Driving through anxiety

For those of you that follow me on Twitter or Instagram, you may have seen that I passed my driving test. While this may not seem like a big deal for some, for me, it was a huge, huge achievement. Full disclosure: this was my fifth attempt.

I had my first driving lesson when I was 21, and took my first test around a year later. I’ve never known nerves like a driving test. I’ve been nervous before – but this was a whole new level, a different sort of anxiety. I had a panic attack in the car and barely made it out of the test centre. The same thing happened again about a year later with a different instructor. I had a break for a couple of years and then tried again, this time in Leicester. I touched the kerb when I was asked to reverse around a corner and so failed this test too. That was probably the most frustrating one because other than that, I’d driven reasonably well.

I tried agaaaaain in London after doing a week of intense lessons and failed on hesitation. I was getting more and more frustrated with driving – I’d had to retake my theory, I thought that I’d find it easier going into test situations but actually found it harder and harder each time.

As I mentioned in my post about things I’d learnt while being pregnant, attempting to take a driving test while 35 weeks pregnant isn’t always the best idea. I never even made it into the car at the test centre as I think a combination of the heat and being whale-like caused me to get extremely dizzy when I arrived at the centre, so they didn’t allow me to take the test.

Following that non-test, I had Dougie and so my time was taken up with looking after him, but at the back of my mind, I knew that if I didn’t take my test by July, I’d have to retake my theory again. On top of this, the sheer amount of money I’d spent on lessons and tests – I didn’t want to just throw it all away. I knew I could drive, I just got very overwhelmed, and anyone that has done a test can probably agree that they are one of the most nerve-wracking things ever.

I booked a test and some lessons in Leicester as I felt more confident about driving there, and I could be insured on my brother’s car so I could practise outside of the lessons.

The build up to the lessons made me feel physically sick with anxiety, I had to force myself to go, I’d tell myself they were only a couple of hours and it would all be worth it to get that pink licence. My mind would start racing as soon as I got in the driver’s seat, and if I made a mistake once, I would make it a hundred times. My instructor this time was absolutely lovely which made the world of difference, he encouraged me to feel positive and reassured me that I could do it, and that really helped.

I was still shaking as I got into the car with the examiner, but I made myself breathe and told myself I could do it. When we got back to the test centre I had no idea if I’d passed or not – but already this was different to previous tests when I KNEW I’d failed! The examiner finally told me; I’d passed. I cried at this, I just couldn’t believe it!

The point of this post is don’t give up. Learning to drive is hard – lessons are hard as there is a lot to learn, and the test is tough, but if you’ve started learning and you want to drive, don’t give up.

Remember to breathe. The examiner isn’t there to trick you; they just want to make sure you can drive safely. Your instructor won’t put you in for the test if they don’t think you’re up to standard. When I was asked to pull over at the side of the road in my test, and then move off again, I took a few seconds to take some deep breaths – they don’t mind that, it’s definitely not a race!

Don’t compare your driving journey to other people – it doesn’t matter if you pass first, third, fifth or tenth time. Everyone is different, and don’t let failing put you off.

I didn’t tell anyone except my family I was taking the test – much less pressure! I also booked my test for first thing in the morning so I didn’t spend the whole day worrying about it, I just got up and did it.

Be positive. Cheesy, but true.

(Excuse the super cheesy photo with no make-up, I just couldn’t stop smiling!)


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  • Keighley Smith

    I love this post! I started learning 2 years ago when I turned 17 and oh my go my anxiety and panic attacks are went crazy! I’ve done 4 tests so after my break for a couple of years I’ll be on magic number 5! Congratulations for doing it lovely! – Keighley xx

    • Thank you 🙂 I’m sure fifth time’s the charm…! I’m sorry you’ve struggled with anxiety and panic attacks with it too, it can be so overwhelming. Good luck when you do decide to take it, let me know how you get on! xxx

  • Steph – Wanderlust Pulse

    You look so happy! Congratulations, I am so proud of you! My first time learning, I hated it. I would cancel my lesson every other week just to put it off and I felt sick every time I was waiting to be picked up. I thought I’d done well enough to pass my first one but hadn’t. I waited a year and a half before taking another lesson, after I got back from Mallorca and I only got back into it because I knew I’d have to retake my theory again if I waited much longer. This driving instructor made me feel much more comfortable and confident which makes all the difference. I thought I’d failed my second test but passed. Then I’ve been bombing it around Tenerife and Cyprus ever since. I still get nervous about driving now and I’ve been passed for well over a year. I got especially scared about driving on the other side of the road and again after a break of four months not driving over Winter but do you know what, both times I got in the car and bossed it. I get myself all worked up when deep down, I know I can do it and I’m always fine. The main obstacle I’ve had to overcome since passing is driving with other people. I used to hate it and put it off because I was worried I’d make a mistake and they’d judge me but I think I’m finally used to it. I also don’t stress about parking or night driving any more but it’s taken me a while to get here. It all just takes time though 🙂 xx

    • I did my first drive post-test yesterday and was okay but still very nervous, but at least i know i can legally get on with it and just keep driving and improving without the fear of a test. I was the same as you – i would always cancel lessons as they made me feel so knotty and sick. I think knowing that if i didn’t pass by July I’d have to retake my theory for a third time was a huge motivator for me too! xxx

  • Look at you on your picture with your test result! So happy! I was so happy too when I got my results! On my birthday actually! ahah learning how to drive was so stressful omg… especially when other drivers are so inconsiderate of learners! xx corinne

    • Haha I really was ecstatic! Ahh what a great birthday treat for you – extra excuse to celebrate! xx

  • Congratulations! I was so nervous on my test as the examiner wasn’t very kind and passing was the biggest relief, especially as learning to drive is so expensive! And congratulations again!

    Kirsty | The Monday Project |

    • Thank you! I just kept chatting away to my examiner which I’m sure was annoying but it helped me!

  • Rachael Shortt (PaleGirlRambli

    Awww congrats on passing your test! you sound like you had a long run! It must have been so frustrating especially the time you bumped the kerb! I was the opposite of you, I passed my test easily but now hate driving! I have anxiety attacks all the time getting into my car..
    PaleGirlRambling xo

    • Oh no! I’m so sorry to hear that 🙁 that really sucks, do you have to drive much? Thank you – I was getting so fed up with it all! xx

      • Rachael Shortt (PaleGirlRambli

        Thankfully no, I have my car for necessary journeys but my boyfriend is more than happy to do the majority of the driving!
        PaleGirlRambling xo

  • Congratulations on passing! I’m yet to start my lessons but I’m hoping to pass by the end of the summer (with the aid of an intensive course) since I hate being a passenger in a car since I’m not in control.
    Alicia x

    • That was a huge motivator for me, and after initially learning on a week-by-week basis, the last couple of attempts were done intensively which I much preferred! xx

  • Thank you 🙂 I still can’t quite believe it! I hope your sister gets on well next time she has a test – tell her all the best drivers pass after a few attempts (at least, thats what my mum would repeatedly tell me to make me feel better!) xxx

  • Congratulations! It took me 3 times to pass as well, it’s not that uncommon and everyone goes at their own pace. It definitely doesn’t make someone a better driver for passing first time. I struggle so much with driving now. I’m 24, I passes my test when I was 18 with relatively no nerves and was a super confident (if somewhat stupid at times) driver. But since I developed anxiety in 2011, driving has been super affected and I struggle a lot now. I don’t have a car at the moment but I would love to get back into the swing of it again <3

  • i passed my test on the second attempt and learning to drive was actually one of the worst experiences in my life. my instructor was a total dick and made me feel so bad about myself all of the time so i would always recommend to switch the instructor when you can because all of my friend who had a good one passed easily. congrats on your license lovely.

  • Steph

    …I’m taking my driver’s license test tomorrow at 11AM. The nerves are starting to build up within me. I had patchy sleep the whole of last night in fear of failing.

    I guess time shall tell the final result.

    Wish me luck!


    • Good luck!! I have everything crossed for you, just remember to breathe and that the examiner just wants to see you can drive safely – and your instructor obviously thinks you can! I hope it all goes smoothly 🙂 xx

  • Yay congrats! It is such a nerve wrecking thing, especially when they give nothing away until the very end!

    Jasmin Charlotte

  • Congratulations on passing your test. I think it’s easier to not tell people you are doing your test, that’s what I did. Well congrats on beating that hurdle 🙂

    chloe | mojichlo

  • Ellis Woolley

    You look so happy! So proud and pleased for you, driving gives you so much more freedom and you’re going to enjoy it so much 🙂 huge congrats from me and thankyou for sharing some awesome tips – they’re sure to help people feel more at ease about driving tests! Ellis x //

  • Chelsea Hodges

    That is amazing, MAJOR congrats to passing! Whoo hoo! Definitely shows that if you don’t give up, good things come!

  • Huge congratulations on passing! Such great advice too.

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