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The Beast in the Drive

How, I wonder, biting back the tears, did I let myself become so afraid? I’ve never enjoyed driving, but I used to drive my daughters to school, get myself to work, take my dad to the Royal Marsden and squeeze into some horribly tight spaces in the hospital car park. But in the last couple of years, a dislike of driving has become a full-blown phobia, one that’s made me feel horribly guilty every time I have to ask Tom to take me somewhere and something that’s made me terribly ashamed of myself.

We live in a remote spot which we love, but there’s one bus an hour to the nearest town and the nearest train station is 25 miles away… yet the more I told myself I had to beat my fear of driving, the worse it got. Until last week.
‘You’ll be fine,’ Tom assures me, having given me a refresher tour of various switches. ‘Take your time and go off when you’re ready.’ He heads back indoors and I take some deep breaths and repeat my new mantra, I am a calm, confident driver… and then I’m off. I honestly don’t know how I’ve found the courage to do this, but I do know I can’t go on feeling so disgusted with myself. For the first few moments, I freak myself out with ‘what ifs?’; what if I get stuck behind a tractor and can’t overtake? What if I encounter temporary traffic lights and the red light stays red? What if I make a (completely unspecified) Horrible Mistake? 

Then, I stop turning everything into a catastrophe and deal with the road one stretch at time; I drive slowly along our narrow lane and turn right on to the main road. I drive 8 miles to the nearest roundabout, turn right and drive home again. As a final flourish, I decide to reverse into the steep, narrow entrance to our drive. It takes me three attempts and I stall the car twice but I get in without knocking down a wall or gouging a lump out of the car. Success. Over the next couple of days, I repeat this journey and each time it gets slightly easier. Say, 8/10 on the fear factor instead of 10/10.

On Tuesday, I drive myself to my dental appointment in town - an 18 mile round trip. On the way back I think about Dad who, when I was a teenager, gave me the keys of his brand new Volvo and said, ‘just drive it, Miss Chris.’ What I’d give to be able to drive Dad somewhere now. He’d laugh about me making such a fuss, but he’d be proud that I’m trying to overcome my fear. It’s a small step, but a giant leap.


Clare Chase said…
This really resonates with me, Chris. I've never liked driving and lately I haven't had to, and the fear's getting worse. I need to take a leaf out of your book - it's hugely impressive to feel the fear and do it anyway. xx
Unknown said…
Your running commitment and successes leave most of us breathless! You're dealing with the driving in an excellent way, Chris. Well done xx
Chris Stovell said…
I'm sorry to hear it's making you worry too, Clare. It's a horrible feeling, but hopefully because you're aware of it, you won't let it grow and develop as much as mine did. Thank you! XX

Ooh, I don't know, Sandra - it doesn't feel like that from where I'm standing, I constantly feel a bit rubbish at everything! Hopefully I'll cross this bridge in small steps! xx
Maggie Christie said…
Hurrah for you! I'm a reasonably confident driver but can (sort of) empathise as this is exactly how I feel about running now. It's odd how fear can take over and I'm so glad to hear that you are getting back behind the wheel. Does this mean we can meet for coffee again? If you can drive yourself to Crwst, I'll buy the doughnuts!
Kathryn Freeman said…
Keep going you! Some people fear exercise - you've got that one nailed. I think driving is the same. If you do it regularly, even if only a few miles every few days, it becomes something you no longer think about doing, and just do :-)
Chris Stovell said…
Gosh, Maggie, I didn't know you felt like that, but you've been pulverised by injuries so it's no wonder you feel a little bit nervous. Meeting you in Crwst would be a powerful incentive! Let's set a date!

I'd almost rather run anywhere than drive, Kate! I'm trying not to leave too big a gap between drives but I already feel much better (starting from a very low base!). :)

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