Over the past two years I’ve let my anxiety take control of me, but recently I’ve been finding the strength to take control of my anxiety.
I didn’t always have anxiety, or at least not on a crippling scale. I would have small attacks here and there throughout college, but eventually I would find my way back to my calm self. It wasn’t until I began learning to drive that my attacks became more frequent. The fear of what other cars could do to me or what I could do to them was paralyzing to me. All of my lessons would start off with me hyperventilating and crying hysterically at the wheel for thirty minutes and after months of trying, I just couldn’t seem to progress.
Learning to be a driver started to even make me fear being a passenger. As a passenger I would close my eyes and clench my hands on my thighs in fear of crashing, flipping off the highway, or being blindsided by a truck. Car rides completely changed the pace of my breathing. And the ironic thing is that car rides used to be my place of peace and serenity.
Growing up my family would take an annual road trip for vacation. I loved being in the car and watching the roadside move. I loved the way the skyline looked as it passed me by, seeing animals grazing the grass, but mostly I loved how my body could just lose track of time. As a passenger, I was always in and out of sleep and sometimes I would have the luxury of waking up with the sun. Everyone else in the car would be dreaming, but I would open my eyes at the exact moment the sun decided to reveal itself. As the blue sky turned to an orange horizon I found peace and euphoria in a place of beauty I was unaware existed. I keep reminding myself of how the car used to make me feel and I think its working.
This past Saturday my boyfriend and I took a day trip over to Waco,TX to visit the Magnolia Markets. We are obsessed with the show Fixer Upper, so once we discovered that the drive was only an hour and thirty minutes from Austin, we decided to go see what the markets had to offer. At the market there was a bakery with a line that stretched around the corner, a home goods store, swings and corn hole for the kids, tons of food trucks, and relaxing bean bag chairs to just sit in and enjoy the weather. We stayed for a few hours, ate, looked around, and kicked our feet up. But my favorite part about the trip was the drive.
I’ve gotten so use to fearing the car that I haven’t been able to enjoy just going for a drive in a long time. Overcoming your own thoughts can be difficult, and some of us may even need medicine for it, but if you tell yourself something over and over again it is only natural that you start to believe it. I’ve been telling myself that I can’t control how I die but I can control how much I enjoy my life, that living in fear is not living at all, and that bad things are going to happen but when they do I’ll be strong enough to handle them.
I still don’t know how to drive and I’m still afraid of a lot of things, but I’m starting to enjoy being a passenger in the car again and that’s one step in the right direction. This past weekend on our way to Waco, I watched the clouds move, I saw the cows roaming, and I even felt relaxed enough to take a little nap on the way back. I only thought about crashing and dying maybe once or twice. Most of the time I thought about living and how wonderful it feels just to breathe in an open space.
If you have anxiety, I know how hard it can be to escape an attack and I know it isn’t something easy to overcome, but you are more powerful than you think. Everyday you should tell yourself that your fears are valid, but although they are valid, they can’t take control of you. For me, I find that if I keep forcing myself to do the things that make me fearful, I’m able to regain my power and the more power I reclaim, the more I am able to tell my anxiety not today.