Getting behind the wheel of a car has got to be one of the most anxiety inducing acts I’ve done in a long time!
The thought of being in charge of a moving vehicle that could hurt or kill someone if I did something wrong very nearly had me giving up on learning before I even started…again.
I’ve always wanted to learn to drive. Neither of my parents can drive and as such I’ve been stuck suffering on public transport for most of my life. Stuck relying on one train an hour because I live in a little village, even though every other village on the line has one every half an hour. On a bus that turns up as and when it feels like it, normally 3 together after waiting half an hour for one. Can you tell I’m a little bitter?
The point is I’ve always wanted the freedom and accessibility that having a car gives you. The problem I that my anxiety gets in my way. Trying to figure out which gear you need to be in while paying attention to the road and still driving safely, plus trying to get the clutch control right…it’s not for me thanks.
So I kind of cheated.
I’m learning in an automatic and I cannot recommend doing so enough!
No gears means almost no anxiety for me. I can concentrate on the road without any worry about any of that other stuff. Don’t get me wrong I still panic I’m going to hit somebody or make a monumental screw up- but thats my brain catastrophizing and I have coping techniques to help me stop that.
I’ve always said I’m a naturally good driver and learning in an automatic has proven that- I can instinctively drive really well! My downfall was gears, but now those have been removed (or at least since the car figures them out now rather than me) I actually look forward to and feel confident when driving.
Hopefully I’ll only need a few more months before I’m ready for my test. The gears problem might have been removed but I still struggle with reversing; it appears I can’t gauge distance to save my life! I’m planning on writing a more in depth post one I actually pass my theory and practical tests (EDIT; I passed both first time!) but I wanted to write this one now, to encourage anyone who has put off learning to drive because of their anxiety- or any other mental health condition for that matter.
Gears or automatic?
Like I’ve said earlier, I couldn’t learn in a geared car for the life of me and it really put my off. If I’d carried on trying to force myself to learn the “traditional” way, I would have either given myself a meltdown or had an accident.
Probably both to be honest.
I cared too much that other people would make fun of me for “cheating” and “not being smart enough” to master gears.
Then I realised- so what? It’s my choice and what some random person thinks of me isn’t going to force me to do something I don’t want to. If you want to learn in an automatic then do it! It’s soooo much easier and I would recommend it to everyone!
But put simply, do what works best for you.
Find the right instructor.
This for me has been the big turning point, I found an instructor who not only realises I learn differently to other people, but who adapts his lessons to fit my needs. Not only that, he’s also someone I can get on with on a personally level.
The last two I tried were really serious and set on teaching me their way, even when it was apparent that I was struggling to grasp the lessons that way; which made a difficult situation even worse.
Don’t be afraid to change instructors if the one you’re currently with makes you feel uncomfortable or you don’t think you are learning well with them- you’re paying for the lessons, make sue you get your money’s worth!
Don’t expect to be instantly perfect.
This one is something I really need to remember myself. I’m such a perfectionist and as such expect myself to be able to do everything perfectly the second I’m shown how to.
Erm, no, that’s not how it works at all!
It takes practice, practice and more practice to master a lot of the maneuvers. There’s probably one, maybe two that you’ll be able to do easier than the others (three point turns are my specialty it seems), but even those will need to be practiced quite a bit before you’re ready for your test.
Once you’ve had a few lessons, it gets so much easier.
Once I’d had my first two or three lessons, I started to gain a lot more confidence out on the roads. I even drove myself all the way home without any help or prompts on my 6th lesson!
Don’t give up if you feel discouraged at first, it takes time to relax and get used to the basics- even more so if you’re battling your anxiety at the same time.