In the inside lane of the motorway at 70 MPH, the anxiety is just below the surface. A truck ahead is doing 50. Nothing coming up behind so the overtake starts and so does the pounding of the heart, the steering wheel is gripped tight. Eyes focussed on nothing but the road ahead; don’t look in the mirrors for God’s sake. The truck is passed and the comfort of the inside lane is regained, the heart rate drops. Until the next time.
Last week a close family member visited from the UK and reminded me of his motoring phobia for which he is now having treatment. He confided in me a couple of years ago and described the scene above. He was absolutely stunned and then joyous when I confided that I had suffered from the same problem. Like many people with phobias he thought that he was alone with the problem
It was odd that he should arrive during the same week that I had a reoccurrence but in different circumstances and on the type of road that I had never been anxious on before. Driving inland over a mountain chosen as a short cut I could see the ribbon of road ahead, climbing the mountain; on the left was a crash barrier protecting traffic from a drop of several hundred metres. I felt trapped, there was no way to turn around and so the nightmare returned until going down the other side the fear subsided.
Phobias have been described as an irrational fear normally of something that should cause no immediate alarm, such as enclosed spaces, heights and creepy-crawlies. Apparently most if not all of us have at least one. Being told that there is nothing to worry about or even worse to snap out of it doesn’t improve the feelings induced
Why and what to do?
So why did my relative and I develop the fear of driving, especially on motorways? Well after suffering for a couple of years and hearing of a work colleague with the same problem I did something that many males are wary of and that is firstly admitting that there is a problem and secondly doing something about it. In my case after a long chat, a psychiatrist diagnosed that after multiple life events (such as deaths of a close relatives, house moving and changing jobs) my mind had rebelled and could take no more stress. Quite a few sessions later and medication solved the problem, but my recent experience shows that it is always latent. My recent visitor is undergoing similar treatment
I write about this because no way can we be the only ones this phobia. Driving these days is a virtual must for most people so there will be hundreds of fellow sufferers out there and I want to reassure them that they are not alone and that they can be “cured”. As the problem is in the mind, only a mind-doctor can help with this. I speak pretty good Spanish, but could not envision seeking treatment in that language and neither would most expats. So if anyone knows of people that can help with this or other phobias please get in touch so that I can pass the details on. Be rest assured, you will not be laughed at or derided as I fully understand what you are going through
On a lighter note
My daughter did laugh along with the family after getting over an incident concerning her phobia with spiders. Driving on a motorway to work one day, a spider dropped down from the rear view mirror; she flipped and pulled up alongside an emergency phone. Two burly lads in blue appeared and got rid of the offending creature whilst reassuring her that her car was now arachnid free. They were great to her, but no doubt had a good laugh back at the station