend anxiety has added its friend panic attack to the playground in my mind. (As if there was room for anxiety to invite a friend in.)  They have become the best of friends, plotting together to see how far they can push me before I say “Eh, I’ll just stay home and never leave my house again”
This is fun – let me give you an example of how this works:
On July 1st my mom was involved in a car crash.  Someone pulled out in front of her on the highway, she slammed on her brakes to avoid them but still hit them totaling her car.  Luckily no one was seriously hurt.  When I told my daughter what happened she asked if Grandma was pulling the horse trailer – which she was not – and my mind filled with all of the “what if’s” she was pulling the horse trailer scenarios.  I tuck that away the best I can and notice my Facebook newsfeed is filled almost daily with stories of motorcycle accidents and fatalities and reminders for people to “watch out for motorcycles”.  My dad has a motorcycle, a trike.  Several people very dear to me have motorcycles. I would love for people to watch out for motorcycles. (*I would also like for motorcycle riders to obey the laws and not drive like there are no rules for them and be watching for people who aren’t paying attention).
I think of everyone I know with a motorcycle and think…what if someone pulled out in front of them….
I listen to my friends Cindi and Karen talk about taking their motorhomes/campers on family trips and think – there is no way they could stop as quicky as my mom did and think… what if someone pulled out in front of them.
I see my friends who drive semi’s for a living posting pictures of sights from their hauls and think… if someone pulled out in front of them.
My mind races at the most bizarre times with all of the “what ifs”.

I feel pretty confident when it’s time to go somewhere, the kids and I get in the van, turn on “Old Time Rock and Roll” for Parker – on repeat, confirm everyone has their seatbelt on and my heart starts to race.  What if…?  And I realize I’m not ok – anxiety is dropping in for a visit and bringing panic attack along to say hi.  What if someone pulls out in front of me?  My chest tightens.  What if I pull out in front of someone?  I can’t breathe. What if…?  A million “what if’s” go through my mind as I sit in the driveway convincing myself I can’t be a prisoner to my home. I have to get things done, I have places to go, people to see, a life to live.  But… what if?
After a couple of minutes, I was breathing again.  My chest was starting to relax, my body a bit less tense.  This is not what I want for my children who seem oblivious to my couple minutes of paralyzing fear. I am ok though.  I begin our trip. I sit a bit longer at stop signs.  I only pass when I know there is plenty of room.  I constantly watch for deer. I always try to figure out what I would do if any of the “what if’s” happened to avoid them as much as I could, to be a good defensive driver.  I win this one.
Part of me is angry – why can’t everyone just slow down a bit?  Spend an extra few seconds at the stop sign, actually really look both ways before pulling out.  Why aren’t there signs everywhere not just for motorcycles but for trailers and campers/motorhomes, semi’s?  The other part of me is too consumed with the "what if's" that can hold us all back in life.

Today a construction worker was seriously injured when she was struck by a car she was trying to get away from.  I’m afraid what tomorrow’s news will bring, especially as I watch my daughter ride her bike down the street.
I get that bad things will always happen but I also understand if we would all just slow down and pay attention, fewer would happen. I can’t put us all in bubbles – or trust me, my neurotic self would.  But I can ask that you do your part: that you slow down, pay attention, be responsible.
I have a friend who has a Harley and I would love to ride with him one day without the constant fear of someone pulling out in front of us leading to our deaths.
I would like to breathe a bit easier when I know my mom and sisters are taking the horses somewhere in the trailers.
I would like to not worry so much as my friends take trips in the RV’s and campers between their check in’s.
I would like to know that there will be more pictures from my friends who make their living on the road.
… a few less stories in my Facebook newsfeed about motorcycle fatalities, car crashes and poor driving would greatly boost my confidence and help silence the anxious thoughts that go through my mind.

Anxiety is always going to be part of my life, in all honesty I’m sure it will shave a couple years off my life too.  I’m aware of it. I acknowledge it and I take steps to help myself through it.  I can still talk myself out of a panic attack, I can see the signs when they come.  I can take something to help if I really need too.
What I can’t do is drive for you.  So I am making a request. Please slow down, watch for others – other cars, motorcycles, trucks, trailers, RV’s, campers, motorhomes, construction workers, children, pedestrians, bicyclists, animals – just be watching -  be a thoughtful driver.  Getting from point A to point B only really matters if you make it there…just something to think about.


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