Courage the Cowardly Dog

As children, we are gently reminded that the bogeyman is not real and we mustn’t be afraid. As adults, we are told to face our fears. It’s simply mind over matter, they say but they are blissfully ignorant of how powerful a mind can be. With our minds, (wo)mankind has theorized, discovered, engineered, cured, explored, and most importantly, imagined the unthinkable.

And thus, fear should not be taken lightly. Recognize what one fears and you are one step closer to helping her. Deny what one fears and you are one step closer to ruining her.

I am ruined by my fear of driving. It seems like a silly concern to most because driving is not difficult. One is taught how to drive before one can vote, smoke, or drink. It is not hard to drive.

But for me, even the mere thought of getting into a car makes me restless. It’s almost as if I’m riding a roller coaster right before the big drop. The anxiety builds until I feel like I’m going to implode. Sometimes I jerk awake at night because I cannot stop thinking about which lane I should stay in to avoid last-minute lane changes. If I make plans to meet friends, then I spend the rest of the day mapping out the route in my mind and fretting over parking.

Excuses. That’s what people call it. They say I make up excuses to cover up my fear of driving. They say I should practice driving and I’ll get better. They say all first time drivers are nervous.

I’m not nervous though. I’m anxious. I become irrational.

I cancel plans because it frightens me to drive to somewhere new. I swear up and down that I can’t have any friends in my car because I’m worried about what they will say. Before I go to sleep, I carefully think about what time is best to avoid traffic, which road has the least congestion, and how fast I can go in certain places. It takes me at least an hour to calm myself so I can drive to the grocery store down the street.

And all I can think to myself is “What is wrong with me?”

Nobody else is afraid so why am I?

I don’t even like to admit this fear to anyone because I haven’t met anyone who understands. They listen to the words tumbling out of my mouth, then they pick it up and store in a box labeled ‘first time jitters.’ Has it ever occurred to them to pull out the box in the darkest corner of their mind, the box laden with dust, the chained-up and wished to have forgotten about box labeled ‘fears.’ Must you categorize me as meaninglessness?

I began writing this post back in May but its origins have resonated within me for a long time. I’ve revisited this post many times since the first draft, but hesitated each time to be brave and admit my fear to the world. I expect judgement, scorn, and belittling remarks to be made. I expect such a reaction because I’ve already received such reactions.

My best friend’s mother thought because of my fear of driving, I must be easily spooked so that even a simple task as walking ten feet in the dark to go inside the house would leave me hyperventilating and bent on the ground like a frightened child.

I was speechless. I wasn’t angry nor sad. Just disappointed in my friend and her mother. I couldn’t blame them because I understood their perspectives. In their eyes, I was the fearful one who jumped at the slightest touch. But in my eyes, they were the narrow minded ones who denied my fear and instead, exaggerated it until the point of make-believe.

Sometimes I feel crazy because no matter how hard I shout or how well I speak, the listener cannot understand. Therefore, they try to understand by reshaping my fear into a more familiar form. But it doesn’t work. Rather, it can’t work because they are not me. And I am not them. Their minds are wired differently and although they experience love, fear, sorrow, and joy, they don’t feel like I do. Nor do I feel like they do.

It’s hard to accept that there is quite possibly no one who can fully empathize with me because we are all different yet we are all the same. Life is funny that way. Paradoxical in almost every sense.

I wish I could do away with my fear by blaming a childhood trauma related to cars, but there is none. I don’t want to scavenge my mind for some remnant of pain because it won’t be a solution, just a cause.

I don’t know why I get so anxious when thinking about driving or actually driving, but I do know that this flaw is not the whole me. It is a part of me which I begrudgingly accept because if I deny my own fear, then I am one step away from helping myself.


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