Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Driving Anxiety

I have no cute stories or pictures today... just some thoughts on my driving anxiety.

It first hit me when I was pregnant with Bodie. I was driving down 290 and all the sudden I felt PANIC... my heart was pounding, I felt light-headed and I could hardly breathe. I thought I would go unconscious and drive off the highway and die. Since I was pregnant at the time, I told my doctor about this experience and he sent me to see a cardiologist. The cardiologist made me wear a heart monitor for 24 hours to see if he could record one of these heart pounding panic attacks. I didn't know at the time it was related to driving... that thought never crossed my mind, or else I would have driven down the highway with the heart monitor on and I'm sure it would've happened again. Anyway, nothing happened so I got a clean bill of heart health and was left to wonder what was wrong with me.

It didn't happen again for several months. Then it happened again as I was pulling out of our neighborhood onto a fast, busy road. The same panic... can't breathe, heart pounding, light-headed, eyes blurry and feeling like i'm going to pass out. I panicked and pulled off into another neighborhood where I could drive really slow. I weaved my way back home and gave up on running any errands until Brian could drive me. When I got home, I googled "panic attack while driving" and the results assured me this was what I had. I tried some of the suggestions given, such as counting backwards from a very high number, so that your mind is busy and can't be afraid. So I would count out loud while driving "796, 795, 794, 793" etc. You can imagine how strange my kids thought I was.

Anyway, the panic attacks started happening almost every time I was on a highway or going faster than 35 mph. I would have to pull over and try to reason with myself... "I know how to drive. I have been doing this since I was fifteen. What is wrong with me?" I started saying No to things I knew I couldn't drive to. Some trips took me twice as long as they should have because I would stay on the access roads the whole way. My sweet Brian went out of his way to be available to drive if we needed to go somewhere that involved the highway.

I started to sense it was a spiritual thing, but for the life of me, I couldn't figure out why I was being attacked in this way. How strange to be afraid to drive.

I asked God why and prayed for Him to help me get over this fear. He reminded me of when Paul asked God three times to remove the thorn in his flesh, and each time God said, "My grace is sufficient for you. For My power is made perfect in weakness. (2 Cor. 12:9) So maybe this is my thorn. It is humbling to have such a weakness.

I am not writing this from a place of victory. I am writing this from a place of struggle. However, I do know the truth. I have learned that much of my anxiety (not just driving, but with any fear I have) is because I AM TOO IMPORTANT TO MYSELF. That is the sickness I suffer from.

Tonight as I drove down 290 (because being at Beth Moore was worth it), I prayed again. Instead of fearfully begging God, "please keep me safe. please help me not to pass out." I prayed, "God I know I'm important to You, but help me not be so important to myself." My shoulders relaxed and I felt His pleasure. It still wasn't easy driving down the highway, but the struggle was manageable because I knew the truth.

"Hallelujah, we are free to struggle. We're not struggling to be free. Your blood bought and makes us children. Children, drop your chains and sing." Tenth Avenue North - the struggle