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!)