Today’s post is unrelated to books but something I really wanted to write about in the hopes that it might help some people out.
My driving experience has been a very long one; I started learning to drive in 2012 when I was 16/17. It went badly. To cut a long story short, I ended up crying in the driving seat because of my instructor and cancelled my future lessons there on the spot.
I didn’t do any driving lessons again until 2018 when I plucked up the courage (somehow) to start lessons again whilst at university. I went to a university in a place where the roads were a lot calmer and emptier than where I lived, plus I had some time on my hands. Again, my experience with this driving instructor was not the best (to put it politely) and, though I didn’t cry in the driving seat this time, I did dread my lessons every week and cried after them most times.
At the end of term, I moved back home and my lessons in my university town stopped. It took me another year to find the courage to book lessons in my hometown. In 2019, I finally found a driving instructor who was actually good at their job; they knew I was nervous and they knew how to work around that, they were calm and informative, and it was the first time that I’d ever received a “well done” or “that was good” whilst learning to drive.
I took my first driving test in October and failed because of a stupid mistake that I’d never make in lessons (I blame nerves!). I took my second test in November and failed because I was asked to do something I didn’t feel prepared for. I finally passed my test for the third time in December 2019 and it honestly felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I felt so relaxed about it that I forgot to drive. I say forgot, what I really mean is that I was so traumatised from my experiences that I purposely put off driving in the hopes of forgetting and blocking out all my memories of it.
Of couse, there came a point in my life where I realised “oh, you actually have your license Zoë. You could drive there”. I knew I wanted to go out and drive to give me more freedom and, being the romantic that I am, I’d always had a vision of driving with the windows down on a road trip with the music blaring. I got my first car 9 months after I passed my test and 9 months since I’d last sat behind the wheel of a car.
I hadn’t enjoyed learning to drive, I’d failed my test two times, and now it had been 9 months since I’d driven. I wasn’t feeling particularly confident. Scratch that. I was dreading it. But, I threw myself into it despite the fact that I would feel sick and have to spend some time in the toilet before a drive and I would come out in a cold sweat whilst sitting behind the wheel (I didn’t even have to be moving in the car. Just sitting behind the wheel made me nervous).
My parents thought it would be a good idea for me to have refresher lessons which, being the stubborn person I am, I instantly shot down claiming that I never wanted to do another lesson again. As is always the case with me, once I’ve had some time to think things through and calm down I finally booked 1 lesson. The lesson went well and, if like me you are a nervous driver, I would definitely recommend booking some. The driving instructor told me that I definitely didn’t need any further lessons, I seemed a confident driver and I had good control of the car. This was a massive boost to my confidence. I also regularly went out with my step-dad who is very calm and helped a lot with driving tips and encouraging me to push myself.
A couple of drives later and I had agreed to drive me and my boyfriend 1-hour away for a weekend break. This involved motorways which, a couple of weeks ago, would have involved tears. I managed the drive and when we pulled up outside of our accommodation for the weekend, I felt so happy and relieved. I couldn’t believe that I had done it. I had gone from nearly throwing-up, crying my eyes out and shaking like a leaf before I’d even got in the car to being able to drive on the motorway an hour and a half from my house. That’s not to say that I still wasn’t getting nervous when I was driving, because I definitely was!
I then started to drive around London and, if you know anything about driving in London, you’ll know that it’s incredibly busy and full of impatient people cutting you off, beeping at you and getting annoyed because you’re too slow. I figured that if I could drive round London then I could drive anywhere.
I still make mistakes and I’m still learning on every drive. I still get nervous and there are times when I’m driving that I have thought “I’m going to have to pull over and take a few deep breaths” (the first time dealing with traffic uphill springs to mind). But I was honestly so shocked and impressed with myself (and I rarely compliment myself) that in a month I had gone from having a real phobia of driving to someone who, although they still found it challenging, was able to do it. It’s now December and I drive a lot more frequently. I’m getting better and better and it’s not such a big deal as it used to be.
Here are some tips that really helped me:
- Go out in the car with a family member or friend
- Book a refresher lesson
- Gradually push yourself each time you drive. For the first time, just go round the block and then each time you go out, go further and further until before you know it, you’re ready to go on the motorway
- I downloaded Waze and that has really helped. Even when I know the way somewhere, I’ll still use it because it tells me the speed limit of the road, any upcoming traffic or construction works, if there are speed cameras coming up… I also find it comforting to hear the voice during a drive
- Create a good driving playlist full of songs that calm you down and take your mind off your stress!
- Plan your route beforehand. Google Maps is great for this and I do it before most jouneys so I know what’s coming (any difficult junctions, roundabouts…) and it’s also great for checking out the parking situation of places if, like me, you also struggle with parking
- Practice. Go out every day even when you don’t feel like it
I always felt really alone with my phobia of driving. Everyone I knew loved driving and they thought it odd that 1. I didn’t enjoy it but also that 2. I was scared of it.
It’s less hassle to let fear run your life and avoid your phobias rather than facing them head on but I know from experience that allowing fear to run your life and how you live it only makes you beat yourself up even more. Start small. When you’re consumed by fear it can be really difficult to see yourself on the otherside of it but it will come; you just need to find the courage to keep pushing yourself.
Thanks for reading!
Love, Zoë xx