I suffer from anxiety and panic attacks. Lately I haven’t had as many panic attacks, which has been really great (understatement of the year).
I was out on Sunday afternoon, with my mum, it was nearing the end of the day and we were headed home. She had driven all the way there so I offered to drive back.
I used to love driving at night time, it felt peaceful and with my music on and the window down, no matter the weather, looking out over all the lights. I felt free.
On this particular drive though all I felt was a panic attack a second before it hit.
It came out of nowhere. It happened so quickly. Blink.
It felt like an electric shock but it wasn’t electric. This shock wave passed through me, every inch of skin, every vein, every blood cell, in an instant. One minute I was driving the next I had my eyes tightly shut, my body was rigid and I could’t breathe. A wave of coldness washed through me and then my heart rate sped up.
I realised I was still driving.
I forced my eyes open and realised I was doing 20kms less than before. Cars were right near me and I don’t remember them being there before, everyone trying to get home, just like me. My hands were hurting from gripping the wheel so tightly. “Are you okay?” I couldn’t answer I just focused on breathing and keeping my eyes open.
In through the nose, out through the mouth, relax my hands, blink.
I picked up the conversation where it had ended abruptly before the panic attack and hit me and tried to continue as normal. Normal driving, normal talking, normal breathing.
It hadn’t passed, just subsided. Perhaps it was only five minutes later, maybe more, I’d gotten myself to breathe again, drive at the speed limit and I was feeling safer. Slightly. Cars were all around me, in front of me, beside me overtaking and breathing down my neck behind me. I was crouching in my seat to avoid the headlight reflections in my rear view mirror, I know I can flick it but I find that to be very disorientating because I can’t determine the distance of the cars behind me. Before I knew it I’d slowed right down. My hands were gripped so tightly around the steering wheel, my breathing was laboured and the second wave of cold anxiety and panic was washing through me.
I somehow managed to shake my shoulders, or maybe it was more of a shudder, sending movement through my body that was my own. I must have made some kind of strangled noise because I was asked if I was okay, again. Blink. I flexed my fingers and I focused on putting my foot down a little bit to get back to reasonable speed but I stayed slow so the cars would overtake me.
Thankfully not long after that my turn off came up and I slowed right down to a complete stop at the stop sign before turning onto a much quieter road and continuing into town. When I pulled over into a park I handed the keys over and got into the left-hand side of the car. Mum drove the rest of the way. Sitting in the passenger seat I was able to breathe again and try to get the feeling back in my extremities.
Blink. Blink. Blink.
P.S I wrote most of this on Sunday night as soon as I got home, I didn’t know if I would post it but I’ve decided I would share it. I’m so sick and tired or being scared of my anxiety. So here it is in my somewhere and nowhere place for others to read and use.