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Being Afraid of Getting in the Passenger Seat

I've published one article so far about the car accident that left me with brain damage and memory/depression issues. But I didn't really touch much on the anxiety of it all. Before the accident, I had some minor social anxieties, mostly to do with crowds. I hated being in crowds, because I always felt like I was going to be crushed. Irrational, I know, but that's anxiety, to me. I would almost always start to get a little panicky. I stopped going places that I knew would be especially crowded, preferring to stay safe at home.

After the accident, it got so much worse than that. Traveling is especially hard for me, which is to be expected. After such a major accident, I would be concerned if there wasn't even a little bit of hesitance to get into a car. But, this is different. I've gotten good at managing the panic, using deep breathing, which helps occasionally. Some days, there's nothing that will get me into the car. I've taken to riding in the back seat mostly, which I'm sure is strange to most people, but to me, it's just a normal Tuesday.

On the off chance that I can breathe through the panic enough to sit in the passenger seat, there is only one thing that will set me off with 100 percent accuracy. There is a road in a nearby town that I drive on regularly, in the driver’s seat (which was a feat, but I’m proud that I can drive), the passenger seat, and in the back seat, that is difficult for me. The angle of the end of the road is very dangerously close to the embankment the car went over during the accident. There are very big differences between the road and the embankment, but that doesn’t stop my brain from panicking.

Without fail, if I’ve managed to sit in the passenger seat, and we go over that road, I will panic, and it won’t be pretty. For anyone. I’ve tried to describe this to my mother-in-law, but being the kind of person she is, she laughs it off, and says its silly, or stupid. My husband has been great about supporting me, which I’m eternally grateful for. If he knows we’ll be taking that road, he’ll warn me beforehand, and try to find ways to distract my attention from where we’re going. Sometimes, that works. But when all else fails, the panic sets in. At the very least, I’ve managed to successfully drive on that road about 30-40 percent of the time, and the rest of the time, I grin and bear it the best I can and mentally work my way through the panic attack as best I can.  

I’ve tried to manage the anxiety with natural methods, and I’ve been minimally successful, but most days I have to rely on a medication prescribed to me that’s supposed to help the depression. For me, it doesn’t, but it does help dampen the anxiety so I can do things that I might not have been able to do without it. If I don’t take this medication, I’m almost sure to have a panic attack during some random task that may or may not remind me of the accident. It’s a ridiculous situation, but anxiety is often irrational and strange.

I guess the point I’m trying to get across is that anxiety is not what mainstream media thinks it is. It’s not always obvious triggers, and you can’t always predict when you’re going to have a panic attack. They happen at random times, for random reasons, and it’s different for everyone. Mine just happens to be car related (go figure).